runaway design collective

Small Business Spotlight: Runaway Design Collective


Tell us a bit about yourselves

We're Charlie Kelly and Kate Borthwick, Co-Founders of the Runaway Design Collective. We're best mates and mums, one living in East London and the other now in Melbourne (moved from East London in January 2016). We've known each other for ages, and have quite interlinked friendship circles. Our kids are best mates... not surprising considering how much time they've spent together while we work!

Describe your business

We're the Runaway Design Collective and we produce wearable art as t-shirts for cool little kids from babies through to six years. Our focus is on fun and creative design that appeals equally to kids and grown ups. We work with some amazing international artists to reproduce their work on our range of ethically produced kids' clothing. And we hand screenprint the tees ourselves, on the kitchen table, usually during the kids naps.

What inspires you?

Our kids. Our surroundings from nature to street art. Beautiful, fun and thoughtful artwork that engages both our kids imaginations and our own. All the other amazing independent kidswear and design businesses out there producing beautiful and useful stuff.

Why did you decide to start a business?

We started up the Runaway Design Collective while both living in London, one of us working for MTV UK and the other for the BBC. We had overlapping maternity leaves and were a bit taken aback by a lack of beautiful, unisex kidswear in which to dress our little ones.

We were selected soon after to take part in Campus for Mums, run by Google's start-up support scheme based in London. That solidified our determination to get Runaway really happening, as well as linking us in with a great crew of inspiring mum and dad entrepeneurs. 

Has the direction of your business changed over time?

Our aesthetic has changed, and is more bold and edgy compared to our early designs which were quite whimsical and imaginative. We've gotten smarter about production and stock, and learned a lot about what does and doesn't work. We focus more heavily on Instagram than we did at the outset, which really seems to be working for our brand. But we're fundamentally doing the same thing, for the same reason, which is reassuring!

What challenges have you faced as small business owners?

Balancing work with family life and day jobs has most definitely been the biggest challenge. It's a killer. Having one of us move halfway across the world has been tough as well, and we're yet to work out exactly how that one is going to pan out.

What’s the most rewarding aspect to running your own business?

Seeing our own kids wanting to wear their Runaway tees above all others! And until the big move downunder, spending all that time with your best mate and our kids and it counting as "work".

What advice would you give to new businesses that are just starting out?

Establish roles and responsibilities early on, if you can. Try to achieve that magic balance of long term planning with just getting on with it. Take time to step back and work out what you want to achieve. Work out which social media platforms are best suited to your business and focus on those rather than trying to spread yourself too thinly.

What's next for your business?

Actually, we just want to keep producing beautiful clothes that kids really want to wear. Pretty simple, really. Oh, and of course we'd loved to be stocked in 20 countries around the world so we're working on that as well...

Learn more about Runaway Design Collective and connect with the ladies via social media using these links:

Website: Instagram:

Some images re-grammed from these awesome accounts:

@superbuds, @victoriapenafiel, @claiream, and @kingandkaui, so check them out!

Back to main blog