THE STORY BEHIND THE PIGEON BRAND
Posted on March 16 2020
On a rainy night in 2001, I arrived at the Air India warehouse at Heathrow Airport to collect 5 huge bales of organic cotton fabric. Driving home in my Fiat Tipo, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I was excited. Fabric in hand, I needed to find a factory. After a few false (rather disastrous) starts, I was lucky enough to find the most wonderful factory just outside Nottingham who agreed to help me launch my baby range. In 2004 Organics for Kids, as it was then called, was registered as a limited company and I knew it was for real!
The idea had been born when I was working for an environmental charity in London and found out about the severe negative environmental and social impacts associated with conventional (non-organic) cotton, which uses around a quarter of all insecticides globally. In my view, things are rarely black and white – organic is not the answer for everyone - but for my business, organic cotton was something I wanted to use. The company grew relatively quickly and by 2008 we were stocked in John Lewis as well as a few hundred independent stockists around the UK and (mainly) Germany. By this time I had been joined by Diana, whose amazing Excel skills and a head for systems, meant that we were able manage growth with our very limited resources.
In 2012, our world turned upside-down when the wonderful Nottinghamshire factory went into administration over night (following a really awful family tragedy). We were left with no stock and no factory! We hired several friends and a removals van, shifted several lorry loads of fabric back down to our warehouse in Oxford and set about finding some new factories who could re-stock us pretty sharpish. They had to be good and they had to be organic certified. Within three months we had shipped fabric out to three new factories and received the first deliveries back into our warehouse.
However, by that time the world had moved on and the organic competition was growing. We needed to up our design. People wanted fresh styles and so we decided to introduce two completely new collections each year. This was a new model for us and once again we felt out of our depth. At this point Kate, our designer, joined us – she had no formal training but the most incredible eye for beautiful and interesting design. With Kate on board, our first seasonal collection was launched in autumn 2015. This collection was made by a Fairtrade and organic (GOTS) certified factory in Kolkata, India – one that we still work with and have visited several times.
By this time, Organics for Kids had re-branded as Pigeon Organics. We liked the idea of a Pigeon - on one hand a pest and a nuisance - on the other a thing of beauty, resilience and intelligence. Perfect for a kids’ brand.
Today Pigeon remains a tiny company with a huge spirit and I am constantly amazed by what the three of us achieve (with some crucial technical and creative freelance input). Our skills (and personalities) are utterly different and thoroughly complementary!
My own passion is for world where businesses respect their stakeholders, including the communities in which they operate. As businesses of all sizes, we survive because people are good enough to trust us and pay for our goods and services. I don’t like a world where companies mislead their customers in order to satisfy sales targets and shareholders.
So at Pigeon, as well as providing a beautiful product and fantastic customer service, we are also trying to minimise our environmental impact, while having a positive social impact wherever we can (using only renewable energy in our warehouse/office; donating spare stock to charities working with vulnerable parents – those at risk of violence, displacement or a shortage of funds; selling charity greeting cards, etc).
Running any business is stressful and peppered with moments of huge anxiety, but what I love most of all is running a small business where we can have meaningful, respectful and enjoyable relationships with our suppliers, customers and others we bump into along the way. At Pigeon, relationships are at the heart of everything we do!