It’s never too early to involve kids in art, fashion and charity.
Art & Eden, the children’s line started by a veteran maker of women’s contemporary fashion and private-label clothing, is bringing together creative works by artists and a mission to do philanthropic work. Launched on Jan. 25 at 130 specialty stores and major retailers such as Nordstrom in the U.S. and El Palacio de Hierro in Mexico, the New York-based company is a culmination of two years of research by Susan Correa, who previously ran a women’s line called Cooper & Ella and developed private label collections for retailers ranging from T.J. Maxx to Saks Fifth Avenue.
“It was a huge struggle for me to be able to leave two multimillion dollar industries and get on board with Art & Eden,” she said. But she asked herself: “How can I make the business of fashion better?”
Correa’s first attempt at ethical fashion was a dud. She tried four natural dyes, but they turned out lackluster. “One of the lessons I learned is that the product needs to be one that is incredibly appealing to the parent,” she said. She changed tack. “We built it as a collaboration of art from around the world.”
From more than 400 artist portfolios, she picked the most vivid drawings and transferred them to prints for the designs fitting kids between the ages of three months and 10 years. Pictures of ponies clamor across overalls, a walrus is embroidered on the side of red heathered sweatpants, cockatoos complement the ruffles on a dress with a high-low hem. Already, the brand has drawn a pint-sized fan in Coco Rocha’s daughter, Ioni James Conran.
“They’re not just basic T-shirts,” Correa said. “It’s a product like no other out there on the market. It’s beautiful. It’s joyful. It’s different.”
In terms of materials, she chose to use only sustainable textiles, mostly organic cotton with some recycled polyester for variety. The low-impact dyes and trims are certified. For shipping, the polyester bags are biodegradable and the boxes are recycled. The spring collection offers solely knits, but the fall grouping is widening to include woven fabrics.
With prices retailing from $20 to $50, Correa is projecting to generate at least $2 million in sales in the first year. The more her company sells, the more she can give to organizations such as Camden Street School in Newark, N.J., which teaches kids between kindergarten and eighth grade. Noting that many of the students there live below the poverty line, she is budgeting a percentage of profits for a mentorship program and also a field trip to New York.
A former volunteer in India, she’s also traveled to El Salvador with Hope Foundation to bring medications and multivitamins to kids and teach them good hygiene to avoid becoming ill. She aims to do more work in Central America.
“For too long,” she said, “I waited for someone else to solve the world’s problems.”