designer, CEO, marketer, mother of two: Esther Freedman, the founder of Cuteheads, is the full package—all wrapped up in a signature bow.
Freedman's Houston-based children’s clothing brand launched eight years ago with a simple line of knit basics. “We’ve come a long way,” she says, and it's true: In the last six years, Cuteheads has grown its offerings, inventory, and imagination. The brand specializes in modern and playful attire for babies and little girls up to kids' size 8. What started as a simple screen-printed jersey knit T-shirt has evolved into a treasure trove of sustainably made tulle skirts and girly party dresses.
Cuteheads unveiled its new look this summer, a playful brand makeover that showcases its happy-go-lucky flare fit for little girls who love playing dress up. While we wish our adult closets had items this stylish (we can dream, right?), Houston kids can make the best-dressed list with the brand’s latest designs. We sat down with Freedman to learn about her passion for party-wear and the future of her brand.
On the name:
“My husband Doug and I have a 9-year-old cockapoo, our first child, who we call our ‘cutehead.’ I always thought it was such a cute nickname and a great name for a kids’ brand.”
On Cuteheads’ new look:
“I call it a rebrand, for lack of a better word, but truly it's a solidification of what Cuteheads already is: a one-stop shop for all your little girl's special occasions. We make dresses and outfits that are cute, girly, and one-of-a-kind, and our customers already shop with us for those things. Now it's just official in the messaging. When we started Cuteheads eight years ago, it was largely focused on mix-and-match knits. We abandoned that concept long ago, but the branding still reflected it. Now we have a logo and website that matches who we are, and incorporates our sweet dog Winnie and my 4-year-old, Naomi, who always inspires the direction of the designs.”
On the origin of her company:
“It was an ever-evolving thing. I did have an 'aha' moment, as Oprah calls it, about nine years ago when I realized what a cute name Cuteheads was. I had always dreamed of building a brand that people would love—something that really resonated with people—and I've always loved kids. It was a combination of [Cuteheads] being a good, sound business idea and feeling that intangible excitement you get when something clicks and sparks something inside you.”
On her first design:
“The first piece we ever made was a screen-printed jersey knit T-shirt. We've come a long way!”
On her favorite occasion to dress clients for:
“I really love making flower girl dresses. The pictures and videos are always amazing, and there's such pride on the girls' faces. It makes me so happy to see one of my dresses getting to be a very small part of such a big day. We're currently taking on two to three bespoke flower girl orders a month. [We] hope to expand that in 2019, plus offer a full line of ready-to-wear flower girl dresses if someone doesn't want to go the custom route.”
On making clothes for children:
“Comfort is the No. 1 thing. I think we can all remember being stuffed into itchy, uncomfortable clothes as a kid, and if other people's kids are anything like mine, if there's even one scratchy bit, they're not wearing it. We use only cotton, linen, and other breathable fabrics that kids can twirl and live in. Of course, a close second to that is cuteness. It has to appeal to both the child and the mom, and there's a fine balance there. We try to create things that parents can feel proud to put their kids in, while still making the child feel beautiful and confident.”
“It's kind of amazing to see the evolution of my designs since having my girls. My older daughter Naomi, who is 4, has a lot of opinions about what I make. She also sneaks into my office and helps herself to her favorite designs. I know when she sees something for the first time and her eyes light up that we're moving in the right direction. I make the kinds of things I can't find in stores, things that are not only special but safely and fairly made, locally, by people who are paid a living wage.”
On life in Houston:
“There are so many things we love to do; this is such a kid-friendly place to live. We love to visit parks in our neighborhood like Evelyn's Park, meet friends for lunch on one of the many great patios near us, and visit the Houston Zoo to feed the ducks and ride the train.”
On advice for new designers:
“Knowing your ‘why’ is critical. There are going to be days you want to throw in the towel and give up, but if you know why you're doing it and you're doing it for the right reasons, you can withstand the struggles and challenges. Be prepared to make mistakes and learn from them; as long as you don't bet the farm, you'll come out the other side a better, stronger business owner.”