Founded by friends and fitness buddies Corrine Amos and Kishana Quallo, CoCo & KiKi is a zero-waste kids’ clothing brand that reinvests its profits in worldwide charity projects. Co-founder Corinne tells us how their shared values and love of the outdoors inspired their range.
Hi, Corrine. We love your gender-neutral range of kids’ play clothes. Why the name CoCo & KiKi?
CoCo and KiKi came from my good friend Kishana’s childhood nickname, combined with my nickname Coco. One of my oldest childhood friends Billy couldn’t pronounce Corrine so he used to call me Coco. I revived it when I spent some time volunteering in Sri Lanka and the children also struggled with saying Corrine.
I love dungarees – they look cute and can withstand adventures. They’re very comfortable and great for children to run around and play in. Our dungarees are lined with 100% cotton, ensuring they can be washed repeatedly. They are also designed to be long-lasting with adjustable coconut buttons to be passed to younger siblings and roll-up, roll-down trouser legs to suit different lengths.
You met your business partner Kishana when you were working together. Tell us more about how you became kindred spirits and then business partners.
We got on from the very first day we met. We were both working at a temp reception job for a marketing company as a stop-gap for other things. I would cover the mornings and she would do the afternoons. We’d make or bring each other lunch and sit and chat before the switcheroo. We are both into fitness, so we started these long walks together and there is a lot you can achieve in a 25-mile walk, as it turns out! It’s where CoCo & KiKi was born. Kiki is lots of fun, she is the definition of a ‘yes person’.
Tell us more about your brand strapline Care More, Worry Less, Stay Curious…
We wanted to write a little care label that had a sweet message. I’ve always loved ‘wackaging’ as they call it. Whilst trying to concoct exactly what this looked like, I happened to chat to someone who I found out was a former lead writer at the Financial Times. After some brainstorming discussions around the brand, she drummed up Care More, Worry Less. My mum added Stay Curious, which is on-brand for her as she’s probably the most curious and eager-to-learn person I know!
How do you ethically source your garments?
We founded CoCo & KiKi to be as transparent as possible from source to patron. Our vision is to be ethical, sustainable, and efficient. We harnessed our skills and roped in some of our friends. This has enabled us to cut the majority of the costs usually incurred when starting a brand, allowing the money generated through the sales of our signature fox dungarees to ensure fair payment for all involved in their production.
They are made by a female-founded studio where everyone is paid fairly. It’s a colourful lakeside studio in Bangalore, India.
Women with no knowledge of sewing are taught everything from the ground up, people stay for a long time and eventually end up managing production teams. The fabrics are also ethically sourced and made from natural dyes.
Can you tell us more about the projects you are supporting?
Triggered by the frequent disparity between the pounds (GBP) charities collect, and the frightfully low percentage the projects they support ultimately receive, we decided there had to be a fairer way.
Project One is headed up by the lovely Jasmine B, based in Negros, a small island in the Philippines. She raised nearly £10,000 to prepare and distribute food and essentials to locals who were living hand to mouth at the beginning of the pandemic.
Together, we’ve created a longer-term solution to the ongoing problem. Jas will select individuals who’d like to start a small venture but perhaps don’t have the start-up capital or the know-how. And between Jas and myself, we have both knowledge and funding to help get them started.
The projects will initially be in the style of a homemade Deliveroo, with sales via Facebook Marketplace and deliveries carried out by younger generation relatives.
Our objective is to enable people within the Negros community, to give them a leg up, and to assist with the spending and available resources. With Jasmine on the ground, she will be using her marketing expertise to aid the photography and to set up online media pages to structure the distribution.
What have been the main challenges you’ve faced launching your company?
For starters, I do not consider myself a fashionable person so we had to assemble a team of people who could cook up a good design or two, especially as we have an adult range launching soon.
Joking aside, we’ve had so many challenges to deal with, such as seeing photos of the samples and having to decide then and there whether we’d like to order 300 pairs in time for the season, due to Covid and all the shipping problems. It was a go for it or wait it out moment, and we trusted our instinct which said do it. Then we had issues with colours being different, a shortage of corduroy fabric in India, and boxes of dungarees being held at customs for weeks amongst piles of packages delayed by Brexit.
Despite the setbacks and difficulties though, it has all been worth it and we’ve learnt a lot having experienced these challenges.
You are both so adventurous. How do you express that when you’re not working on CoCo & KiKi? How do you relax?
Kiki’s main love is travel. She’s been to 53 countries. She also loves the gym and in lockdown we did lunchtime workouts together in the sun in Clapham. She loves cooking and makes a mean Jamaican breakfast. She’s big into hiking and can usually be found chasing the sun! Walking two hours to work and two hours back is just her standard daily commute, so imagine what her hiking trails are like! She is quite a wildcard. She is big into volunteering, the kind of girl who would share whatever she has with others, which I guess is what drew her to starting CoCo and KiKi.
At the moment, my downtime is found in the swimming pool after a gym session. I’m training to row the Atlantic in December!
Wow – what an amazing thing to do! Are you an expert rower?
No, in fact, to say I’m new to rowing would be a huge understatement. Until last week the closest I’d got to rowing was at Rowbots, a rowing gym in Fitzrovia. I grew up by the coast and have spent a lot of time doing water sports but hadn’t rowed, so I was very pleased to find out I’m into it.
Why did you take on this incredible challenge?
We are rowing for two charities, Surfers Against Sewage and Project Sea Grass, because they are small local charities with whom we have a personal relationship. They have separate missions, but both have environmental change at the heart. Not many people know this, but seagrass can absorb carbon up to 35 times faster than Amazonian rainforest! Our aim is to raise £100,000 for both charities.
It’s a personal challenge for sure, but I’m really keen to test my limits of 50-60 days on a boat with four others. Rowing 12 hours a day is certainly a challenge but one that fills me with adrenaline every time I picture myself on the boat.
So many people put up barriers in life, create reasons why they can’t do something or why someone else would be better at something than they are, when actually most people do have the capabilities with enough drive and preparation.
I think if you truly put your mind to something you can do it, so I’m trying to break down those barriers and empower people to do the same.
Links to the products:
Photo credits: Corrine Amos and John Armour.