Real Pretty Kind
A chat about supporting Tweens with RPK founder Katie Rockliff
Describe Real Pretty Kind.
We’re an 8-14 year old’s brand – for tweens into early teens. Launching with a couple of signature streetwear styles in October 2019, we pretty quickly branched into a gifting and small online zine as well.
Designed as an attitude as much as a label, we’re all about ‘More Joy’ and having tweens backs. In literal terms this is about offering cool tween clothing with a vibe that’s distinct from a younger sibling’s aesthetic. More sophisticated while still youthful. It’s in the shape, fabric and stitching that our fashion offer is the most distinctive.
We’ve obsessed over a tailored cut that’s become our signature style – flattering the majority of tween body shapes. And in line with our Body Positive ethos we offer it in a range of sizes that also far exceeds the traditional 12-year-old cut off for ‘Tween’.
Our approach to the ‘everybody’ flattering tailored tee is symbolic of everything we make and curate. It should hero the wearer – and not the other way around. We reckon that’s an important idea to cement young – and one we thread through all our clothing, gifting collection and content. Find your YOU and rock it. And pay attention to the people and things around you who get that. That bring you joy.
Why did it start?
It began as a desire to fill a white space in the market where so many beautiful brands were catering for younger children and then suddenly you’d get to age 8 or 10 and it just stopped.
Or the style would leap up into a young adult space that felt seismically out of kilter with the interests and need states of the age. So there was this product and content opportunity. But to ensure those things had substance I felt we needed to address tween-age in a more meaningful way – intellectually and emotionally.
Being tween is such an exciting developmental phase to those in it, engaging with the world and exploring their identity and potential in it in a wider way than in their younger years.
Unfortunately for today’s tweens, this joy is coupled with some genuinely troubling stats ramping from as early as 8 years’ old, around body image and bullying that can cripple young people’s sense of self and willingness to put themselves out there.
And those effects to self-worth, health, relationships and performance at school, can last a life time.
This is what inspired the ‘More Joy, Less of the Rest’ quest that drives us.
Tell us about your approach
Before RPK my design skills were not fashion based. So I felt keenly that if I wanted a seat at the table – I needed to bring something of value.
My daughter and I decided that would be:
1. Celebrating what was genuinely amazing about Tweenage and hero-ing the players in it – tweens themselves
2. Tackling the detractors of joy in their world – which we do by donating on all our pieces to Bully Zero and The Butterfly Foundation, to bust bullying and negative body image. As well as designing all our content and support resources around adding more joy to fuel and empower them
3. Modelling the community spirit of togetherness and inclusivity we espouse as a brand by treating our makers and the planet kindly – through ethical and sustainable production.
We call this way of working People-And-Planet-Kind and it has become the lens for all our decision making.
Partnering with our makers in Indonesia, India and here in Australia, we upskill and equip local communities so that mothers, a key source of staff for most fashion houses, are enabled to work from home – caring for their families with the flexibility, autonomy and dignity that brings.
We make slow, and in small batches to reduce waste – always keeping our loyal love-mail subscribers in the know ahead of time.
And ensuring as a by-product that all our items are highly sought after and collectable and our customers feel special owning them, because they’re limited.
We’ve partnered with a charity for the homeless here in Australia, to provide those on the streets with pillows we make from our fashion offcuts – further reducing waste as well as lifting others.
And for our first birthday we launched RPK LOVED – our closed loop sister label that allows all our customers to return their preloved threads to be upcycled or given to tweens in need in return for a discount on future shopping with us.
Being #peopleandplanetkind was and still is about re-writing some of the rules around what’s ‘normal’ I guess – and add more joy, kindness and empowered choices into that mix.
Tell us about what you know about tweens.
From Greta Thunberg to Dujuan Hoosan, young people of today are more aware than ever before about the power they possess to change the world.
And already sociologists are claiming this generation are more community oriented and emotionally aware than generations passed.
Frankly when I’m not asking my own tween twenty times too many to do homework or have a shower, I’m a little in awe of that. And as a label want to open our platforms to that and do our part to super-charge it.
What’s your proudest moment at Real Pretty Kind?
I feel immensely lucky to be doing what I do, so picking one proudest moment is hard! I still treasure a note we received from our makers early on, thanking us for the way we engage with them.
Hearing my daughter tell her friends she’s “Executive Creative Director” is still up there! And we get a buzz EVERY time we see our clothes worn or gifts given. I think the first time my daughter and I saw someone on the street in RPK the brand was a month old. It was all so new, we both grabbed each other and screamed.
As a mama, when I hear from parents that the brand’s made their children feel empowered and supported; or when tweens themselves write in with their ideas and stories or asking to be part of our Squad, that’s pretty special too.
This year we had a mass of tributes from families in Melbourne especially, where #iso was affecting everyone’s mental health. We’d responded with an RPK Rituals and Recommendations series on eDM for our mail base – culminating in write ups in the Health industry as being a label anchored in tween culture and wellness which was a wonderful recognition, so different from a traditional label.
Building a business solo, on limited funds and from the ground up, can feel huge some days. But these moments and others like them make the magic. None of which is taken for granted.
What have you learnt about yourself building Real Pretty Kind?
They say starting a business is a lot like parenting. There’s what you think you know going in – and then there’s the reality. Which is not for the faint hearted.
I’ve learned Humility. Gratitude. Seen my capacity for hard work. Found inner strength.
And the struggle with my perfectionist tendencies remains real!
But mostly I’ve learned to back myself and trust my gut. And in an industry where I was new, I’ve come to see there’s power in not being shackled with a preconceived mindset of how things should be done.
There’s greater liberty to break the rules. Beyond me I’ve also felt more than ever, the power of community. Real Pretty Kind is the community. We feed each other. And thrive together.
What do you hope Real Pretty Kind does for the world.
I hope it helps change the narrative. If the systems are holding us back and you want things to change, you have to rethink how you want them to work. In our own way, from body positivity and inclusivity, to sustainability, I’d like to think we’re doing that. Or at least giving it a red hot go.