Move to Cork opens doors for Baby Closet

Friendship and business ideas have flourished for two Spanish mums, who moved to Cork and set up an online children's clothing boutique. EMMA CONNOLLY caught up with the pharmacist and economist, both mums of twins, to find out more
Move to Cork opens doors for Baby Closet
Mónica Peralonso and Marta Tomas who run The Baby Closet.

TWO Spanish mums living in Cork are running an online children’s clothes company inspired by their home country — after so many people here admired their own kids’ outfits.

It wasn’t as if Marta Tomas, a pharmacist, and Mónica Peralonso, an economist, already had too much spare time on their hands — they are both mothers of three, including twins.

But they saw a gap in the market after so many of their friends, Irish mums of babies and young children, asked them for style tips or to buy them kids’ clothes or accessories in Spain when they visited home.

And so the Baby Closet was set up, back in 2013, by Marta, while on maternity leave with her twins. Two years later, Monica came on board with fresh ideas to expand the business with clothing for older children.

Marta, who has twin girls, looks after the girls’ clothes; and Monica who has twin boys, looks after the boys’ clothes!

Monica explains: “Nowadays, mums are looking for simple, classic, uncomplicated, high-quality garments and the Spanish clothes that we offer tick all the boxes. In the last 10 years, ‘Spanish style’ children’s clothes have become really trendy as European royal mums and celebrities have been dressing their children in Spanish fashion brands.”

Going back to the start — Monica moved here three years ago as her husband was relocated through work, and she describes it as her best decision ever.

“I have lived and worked in various countries throughout the world and my husband and I have always wanted our children to share our love of travel and experience life in different countries and cultures so, when Ireland appeared on the horizon, we had absolutely no doubt at all in moving here,” said Monica.

“It is now three years since we arrived and I can honestly say that it was the best decision we ever made, and it continues to be an extremely enriching experience for all members of my family. I have three sons (twins that were five years old when we first came here, and the youngest who was just four).”

Meanwhile, a decision made by Marta some 13 years ago changed her path forever.

“I took a year off and decided to come to Ireland for a break. As is the case with life, my plans for a holiday, spending some time in Ireland and travelling, changed a little. I’m still here! My day job is that of a pharmacist. I built a business, a pharmacy in Midleton, and we started our family here.”

Some of the clothing available from The Baby Closet.
Some of the clothing available from The Baby Closet.

The pair met through their husbands as both men work in the same company in Cork but in different departments. In fact, Marta and Monica first met in Spain before Monica relocated with her children, and then when Monica came over to Cork to join her husband, the two families began meeting for dinner and occasions and the friendship developed from there. Monica lives in Frankfield and Marta is based in Midleton.

Retail didn’t feature at all in Monica’s background — but she loves kids’ fashion: “I am an economist and I most recently worked as a Financial Controller in my husband’s home town until we moved to Ireland, and prior to that as a Project Manager for a state-owned company in Spain.

“As part of this role, I was really lucky to have the opportunity to live in and travel to many different countries. But the truth is that I have always followed kids’ fashion trends. I love kids and baby fashion, and I spend a huge amount of time thinking and looking and buying the best items of clothing that I can for my kids. It has become my passion so, I’m delighted to have this amazing opportunity to share it with others.”

Marta has had some retail experience: “My mother owned a tailor shop and I really enjoyed helping her with customers, fabrics, orders, etc. When I first arrived in Ireland, I got a position as a Pharmacy Manager, then I took over the running of Walsh’s Pharmacy, Midleton. So, retail and working with people is another huge passion of mine and it is a large part of my life.”

Online children’s clothes is a very busy market — so what sets them apart?

“We like timeless pieces that can be used for all occasions and that can be passed from sibling to sibling, and even from generation to generation. They are high-quality pieces and we love combining them and dressing up and dressing down the outfits so that they work for any occasion. Our designs are hand-picked to bring back memories from our childhood — simple, carefree, uncomplicated, with a lot of fun times.

“In Spain, we tend to dress kids in a classic and timeless way but also follow what’s currently in trend. We dress babies as babies (with soft, natural and comfortable clothes) in the same style as they were dressed 100 years ago. And the same happens with the kids. If you look at any photograph of our mums or dads when they were young, our kids (50 years later) have the same style. Obviously, fashion changes every season, print of fabrics, colours, length of clothes, but the essence is the same.

“We choose the clothes for our kids and that means mix and match. The main aim is to use the same item of clothing and have as many different looks as possible. To be dressed in cute, comfortable, elegant, warm and comfortable clothes does not mean that you have to spend huge amounts of money. We all know that kids grow really fast, so we are really aware that you need to use their clothes as much as possible, in as many different combinations and looks as possible.”

The mums saw a gap in the market for high quality garments.
The mums saw a gap in the market for high quality garments.

Being a mum to twins is a bond the women share — a demanding but rewarding job, they say.

“You need to be very organised and prioritise the tasks. At the same time, you have to be calm and patient. It is amazing the special relationship that they have, but I think having one child at a time is more enjoyable... at least for the mum!”

Weather, meal times and school timetables are the main differences between Irish and Spanish kids lifestyles, they say.

The friends explain: “In Spain, children spend a lot of time outside, as the weather tends to be warm and dry for long periods of the year. They play with neighbours and friends, get to know new children and become very independent. Also back home the timetables and meals are very different from Ireland. The main meal of the day for us is lunchtime (around 2/2.30pm) and we usually have dinner around

We have a snack mid-morning and in the evening (around

). Kids start school when they are three years old and it doesn’t matter if they are born in January or December.

“Most of the schools in Spain start at 9am and finish at 5pm (with two hours for break (1pm-3pm) where they have lunch and can do some extra-curricular activities, play in the school yard, or do homework.”

How on earth do they do it all, with Marta a full-time pharmacist and Monica working as a marketing consultant for a Spanish company?

“We are no different to Irish mums trying to balance everything as best we can. We never stop from 6.30am until 11.30pm. We try to dedicate each afternoon to our kids and then we dedicate time during the evening to work on The Baby Closet.”

Marta adds: “I try to have time for everything, but you always have to leave something for later. In the pharmacy I have a fantastic team that carry on when I have to leave in a hurry. We have been working together for so long that they even know when I need an extra hand and they are always there to help. At home you always feel guilty because you want to spend more time with your husband or your children but they understand and always try to help. They love getting involved too! This is a bit of a family adventure.”

The plan for The Baby Closet for 2018 is to design their own Winter 2018 collection.

“We will introduce First Communion dresses and will develop our Hampers Gift Shop (for delivery to Maternity Hospitals; for Baby Showers; for pregnant mums; for birthdays). We are immersed in the planning phase for our own Collection for Spring/Summer 2018 right now. The timing is tight but we are loving how it’s all coming together.”

See the babycloset.ie for more.

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