In our hot summer, this bonnet and two others have come in very handy when our granddaughter is being dressed for a walk. (She’s only 9 months old now, so we adults are the ones doing the actual walking!)
The bonnet and the whole outfit are from Petits Genoux (French for “Little Knees”). Its beautiful creations are by Canadian designer Kendra Francis.
My daughter discovered Petits Genoux because of a recent story in the news.
Black and Indigenous designers in North America, she learned, already had great difficulty getting their products into stores. Now, they were facing a much higher risk of folding because of the COVID pandemic.
Since baby products are mainly what my daughter buys these days, she decided to spend a portion of her shopping dollars with Black and Indigenous businesses who make/sell such items. She was delighted with both the quality and style of the products she found.
One of the first companies she discovered was Kendra Francis’ Petits Genoux. Kendra designs and makes every item by herself. She sees them as ‘heirloom pieces” – all handmade of natural materials for babies and toddlers, and so well crafted that families will pass them down.
I liked the products and the concept behind them so much, I wanted to know more. So I emailed Kendra a few questions:
1) What led you to start designing and sewing these creations for children?
Designing for children came about accidentally. My son was 2 and just beginning pre-school. Between drop-off and pick-up, another Mom and I (she had just had her second and her first was in class with my son) would come up with ideas from fabric she had bought for her newborn.
It was simply something to do in the few hours we had at the time. After a few weeks we had a variety of pieces and wanted to show some friends of hers that had a children’s boutique, to get their opinion. To make a long story short, they liked it, ordered it and then we had a few weeks to scramble a company together!
2) What inspires each creation?
The inspiration behind the brand is to create heirloom pieces for the modern baby. Pieces that are quality made that you can pass down. The opposite of fast, disposable fashion.
3) What has the response been from buyers?
The business has been online for the past 3 years and is now preparing for wholesale in a selection of boutiques. It’s a gifting brand made for your Baby’s firsts.
(Kendra’s partner has now moved abroad and Kendra runs the business by herself.)
4) What are your dreams for Petits Genoux?
I would love for the brand to be carried in boutiques worldwide and grow its community. The brand ethos is also one of social sustainability in our practices, materials and packaging. I am always working on those components. My first major step is all of the packing by the end of 2020 will be 100% recycled and/or compostable.
5) Very few Black designers’ products are carried in the big online and brick-and- mortar stores. What are your hopes for your products? And for Black designers/creators?
There are so many amazing Black designers and creators and we are constantly overlooked by the large brick and mortar stores but also by the consumer. We are creating product that is of high quality, high design and style and we are charging prices to match.
Consumers who haven’t heard of us might be hesitant to put their money behind us vs another mainstream brand, so what we really need is the advertising support and access to the spaces (retail space) for consumers to see and connect with our brands. Hopefully that time is now.
Our best wishes, Kendra!