Walking with her baby in the inner-west Sydney suburb she called home, Leah Kress looked at the other mothers wandering around, and suddenly realised her work / life imbalance dilemma was over.

“I had just had my second child and I didn’t want to go back to work,” she remembers. “I had done it with my first child and I had found it extremely difficult – rushing from business meetings to pick kids up from day care in time – but we needed the income.”

“Then I noticed all these mothers with their kids, wandering around shopping. I realised that these women were shopping locally. I knew why, it’s just too difficult to take kids into the city to go shopping. Then I thought, what is there that people want that they can’t get here?”

The answer was children’s fashion. At that moment, Leah Kress went from new mum to woman with a business idea; to open a shop that catered to new parents. Six years later, Infancy is a Sydney institution, with three stores and e-commerce website and its own label, which is sold in over 60 stores nation-wide.

“I went in green,” laughs Kress. “I didn’t know anything about fashion or retail.” What she did know, though, was the market. “I wanted to cater for the women in my area; educated, older women who just wanted to dress their kids in practical, stylish clothes.” Rejecting ribbons, bows and other ornamentation favoured by the chain stores, Infancy is characterised by its vintage fabrics and buttons, and classic designs. “I want to design clothes that allow a child’s beauty to take centre stage,” she says.

Releasing your child’s inner style

If you’re a celebrity mother, it seems that next to a Baby Bjorn, the first present your baby gets is a stylist. According to Kress, that attitude does not a stylish child make. “I look at kids like Suri Cruise and they seem so super-styled,” she says. “I’m into letting a child find its own style.” Of course not all children have the ability – or interest – in choosing the day’s outfit. “What you do is provide them with practical items and let them choose the styles, colours and combinations they prefer.”

Hot looks for spring / summer

When it comes to fashion trends for the coming warmer months, Kress says it’s all about optimism. “We’re coming out of winter and we’re coming out of a recession,” she says. “People are looking for light and colour! This summer is going to be bright and bold – oranges, pinks, yellow.”

Kress is also seeing a strong trend away from mass-produced pieces and slogans. “People are moving away from brands and choosing one-off, interesting pieces; fashion with a home-made feel. It’s all part of the current trend towards crafts.” Although building a business has been a long, exhausting process, Kress says there is one moment that makes it all worthwhile – seeing a child in an Infancy outfit. “By the time you have designed a piece of clothing, sourced the fabric and created it, you’re thinking about selling it. Then by the time it’s sold, you are over it!

“The other night I was at a party and I saw a little girl in one of our dresses. I thought to myself, wow, that is a really beautiful dress.”

Go online to do some shopping at Infancy.

By Margaret Ambrose.


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