Laia Aguilar and Jan Andreu are the team behind the cult children’s brand, The Animals Observatory. Based in Spain, Aguilar is the creative force behind TAO’s playful and modern styles for children. The brand is a refreshing burst of prints and color. Formerly of the brand Bobo Choses, Aguilar left the brand after six years in 2014. When the opportunity came to lead TAO her experience allowed her a more mature approach. The name implies instinct and frames the relationship between animals and humans, parents and children, as an observatory one. For Aguilar, inspiration comes in many forms, but her children remain the most reliable critics. The brand is carried around the world and at expertly curated children’s online retailers such as Over the Ocean, Fawn Shoppe, and Maisonette.
Where are you from? What was your childhood like?
I was born in Igualada, Catalonia. I had a nomadic, happy childhood. The young girl I once was is very much still with me.
Did your early experiences contribute to your decision to become a children’s fashion designer?
As a girl I was always drawing, from animals to clothes. I grew up surrounded by drawing pads and pencils. However, the definitive experience was becoming a mother. When I was pregnant, I couldn’t find clothes that I would want to dress my son in, so I decided to create my own clothing brand. It was a daring choice—and the right one.
The Animals Observatory is your second line – what are you doing differently this time around?
Without a doubt, maturity and experience.
Is it weird to see Bobo Choses living on without you?
Yes, it is strange, because I created the brand from start to finish. The strangest thing, however, is still seeing myself reflected in its collections.
So many TAO styles I wish were made in my size! Do you ever find yourself feeling the same?
Thank you! Although the truth is that does not often happen to me. My passion is designing for kids. But it is a huge compliment that many adults also want to wear my designs. I think what they really want is to be children again, and that’s wonderful.
What about a women’s line? Any chance?
Currently we are focused on strengthening the brand’s children’s line. But we haven’t ruled anything out. Time will tell.
I love your brand because it makes boys’ clothes as exciting as girls’ clothes – something that is seriously lacking in my opinion. Have you noticed this too? Why do you think boys’ clothes feel so uninspired?
Thank you. The separation of the genders is a fiction created by the industry. I totally disagree. When I design, I like to do it, with a few exceptions, with clothes that both boys and girls can wear. Let me share a personal anecdote with you: on many occasions, when my husband dresses our children, Pablo and Adriana, he mixes up outfits and puts each one’s on the other. And they look great! That’s how I understand fashion and life.
Can you describe the mothers who are shopping TAO? What are they like?
They are women who, for just a few moments, enjoying remembering what they were like as girls while picking out TAO models for their kids. They are sensitive and enthusiastic.
How do your own children influence your work?
So much! Their criteria are of paramount importance to me, both in terms of the quality of the fabric and patterns and for the colours and prints. They are very critical and tend to be right.
What’s your personal style like?
Jeans and a white t-shirt.
Are you a uniform person or is every day a new day?
I like discipline and work.
Which designers are your go-tos?
J.W. Anderson, Alexandro Michelle, Miuccia Prada… Although I rarely get my inspiration from fashion. That would be very boring. Now, for example, I am discovering the work of Nestor Almendros, Eric Rohmer’s director of photography in the ’70s. Very inspiring work.
What’s a normal day like for you?
I get up at 7. I have breakfast and read the paper. I wake up the kids and take them to catch the bus to school. I go walking for an hour in the woods around my house. I am working by 10 am, till about 6 pm. Then it’s family time, and at night a movie, reading, listening to music… At 11 pm it’s time for bed.