An Interview with Alyssa Kerbel of Mini Mioche

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Tell us about yourself – familial/personal story, education, and prior work.

I am a wife, mother of two (an 8 year-old daughter and a 4 year-old son) and a serial entrepreneur.  I started my first business when I was in my 20’s.  It was a wholesale fashion agency based in Toronto.  We represented a number of different adult fashion brands – both mens and womens, and sold them to stores across Ontario and the Maritimes.  After the birth of my daughter in 2007, I felt a strong desire to do something different (in addition to running the agency) – something a little more creative and something I would ideally have more control over.  At the time I found it very difficult to find simple, good quality fashion basics for infants – especially ethically made basics and in neutral unisex colours.  So drawing upon my fashion industry experience, I decided to start mini mioche and about 6 months later we launched our first collection of organic, Canadian-made infant basics.

What is the importance of ethical fashion to you?

To me there is no reason why it should be allowed or considered ok on any level for people in third world countries to be paid pennies and treated so poorly to make clothing for people who can afford and would be willing to pay a little more to know that no one is being harmed during the manufacturing process.   The clothing industry has become one that is all about margin and how to make things faster and cheaper and that is unfortunate.  I think as the customer is becoming more aware and more educated, they are seeing the value in supporting businesses who don’t necessarily do it the cheapest but do it in an honest, ethical way.  Our goal is to produce clothing for kids that not only looks good and stands up to wear and tear but is made locally and by people we know personally – people we know are paid a fair wage and are treated well.

What is the importance of sustainable fashion to you?

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Sustainable fashion and ethical fashion go hand in hand for me.   I feel that our customer is willing to pay a little more for something organic and ethically made because they also know that it will ideally stand the test of time.  A better quality garment means it will wash and wear well and can be passed down from one child to the next, to the next, to the next.

What is Mini Mioche?

Mini mioche is a collection of organic, Canadian-made fashion basics for infants and kids newborn to 8 years of age.  In addition to our own apparel collection, the company also sells an edited selection of the best footwear, gear, toys and books.

What makes Mini Mioche unique?

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We are the only company in North America that offers a full seasonal collection of organic, eco-friendly locally made infant and kids fashion basics.  Our collections consist of styles we would wear but in mini size.  We create clothing that looks great but that is also comfortable and functional for kids to wear (something that is not that easy to find).

We also offer a highly curated selection of fashion footwear for kids – the largest selection of footwear that is ‘take down’ from adult brands (basically mini versions of adult shoe brands such as Doc Martens, Adidas, Converse, Vans, Native, Sorel, People, etc.)

What is the greatest challenge in founding a business?

I would say for me the hardest part was figuring out how to make the business profitable without compromising on our company values.  The reality is that making an organic product and making it locally means that it’s a lot more expensive to make and yet the retail price points on kids clothing need to be relatively competitive if you want to cater to more than a small, niche market.

What other work are you involved in at this point in time?

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We just launched a new brand called Brockton Basics by mini mioche.  It is a wholesale, private label company that offers the mini mioche infant and kids basics as blanks for other companies to print on.  We have had countless requests from companies looking to print on our basics over the past few years and we are now in a position to offer that program on a wholesale level.

What meaning or personal fulfillment does this work bring for you?

I definitely love my work but the things that I love most about it aren’t necessarily the daily ins and outs of my actual job – it’s more about the journey and who I am on it with.  It’s learning something new all the time and being constantly challenged.  It’s having fun doing it.  It’s creating something that is hopefully going to be long-lasting.  It’s about making jobs for people and mentoring young colleagues.  And it’s amazing to hear from customers and fans of the brand who write to us or tell us that it has actually impacted their lives or their child’s positively in some way.

With regard to ethical and sustainable fashion companies, what’s the importance of them now?

Like I mentioned earlier, I think that ethical and sustainable fashion is going to become more important to businesses moving forward.  The consumer is becoming more aware and educated and cares more now than ever about where, how and by whom their clothes are made.  It’s slowly becoming less about fast fashion and cheap manufacturing and more about quality-made, ethically-made product at a reasonable cost.  That’s a good thing.

Thank you for your time, Alyssa.

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About the Author

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping and gardening, and runs In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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