After losing their jobs due to the pandemic Merseyside dads Ben Hatfield and Chris Rice have launched an ‘ethical’ baby wear business inspired by their love of music. Tony McDonough reports
Childhood friends Ben Hatfield and Chris Rice were both made redundant during the COVID-19 pandemic but have now joined forces to launch a new business.
Ben and Chris, now both aged 36, met as pupils at Birkenhead School in Wirral. They grew up loving music and playing in bands together, before both embarking on careers in the entertainment industry.
However, the entertainment industry was hit hard by the pandemic and both lost their jobs. Now they have pivoted their careers to launch a new, ethical babywear brand. It aims to inspire the next generation’s love of music and the creative industries.
And the duo, who are both dads themselves, also want to challenge the environmental impact of ‘fast fashion’. This is a term to describe clothes that are mass produced and sold cheaply and create huge volumes of waste.
Their business, Marlo & Cole, was born with a launch collection featuring designs inspired by the works of music icons including David Bowie, LCD Soundsystem and Bjork. And the pair managed to sign an official partnership with one of their music heroes – world-renowned indie band The National.
Their lyrics featured in the collection which sold out in the US within minutes of going on sale. Ben, who lives with his family in Willaston, said: “Marlo & Cole started out as an idea that got beautifully out of hand. We wanted to create clothing inspired by music and the arts that means something to parents so that they can share their passion with their kids.”
Chris added: “Rather than just putting ‘AC/DC’ on a few baby t-shirts, we wanted meaning and a story behind each carefully designed collection. If you’re a music fan then you’ll spot the lyrics and references on each piece of clothing. They may not be instantly obvious but when you know the lyrics, you know.
“We also wanted to give back to the artists where we could and get their seal of approval. We contacted our favourite bands and offered them an official partnership and licensing agreement to use their lyrics on the clothing in exchange for a percentage of the sales.
“We couldn’t believe it when the first band to say yes was one of our biggest heroes, internationally acclaimed US indie band The National. The first collection sold out within minutes. We’ve just launched our second collection in the US.”
Created in line with a strict eco-conscious, gender-neutral ethos, each product is designed and manufactured in the UK to support UK-based illustrators and manufacturers, while focusing heavily on sustainability to ensure all aspects of the business are as low-impact to the environment as possible.
Their first collection was designed by illustrator Marianna Madriz whose work is inspired by magical realist novels, coming of age films, DIY comics, and music. Their latest collection was designed by Jacky Sheridan who uses her unique humour and high contrast style to create expressive, fun and bold designs.
“100% recyclable packaging is essential for any brand, but we wanted to take things a step further,” said Chris. “Along with focusing production in the UK, we’re producing very limited runs of each design in an effort to ensure no products go to waste and end up in landfill – a common result of overproduction from ‘fast fashion’ brands.”