An interview with product designer Cosima Pole

Creature Clothes came about after Cosima Pole made a collar from an old necklace for her black labrador, Vodka, and was constantly stopped by people wanting to buy one. She went to Menorca to do a leather apprenticeship and the rest is history. We talked about her two gorgeous girls, celebrity fans and how necessity breeds invention... Cosima Pole with her two girls and her black labrador on the beach

What’s the most important thing to know about you?

I am a working mother of two beautiful and very mischievious little girls, who I am devoted to. I started in product design straight out of school, setting up my own business when I was 17 – I am probably now totally unemployable! I love writing my blog… it is my one indulgence – a little bit of time to myself to write about what drives and inspires me – my kids, my work, my amazingly creative husband (photographer Nick Stevens) friends and family, my neighbourhood, my epilepsy… and it’s a great chance to write down all the fun stuff we make and do together!

Creature Clothes Cosima Pole daughters

Describe a really good day and a really bad day in the life of Cosima Pole.

Working on the Diamond Palm Dog Awards earlier this year was a really great few days – a lot of hard work, but when our Union Flag Bone Babies started appearing in photos from Cannes with Ewan McGreggor, Bonnie Wright and even in the mouth of Terry Gilliam – that was a great day! The Palm Dog parade in Covent Garden, where together with Tatty Devine we decked out a rickshaw in union flag bandanas turned into bunting, a union flag bed, blanket and everything inbetween was hilarious – and meeting the adorable winner – Smurf – was a particular highlight!

A bad day… I’m an eternal optimist so I try not to have bad days… but I would have to say, if I’m being really honest… when I bring my kids and dog into work with me and my madcap plans for fun stuff for them to do backfires and they paint over something they shouldn’t… and then the dog goes to sleep on an order we’re trying to dispatch… our dog beds are just too comfy!

Creature Clothes Graffiti kids

What inspires your ideas?

I tend to design for what I need – my first inspiration for what I do now was my dog Vodka, about 15 years ago. I couldn’t find any nice collars for her anywhere, so I made her one and people went crazy for it. Now that I have children (Ruby Tuesday who is four and Juniper who is two) I design for them and our home too. They love matching our dog Stolli (Vodka’s daughter) so that is why we now make belts and cushions for kids to match their dogs collar and lead.

Describe the process you go through to turn your ideas into products.

I am told it’s a very messy one… the moment inspiration hits I have to get sampling. I love to make things, so it is a process of experimentation and striking while the idea is fresh, and then testing, testing, testing and adapting until we have a product that really works for what it is meant to do. For example our Dog Dozas – the idea of the woof bed came to me while I going for a run on the beach (great thinking time), so I raced to work and made up a sample. I then experimented with printing, applique, different fabrics and fillings, zips and poppers, until we had the perfect product that is fully machine washable, adaptable and pretty awesome.

Creature Clothes pile of British Bones Babies

What advice would you give to an aspiring designer/manufacturer?

Just do it! If you really believe in your idea, go for it. Start little and build slowly. We grew very organically, funding ourselves as we went along. Making our products ourselves means that we can really ensure that every single part of that product is of the highest quality and ready to do exacty what it is meant to do. We have full control of everything – stock flow, quality control, design.

Desert island design time; which three designed items could you not live without?

Ergo baby carrier – amazing design, designed by a woman too. It meant I could still come to work and do shows, with my baby on my back.

My Macbook Pro & iPhone – I have always worked on Macs and I’m a signed up Steve Jobs devotee. I’m very proud to say I have never owned anything other than a Mac.

Micro Scooters – I’m not so sure I’d need them on a desert island… but they are beautifully designed and fantastically functional. I have customised my childrens crash hats too, so the walk to school is always pretty speedy and most importantly FUN!

Creature Clothes kids accessories

What are you most proud of?

My children and my husband. Having epilepsy I wasn’t sure if children would be an option for me, but with the astounding support of my husband Nick, we have two wonderfully happy and healthy little girls. They have changed my life in every imaginable way and are my constant source of energy, inspiration and fun. I’m also pretty proud of the work I’ve done with the Epilepsy Society, raising awareness about epilepsy. And I’m pretty stoked that people like what I design and make. I’m also very proud of my team at Creature Clothes who work so incredibly hard. They really believe in the company and our ethos of creating cool and quirky kit for dogs, cats, kids and people with a view to doing so in the most environmentally sustainable way as is possible. When we get people letting us know that they believe in our products on our Facebook page, that makes the whole team brim with pride.

Creature Clothes Graffiti kids

What’s next for you?

LOTS! We’re hoping to expand the Fogle & Pole Vintage Collection, our collaboration with Ben Fogle. I’m working on some awesome new lines for Creature Clothes that I’m really excited about. I am testing the latest ideas for the kids and home ranges, so we should be launching them soon. Then we have the usual round of Christmas shows, principally Spirit of Christmas in October. And then for Christmas, I would really like to get some sleep!

Creature Clothes bowl of fabric collars

And, finally, what’s your favourite colour?!