When Jane Hedreen's beloved shop called flora and henri — reopened the doors to its physical storefront, we were eager to get a glimpse of the new home. Though the focus has shifted, the natural light-filled space is now stocked with chic and flowy women's caftans, pottery, homewares, totebags and shelves of shoes (for both kids and grown-ups), the shop remains committed to its minimal roots. flora and henri is one of those unique places you know you can go to pick up a sweet and beautiful outfit for baby, a card and present for mom, and a little special something for yourself at the same time — versatile and welcoming, and somehow calm and uncluttered in all of its variety.
We wanted to hear how the shop got started and how it has evolved, so we sat down to chat with its founder and designer, Jane Hedreen. Below, Jane explains the story behind the store, her aesthetic inspirations and the lessons learned in her 20 years in the biz.
Let's start with a bit about your and flora and henri's history. Can you tell us about your background and how the store and line first began?
In 1998, we opened the first flora and henri boutique in downtown Seattle and launched the flora and henri travelbook catalogue. We envisioned a line of American-designed children’s clothing for ages newborn to 12 years that would compliment a child’s natural beauty — pure, simple, and exquisite — while offering a European quality and fabrication.
flora and henri grew, opening boutiques in New York and California. Every season, we created a much sought-after catalogue that featured stunning and artful photography. People from all over the world fell in love with our designs, and we established wholesale relationships with select partners both domestic and international. In 2015 we launched a new website offering the entire "live and love" experience. And in 2017 we opened our full concept lifestyle shop in the heart of Pioneer Square in Seattle, WA.
We’ve expanded our product selection to include things that would speak to our aesthetic, partnering with boutique brands of similar sensibilities and artistic vision. We officially launched flora and henri "live and love" and "flora femme," two entirely new lines of carefully curated, unique and exquisite products for women, life, love and home. We aspire to offer a personal experience in the midst of the big-box retail era. Through our virtual boutique and Seattle Concept Shop, flora and henri presents a sought-out collection of inspired finds to mark our lives with thoughtfulness and beauty.
Can you tell us more about these evolutions that flora and henri has gone through over almost 20 years? We would love to hear about the ups and downs, the struggles and surprises.
As flora and henri has grown, we’ve become increasingly engaged with the world and our responsibility as an apparel manufacturer. In our overseas production we have searched for situations that can provide the quality we demand and concurrently benefit women and children in those areas. We work with positive impact facilities in Madagascar, Nepal, and Bolivia. At the same time, we have moved a quarter of our production, the entire essentials line, to a production facility in Seattle, working to promote domestic garment industry jobs in our local area.
Finally, we’re excited about what the future holds, with even more collaborations, connections, and events in the works. Of course, our flora and henri name brand will always be our anchor. We like to think that our designs speak to a slow-family sensibility while always remaining thoroughly modern and relevant to today’s ever-busier lifestyle: we hope you continue to grow up with us.
How would you explain that journey and what have learned about the industry and yourself in the process?
As soon as I try to explain to you what I have learned about the industry it will have changed. The journey has taught me to be nimble, to be willing to reassess all the time. I have to be willing to look and listen and let go. An admired friend told me this: "When in doubt, talk less and act less." Haha. If you know me, you know I have a long way to go with this!
What provided the impetus for this new direction and for also opening another retail space?
I am thoroughly energized and inspired by the growth of flora and henri into a full concept/lifestyle shop and equally grateful to have found the perfect home for our entire operations – web, retail, wholesale and design studio – in such a beautiful corner of historic Pioneer Square.
Returning to brick and mortar retail is getting back to what we love to do – offering personal, boutique interactions and the absolute anti-big box experience. I hope everyone will come, stay, have a coffee, talk about the things that inspire them and be a part of our brand. During our 5 year hiatus as an online only retailer, we have missed the human interaction and the ability to have the quality of our goods available to touch and feel in full light.
The addition of beautiful and unique products for the home, boutique and artisan collections for women (many from small designers in Brooklyn), our own flora and henri products for both kids and women, and inspired gifts for all the people we love offer our world of flora and henri to the design sensitive of all ages. You may notice our tag line has changed from "children’s clothier" to "live and love." So that’s what we are going to do! That doesn’t mean we don’t still offer our thoughtful and curated clothing designs and toys for kids. We have just broadened the joy.
Describe the aesthetic of your shop in three words.
Light-filled, inspiring, Nordic.
What are some of your favorites lines and pieces that you currently carry?
I love the Ruffle Caftan by Electric Feathers, EVERYTHING by Dechem Glass, and Kinderklein’s Hush Cradle.
You take great care in where your items are sourced and how they are produced. Can you explain what a positive impact facility is and why it is important?
We have always sourced ethical manufacturing partners around the world, most notably with two different women’s collectives, one in Madagascar and one in Nepal. Both were developed to pay the women that work there directly and to help them with medical care and child care so that they could work, stay healthy and have family values. We have been with both of these collectives now for over a decade, so we have real relationships with whom we are working. The woman who runs the collective in Madagascar has come to visit us here in Seattle and my family visited there in 2010.
We were fortunate to be introduced with a facility here in Seattle a couple of years ago to manufacture our Essentials line (which are tees and leggings for baby and child) that is 25% of everything we do. It makes such a huge difference to be able to meet face to face and problem solve or brainstorm. Again, it comes back to relationships and the ability to connect — I think that translates into the beauty of everything we produce.
How do you think your experience and age have benefitted your current business model? What are you doing or not doing now that you would not have anticipated when you started almost 20 years ago? What do you appreciate about your perspective and what do you feel that you are lacking or in need of right now?
Well, I have been pursuing this long enough to have learned a lot of lessons the hard way, which you don’t easily forget. Maybe I could have gone to business school and learned them more indirectly, but I am not sure that you can really put quicksand on a map. I think I have learned some patience (not enough, yet) and the importance of being open to evolution. The last six years of being strictly a web business really made me recognize how much I love people and the real world. Enough of boxes and computer screens! This is a place to stop and visit, share a coffee, to touch and feel and carry it out the door if something inspires you. Everyone who comes in is a potential future friend. It makes me feel so much more human.
What do you value most about being a female entrepreneur in Seattle? How has your geographical location and community shaped you both personally and professionally?
All the other inspired women! We are a town of so many talented, engaged and creative women. From my superstar employees to my fellow business owners, the women I know are all entrepreneurs, showing grace, balance and beauty in very complex lives. (p.s. There are some really good guys mixed in!)
I am so truly and deeply a Seattleite. (My complexion certainly couldn’t live anywhere dryer or sunnier!) I love watching this period of growth and development in our city and seeing how committed we are to local, small, unique and authentic businesses that together make this such a special place to live and visit. I believe Pioneer Square will bring together many of us to reflect the unique flavor of the neighborhood. Just wait until the viaduct comes down and Puget Sound is right at our feet! We have worked with architect Eric Cobb (who will also be our neighbor) to design the space and Dolan Built for construction, and they have exceeded all expectations. They are magicians! I can’t wait to invite everyone in to see the process of design and curation from beginning to end: a fabric swatch that becomes a dress and a line sheet for next season to tickle your fancy.
What are a few of your goals for this next iteration of flora and henri?
That we feel approachable, forward-looking and lend inspiration to anyone who happens upon us. We want to share our curation and our warmth. We will look for opportunities to introduce ourselves to new markets, whether through pop-ups or special events. We’ll keep you posted!