Blabla….Blabla…what a great name for a kids company! As soon as I looked through the range of children’s knitted dolls and soft furnishings I could tell that this wasn’t your usual ‘dolls and soft furnishings’ brand!
Started by designer Florence Wetterwald working with her friend and collaborator Susan Pritchett and her husband, Joseph Strong, from their base in Atlanta, Blabla is a must see kid’s collection.
All the products are hand-knitted by highly skilled craftspeople in Peru. The designs by Florence are inspired by Scandinavian or Japanese colour schemes. Blabla have everything from animal dolls, baby dolls, big alien dolls for lounging on to brilliant green cushions in the shape of grass, knitted baby mobiles, hats and rattles.
Our favourites – and it is not an easy choice – are the giant Peeko and Mermaid dolls (officially on Gabriel and Evelyn’s wishlist this year!), the Hold Me Tight pillows and the animal knitted dolls in general. Blabla have such a massive choice! A wild adventure in imagination mixed with traditional crafts. Wow. What could be better? We spoke to Florence about Blabla, travel and childhood! We just know you’ll enjoy discovering Blabla.
Fluxlings: I’ve read about your travels inspiring your designs. Of the places you have been, where is the most interesting to you?
Florence: The most interesting places to me are the ones which give me butterflies because of their natural beauty or their cultural richness. They vary according to where my mind is at the time. For example last year the lonely landscapes of Cambodia with the occasional bikes or ephemeral wooden shacks turned into wide negative space in my photographs and designs. My children enjoy traveling too. It influences Isabella’s crazy food recipes and Tom’s own made up vocabulary…it definitely adds texture to our lives.
Fluxlings: Why did you choose to focus on toys/puppets/furnishings rather than clothing?
Florence: Because I am lucky to still remember what it feels to be a child, and what it means to have a soft little friend when times are tough.
Fluxlings: I have come across a few (usually fashion labels) using the skills of South American knitters in their collections. And they all seem really inspired by what they find there. Can you tell us about it and why you find the culture/craftsmanship so inspiring?
Florence: Peru has a long story with textiles and a tradition of knitting. Many artisans, men and women know how to knit, even if they don’t make a living from it. It is part of their culture. Their palette of colors however and their visual sensitivity are very different from mine. The Incas shapes and vivid colors still have a strong presence in the Peruvian landscape while my visual inspirations and tendencies are rather Nordic or Japanese.
Ours is a true collaboration, where I bring contemporary designs and colors, totally different to what they are used to, and they bring their ancestral skills. We have been working together for 10 years now and we understand each other well, like an old couple….:)
Fluxlings: What do the Peruvian knitters add to your brand that maybe would not be found in a commercial manufacturing setting?
Florence: A sense of time, a sense of skill, a sense of humanity.
Fluxlings: Creating for children is the focus of your label. Do you find that frees up the design process for you at all?
Florence: Definitely, it’s one of the main reason I design for children…for the freedom, the laughters, the happy bazaar…
Fluxlings: What are the most popular items in the range? And do you have any personal favourites? It is so large, and colourful I can’t decide which bits I like best!
Florence: The dolls are our best sellers, there is not really one more popular than the others. It’s difficult for children to pick too, that is why they often have more than one! My favorite is Anouk, a boogaloo from the North Pole, she is blue because she is cold and wears a big embroidered red coat.
Fluxlings: It’s a real international story, from your childhood in France, studies in Italy, living in the US, crafted in Peru…. It’s unusual to find that degree of ‘internationalism’ in a small brand. And your ethos would seem to be opposed to our usual idea of globalisation. Does being ‘international’ work well for Blabla to make it such a unique brand?
Florence: I like your questions…..I never thought about my international experiences under that light….but rather as Blabla as a big house opened to friends of all backgrounds and ages who all bring a different and valuable plate for dinner. My unusual childhood and my experiences abroad have taught me how to be flexible and open minded, it is a tool that I use a lot in life as well as in work.
Fluxlings: Any new plans for Blabla for 2012 and beyond?
Florence: We have several exciting projects for the next few years, a series of books, a new collection of Blabla fabric dolls and cross your fingers, a …TV show!….
To find out more about Blabla see www.blablakids.com