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June 7, 2024 —

Love What You Do: Paulina Atkinson of Organic Zoo

A creative free spirit from a young age, Paulina Atkinson set up her business, Organic Zoo, to create joyfully simple and sustainable clothing for small people with big personalities, made for play and adventure
Paulina Atkinson, owner of independent sustainable childrenswear Organic Zoo
Independent sustainable childrenswear Organic Zoo
Sine Fleet - contributingeditor of 91 Magazine
Sine Fleet
91 Magazine contributing editor,

Photography

Magda Krzywosinska
Photographer,
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Hi Paulina, how would you describe your business, Organic Zoo?

I like to describe it as a lifestyle brand rather than a fashion label. Our mission is to inspire a simpler and therefore more joyful childhood for all kids, not promoting the latest fashion trends. We make natural clothes for play and adventure rooted in the spirit of playful simplicity.

Paulina Atkinson, owner of independent sustainable childrenswear Organic Zoo

What inspired the idea of setting up your business?

Since a young age I felt happiest when was free to do things in my own way and without too much structure or pressure. For some this could seem like disobedience. However, for me it was about following my creativity. This has never changed. Therefore, very early in my career, I discovered that having my own business and the freedom that comes with it, is what I want. Organic Zoo hasn’t been an overnight success story we all love. Without any experience in textiles or fashion, I started slow and small. It took nearly 10 years of learning and consistent hard work to get where we are today! And where are we today? Well, still learning and working. Just with a bit more confidence and experience.

How did your career begin?

I grew up in the north of Poland and moved to the UK after graduating from university without much of a plan. All I wanted was to experience new cultures and places with a hope that it would help me to find my purpose in life. I worked for a handful of small businesses during these years. My jobs were random – I worked at a local theatre, a clothing store, and a hotel before I landed at my last job, which involved sourcing and developing new products. I started travelling and visiting many Asian factories. This was the moment I realised the power we have as consumers and as makers. I saw how things we buy are made, often in places we don’t associate with the lush stores they are being sold in, by people with very little choice. This is when the idea of Organic Zoo was born – I wanted to see if I could make great products in a better way.

Independent sustainable childrenswear Organic Zoo
Where do you find creative inspiration?

My designs are the extension and interpretation of my passions, interests and experiences. They are very personal. As an example, this season’s “ceramic print” was born out of a love for small batch pottery. After my latest visit to Japan, I started collecting lots of unique ceramics, which not only look pretty, but turn every cup of tea into a little ritual.

How would you describe your style?

Simple, timeless, relaxed.

Inside the studio of Paulina Atkinson, owner of independent sustainable childrenswear Organic Zoo

Are there themes or influences that run through your work, or that you are drawn to?

My childhood and my family are a big inspiration in all my work. My mum’s classic and timeless style meant my sisters and I were dressed in simple, effortless clothes always ready for exploring and playing. I grew up feeling lighter and happier with less, with a love of being creative, resourceful and connected to nature. It’s these values that inspire all Organic Zoo collections.

Tell us about your work and creative process…

Although I am a well organised person, when it comes to my creative process it gets a bit messy and unstructured. Usually, the ideas are born outside the office, so I try to write them down somewhere before I forget! An important and joyful part of my creative process is discussing the ideas with others – our team at the office and family! I like this part the most – the intensity of collective brainstorming is the best!

Paulina Atkinson, owner of independent sustainable childrenswear Organic Zoo

How did you first discover your love for what you do?

When I decided to launch my first clothing range, I didn’t spend any time thinking about the future. I had a project in front of me and I wanted to deliver it the best I could! My goal was to create clothes that parents and their kids would enjoy and make them in the way that was better for the planet and the people who make them.

The love and joy came later. For me it’s all about the feeling that I get when I see children and families growing together with Organic Zoo and in Organic Zoo pieces! In some cases, we’ve made friends for life and that is magical. The community is the biggest driver for my work.

Describe a typical working day…

I am all about work/life balance. Long hours at the office are not productive for me. I go in daily, but always try to have breaks to stimulate my creativity and productivity. Each day in the office is different, however I always have a call with my sisters who work with me, as well as many visits to Instagram to check in with our community. Unless I am away, I like to have my lunch in the office with the team – it’s always a good laugh!

Inside the studio of Paulina Atkinson, owner of independent sustainable childrenswear Organic Zoo

What is the ethos behind your business?

I was raised to see the beauty in simplicity and a sustainable way of living. I like to stay close to nature. These are the core values for my business too.

Is there an element of your work that you love the most?

I love working on new designs and collections, but my favourite parts are events and pop-ups. Meeting people and being able to share our passion with them is truly special. Our last pop-up tour in Japan was magical and I can’t wait to share more details on what we are planning for months to come.

Independent sustainable childrenswear Organic Zoo

How valuable is the online community to your work?

We are very grateful for our online community. Organic Zoo wouldn’t be the same without it, as it enables us to connect with our customers. I spend a few hours on social media daily, sharing, interacting, answering messages etc. Our Instagram account is still run by me.

Working as an independent – what are the joys, and what are the challenges?

Being an independent brand gives a lot of freedom which is great for our creativity. I also love how reactive we can be with decision making without the need of going through the lengthy ‘signing off’ procedures of big companies. However, there are challenges that we are facing too. It’s not easy to compete with global brands that offer much lower price points, constantly release new collections and having bottomless marketing budgets.

Independent sustainable childrenswear Organic Zoo

What’s one thing people would be surprised you do in your work?

Often people are surprised that it’s still me who runs our social media accounts! Also, usually during the launch of new season when we are super busy, I join our operations team. I help with unpacking deliveries and organising the warehouse. I enjoy wrapping orders especially. I am always very curious and excited to see what our customers order!

Independent sustainable childrenswear Organic Zoo

Do you have any creative pastimes or hobbies?

I love food. Creating new dishes and cooking, especially together with my husband, is my favourite creative hobby. For many people cooking is a chore, but for me it’s the greatest way to unwind and spend time together.

What does the next year hold for you?

We are launching a handful of women’s styles later this summer. A beautifully simple and timeless capsule. Also, I am very proud of Organic Zoo Knits Collection and can’t wait to show you what’s on its way for AW24.

QUICK-FIRE QUESTIONS

Books I loveA New Earth by Eckhart Tolle – I’ve read it a few times. It’s a book I like coming back to. I love fiction, my recent favourites were: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee and Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. At the moment I am reading Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard, which was recommended by a friend. What an inspirational story of a great business!

Creative Heroes: Laetitia Rouget, Tess Guinery and Chiara Perano.

Shops I love:  Workshop Living in Brighton and online – it’s my favourite place to get matcha and shop beautiful and functional objects, especially pottery. Babaa: I live in knitwear, and Babaa is my favourite. I love the ethos of this brand – it’s been my inspiration for years.

Inspirational places:  I love the nature of northern Poland, where I’m from. Walks through thick pine forests and white sand beaches are my favourite place to reset and ground. City-wise, I like Lisbon, it’s a beautiful city with so much to offer – great culture, food, people and it’s immensely creative.

Instagrammers I love: @dailylunax, @courtenyadamo and @juliusroberts.

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