Body positive, eco-friendly tween wear that’s also super chic? Fashion and lifestyle label Real Pretty Kind has done it!
We sat down with Real Pretty Kind’s Founder Katie Rockliff, to talk fashion that makes our tweens, our bodies, our mammas, AND our planet feel great.
What’s the genesis story behind RPK?
Real Pretty Kind formed as a notion before my child started school. She was in complete, joyous kid mode. Unaffected. Naturally high on life. The sort of energy you want to bottle.
Pan forward and I had this mad idea to start a fashion label (yes, I know). I sent out a survey to 200 kids in the tween age range 8–12 years, to discover everything from favourite colours to causes they cared about. That survey was everything! It revealed a radical step change in mindset from kid to tween (think Elsa vs Gretta Thunberg) and left us inspired to champion that spirit.
Also, it highlighted a trend being mirrored in some unhealthy national stats: a desire to ‘fit in’ and increased societal pressure Tweens felt about how they should look and behave. In extreme cases, and relevant to all genders, this touched on negative body image issues and bullying (often, but not always, around appearance). All of which was magnified by the adoption of social media at around tween age.
This was so at odds with the unselfconscious joy and natural optimism I’d hoped to bottle that day with my daughter. I realised that More Joy was the magic ingredient. It’s what we all desired and aspired to – Tweens and parents both.
RPK was magicked from these moments. And that essence bottled in the brand – the power of ‘real’ over fake, ‘pretty’ as meaning more than your looks, and ‘kind’ as the secret to living your best life. And More Joy as the mission. And so a label that empowers the tweens who wear it, plus their friends, the makers, and planet was born. And the rest as they say, is history!
What would you say is special about RPK clothing?
Our main focus is joy – with designer threads, cool gifts and empowering tween-friendly content that leaves our customers feeling 100% rad inside as well as out.
Due in large part to that tween survey at inception; body positivity, anti-bullying and sustainability became core tenets of the brand.
Our offering started simply. And tailoring is where it began. We wanted to ensure that basic products kids loved (think tees and sweatshirts) had a superior fit and feel for tweens’ every-body flattering, every-day wear. This enables more comfort, style and confidence. Ultimately More Joy.
As part of our body positivity stance, we designed our own signature RPK pattern to ensure our garments still hang well on a maximum range of body shapes as they develop. The difference became very clear very quickly: ours is a level of care for self-worth that’s not typical of t-shirt manufacturers. And it shows in the garment.
Our fabric’s a specific weight that balances breathability in the heat with a structured hang. It’s super-soft yet tough enough for serious play (and multiple washes). And organic, so kind on your tweens’ skin and mama earth.
But more than that, our More Joy philosophy’s about empowering your mates by donating to tween-centric Body Positivity and Anti-Bullying causes through every sale. And empowering mama makers and their children through ethical fair-trade manufacturing. It's the Real in the name we aim to live by.
RPK is clearly a community-minded enterprise. How else do you give back to your community, aside from the fabulous clothes?
Our mantra’s forever been More Joy. But it’s actually shorthand for More Joy. Less of the rest. The first part, More Joy, manifests in our offer.
Positive streetwear is where we began. Then we branched into our Tween Things gifting range. And our Reality Bites zine, to extend conversations and resources, our community were loving on our socials.
The second part, Less of the rest, is where we seek to make tangible positive gains by addressing our community’s detractors of joy head on. And this challenge is both fun and seemingly endless!
1. We donate to Bully Zero and The Butterfly Foundation on all products sold, to bust bullying and negative body image and their resulting impacts amongst our next gen
2. We’ve created infrastructures that create positive social impact amongst our makers
3. we’ve got sustainability baked into our packaging and delivery services
4. we also annually support Aussie charity Thread Together with garments for Aussie families doing it tough.
And we make pillows from our off-cuts for Aussie homeless too. As well as specific drives we run that matter to our community in the moment – like supporting the Fireys during the bushfires. Ultimately we think fashion can be a great tool for self-expression and self-worth – and also a wider force for good. And we’ve always felt that’s a pretty awesome space to play.
Why is body positivity important in the tween space?
Tweenage is unique and separate from kids’ earlier childhood years – one of the reasons we looked to create a product that was centred wholly around their needs.
This is an age where we see great leaps in physical, intellectual and emotional development. It’s an exciting time. But, with all exploration, it can also be marked with its fair share of self-doubt.
We believe it’s precisely at this first, pivotal point that fashion brands can make a difference. And Body Positivity is such a powerful way in. We see it as a life skill and thread it right through our offer.
Not to be confused with vanity, body positivity is inextricably linked to self-worth. It’s about mental and physical health. Feeling 100% rad in your own skin so you’re empowered to go out and grab life and all it throws your way – and empower others to do the same.
In Australia, 1 in 4 students reported being bullied and 1 in 3 people teased specifically about their appearance, according to The Alannah Madeline Foundation and Butterfly Foundation. Supporting tweens’ self-worth through a Body Positive approach can literally change a life forever. We use our product styles and range; our language and imagery; our zine content and donations from product profits; to empower a celebratory outlook to Tweens, of who they are and how they look and feel.
What materials do you use in your lines?
Our brand model is based on People + Planet Kind principles, so we chose certified Organic Cotton as our favourite medium after a lot of research. Alternatives such as Tencel and Bamboo are beautiful but not as well regulated. Perhaps we will incorporate these when they are.
Aside from the environmental reasons, 150GSM organic cotton also offers a better structure for a great hang on the body. It’s not too clingy or see through which are both qualities kids with developing bodies find uncomfortable. The end result’s a super-soft but tough organic cotton that feels great on the skin you’re in.
It all adds up to more feel-good factors, self-worth and self-confidence – feeling 100% inside and out.
Why is sustainability important to RPK?
In our original survey, Sustainability actually featured highly for tweens. Unsurprisingly the world they inherit matters to them! So, it seemed obvious to us that empowerment in tweens now needed to balance with empowering a brighter future, that includes a cared-for planet.
We’re all about women supporting women here at Darlo General – an ethos we share! Can you speak to how you incorporate this idea into RPK?
I love this question. I’ve loved this stage of my life and witnessing other women around me shift into mamahood. How we’re so swift to champion and support each other. I realised I had an opportunity to be that as a brand – not just tweens backing tweens, but also as a label mamas purchase, that empowers mama makers.
We looked to where we could do most good and funded with a joint trade grant between Indonesia and Australia, we established a cooperative of talented artisans and mostly mamas in Bali.
RPK ensures these mamas can work from home – a flexibility we often enjoy as mamas here in Aus, but in emerging economies takes on even more potency. Because without child support infrastructures, families have the choice between lost income or children not getting to school. And that’s a deal breaker for next gen futures.
Our model focuses on removing that barrier and breaking cycles of poverty. And from a quality standpoint the results remain incredible. All mamas worldwide can attest to this. You can juggle kids and career perfectly well, given the right environment to thrive.
This is not where the women story ends though. I’m not sure if it was our makers’ model, or the tweens-backing-tweens sentiment that underpins the brand, but somehow RPK developed its own village rapidly.
The brand attracted huge support from women even before we launched – something we’re forever in awe of and grateful for. That support’s been both global and local – including here in this neighbourhood. And of course, that includes Darlo General, our fabulous neighbourhood hub.
Others having your back is a pretty special feeling. And exactly what we wanted the brand to do. That circularity’s not lost on us and is perhaps, one of my biggest personal high points.