Her passion for photography runs in the family. Her father, a shutterbug, used to take her photo often, which is why, when young Estela started shooting photos with her own camera, she featured the people who were part of her life.
At Windsor court
Amaia Arrieta left the City for Chelsea and investment banking for children’s fashion. Her decision couldn’t have turned out better: Today, Amaia Kids is a big name in fashion that embellishes the princes and princesses of the British monarchy. Her choice of classic but modern handmade styles have caught the attention of dozens of celebrities that do not hesitate to cross the threshold of her shop to dress their little ones.
When she landed in London 22 years ago to work in the City, little did Amaia Arrieta from Gipuzkoa know that she would end up becoming the children’s fashion designer that Kate Middleton, Sienna Miller, Claudia Schiffer, Adele, Liv Tyler, Naomi Campbell, Victoria Beckham, or Megan Markle would choose to dress their children. And even less so that one day she would receive from King Charles III the 2022 Queen’s Award for Enterprise which grants her brand, Amaia Kids, the privilege of using the Royal seal on its products and labels for five years. Her collections are designed in London, manufactured in Spain —at workshops in Bilbao, Madrid, and Andalusia— and are sold around the world: at shops in London, Japan, and China. Recently, she’s started selling in Spain through some famous department stores.
How do you move from investment banking to children's fashion design?
It happened slightly by chance. When I was pregnant with my eldest son, I started to take notice of baby clothes and realised that what I could find in the centre of London had nothing to do with what I could buy in San Sebastián, where clothes were cuter and more reasonably priced. That was also the moment when I decided to leave investment banking because my job, which took up all hours of the day, was not compatible with being a mother. For those first months, I’d buy all my baby clothes in San Sebastián, and when I’d come back to London my friends would tell me how much they loved them. That's how I started selling children’s clothes from other brands in a shop until I started creating my own designs.
You’re a living example that Spanish talent is appreciated not only in the United Kingdom but around the world. What do you think people see in your brand?
In London, there are people of all nationalities, and this offers you a window display to the entire world and a vision of what people like. We make classic clothing, with more modern details such as colours and tailoring, which don’t go out of fashion, added to factors like the design and quality of the fabrics.
“The textile industry in Spain should be proud because there is indeed talent, but it’s not exported and there’s no reason not to do so”
And what is it about your brand that makes you stand out?
Undoubtedly, our choice for a made in Spain and handcrafted production. The textile industry in Spain has suffered a lot because, a few years ago, companies started manufacturing in Asia, because it was cheaper and there were bigger margins. When you spend more years abroad than in your home country, you end up feeling kind of patriotic. You realise that we’re really good, but we don’t know how to sell ourselves. The textile industry in Spain should be proud because there is indeed talent, but it’s not exported and there’s no reason not to do so.
I imagine that, despite success and recognition, these last twenty years have not been a walk in the park either.
It’s going well, but I’m not retiring yet (laughs). This job is hard and whoever denies it is lying, because there are always unforeseen circumstances or external factors, like Brexit, Covid, or the energy crisis now, which are out of our control. If I were to compare, I’d say it’s tougher than investment banking because you have to spend all day putting out fires; but it’s satisfying in other ways, it’s less aggressive, more humane, and I’m my own boss. Sometimes I’d like to let go of that baggage, but it’s impossible because you always have to be on the ball. There’s no other secret.
Which are your main markets? Which place does Spain occupy?
Our most important markets are England and the United States. In Asia, particularly Japan, our sombre, elegant designs are popular, as well as high-quality materials. Being present in Spain was on our to-do list. We’ve opened two points of sale in some department stores in Madrid, one in Goya and the other in Pozuelo de Alarcón. I’m really happy and I hope we’re well received.
Why do you think Spanish children’s fashion is doing well internationally?
It has a really good reputation. Currently, the made in Spain brand is on the rise and rightly so, because there are many brands with different styles, prices, and ranges. But not only that. It’s also a question of how we dress our little ones. It’s true that, although foreigners buy Spanish children’s fashion, they don’t dress their kids in the same way that we do. Style, as it’s conceived in Spain, can’t be replicated. Our country is still leading the way.
What did receiving the 2022 Queen’s Award for Enterprise from King Charles III mean to you?
I felt really proud and satisfied for myself and my whole team. After years working together, we’re almost like family and it has been a recognition of our hard work and dedication, in short, of a job well done. Between us, we’ve overcome many difficulties and have been successful.
How did your relationship with the Windsors come about?
Our relationship is really good, and it started in 2013, when Prince George was born. At the time, some of their extended family visited the shop to buy a gift for Kate Middleton’s son. A few weeks later, the Duchess of Cambridge herself came to the shop with her mother. And the rest is history. You also have to keep in mind that their nanny is Spanish, and we all feather our own nest.
“Our shop has been open for 17 years and there aren’t that many long-standing businesses in the area. We’re almost an institution in Chelsea”
The Windsors aren’t the only celebrities that dress their children in clothes from your shop. Where does this crowd of fans come from?
We’re in Chelsea, an area a lot of famous people come to. On top of that, our shop has been open for 17 years and there aren’t that many long-standing businesses in the area. We’re almost an institution in the neighbourhood and everybody knows us. The fact that we do our utmost for our clients also helps. Our workshops are very flexible and we’re able to do what our clients ask for, which is appreciated and turns them into returning customers. It's an à la carte service that other companies don’t offer or can’t afford.
Did you ever imagine such success? How do you achieve it?
It’s beyond my wildest dreams. After studying Business and a Master’s in Finance, I thought that’s the direction my life would take. I think it’s been a combination of good luck, hard work, and life circumstances. It’s a job that I’ve learnt along the way and that has allowed me to stay close to my kids.