There is a distinct art to storytelling that is entirely wrapped up in what drives the protagonist and their journey. The story of how Raconteur Kid came to be is one of love, passion and adventure but the beauty of storytelling lies at its heart. The product of a marriage of creativity between husband and wife, Luke and Jillian Watkins; Raconteur Kid is a collection of illustrated tales sewn up into beautiful apparel designed to invoke adventure.
“To us, Raconteur Kid is way more than just a clothing line,” says Jillian. “We hope to foster the imaginations of children and parents by creating an experience, families can share together through stories and education.” Every item of the collection is accompanied by a story card, one side of which thematically links with the design and the other offering an educational component with a question to answer or an activity to complete.
Born of the creative alchemy between a graphic design artist and advertising creative, limericks and stories inspired by a love of the outdoors, the characters of their everyday life and memories of childhood take shape to inform the fashion. “Sometimes the idea for the story comes first. Sometimes the idea for the illustration comes first,” says Jillian of the creative process. “My husband and I will talk about it, decide on a direction, then it’s sketches, more sketches and a rhyming book.”
A passion project that unites the pair, Jillian and Luke had been drawing and writing stories together for years before they saw an avenue through which to bring their shared imagination to light. The birth of their daughter, Ava, in December 2014 revealed a world of possibility as Jillian quickly became engrossed in the online community of small businesses and makers on Instagram. Taking the leap from consumer to creator, Jillian and Luke were intent on making their mark unique as they sought to present their own take on kids’ fashion. “We dug deep and thought about what we love about childhood and imagination, exploration and learning, and a storytelling jackalope was born!” The visualisation of every make-believe friend any child has dreamed up, the jackalope exists to incite a child’s imagination, sense of adventure and passion for learning.
A collaboration with Opposite of Far, an online destination for fantastical mask and tail sets designed for imaginative play, led to the exclusive Jackalope mask of The Kid. But this mask is just the tip of the sartorial iceberg as its form serves as the illustration for the Raconteur Kid tee, undoubtedly the icon piece of the collection. “I would love to collaborate with a doll maker to create a plush of our jackalope,” says Jillian. “Hazel Village would be amazing. Or perhaps Natti Natti NYC who make the most awesome bed sheets and blankets, and then I’d love to start designing some fabrics and collaborate with a few of my favourite shops,” she says. “Of course a Paperkrane /Raconteur Kid collab would be on my bucket list and teaming up with a children’s book author to create an exclusive literary design.”
Falling into the fashion business almost by accident, “I never saw it like that,” she says, Jillian is clear on her label’s intent. “Creativity and storytelling is creativity and storytelling no matter the medium.” Though she admits there is a deep sense of satisfaction in seeing the clothing she and Luke create on Ava and other little ones all over the world. Her own memories of fashion dating back to childhood begin with a series of huge bows and clips that her mother would fasten to her hair, “I had ones made of balloons, shoelaces, you name it,” she laughs. However, as far as her own mother-daughter interactions are concerned, they have less to do with ribbons and trimming and more to do with learning about this great wide world in which they co-exist. Citing Ava as her ultimate inspiration, Jillian says, “Watching her explore the world has brought me to life again. Absorbing every raindrop and inspecting every speck of dirt. She has a fearlessness and curiosity about her that is infectious. It’s like I am discovering the world all over again.”
Discovery forms the foundation for Luke and Jillian’s Raconteur Kid. “I think exploration and play fosters creativity,” says Jillian. “Taking chances and not being afraid to be wrong. Walking through life with eyes wide open. That I learned from my parents.”
There is a beautiful provenance and familial warmth that resonates through the Raconteur Kid collection as every piece speaks of the people and places Jillian and Luke have themselves loved and explored. The couple’s mutual support of one another is undoubtedly the key ingredient in refining their successful foray into fashion, as well as the precious balance of time together as a family. “Even if it means I don’t sleep,” laughs Jillian. “Weekends are so precious to me.” Juggling a full time career in advertising with motherhood, marriage and mooring her clothing line into the global fashion consciousness, downtime for Jillian is a rare commodity. “If it wasn’t obvious from the aesthetic of the brand we love the outdoors and exploring new places, but we also love quiet nights at home watching movies,” she says.
This easy going nature is undoubtedly the driving force underlying a complex balancing act, so it comes as no surprise then that Jillian’s own style is a “casual and comfortable” nod to boho chic, and definitely sans heels! Typically veering from one sartorial train of thought to another, dependent on her mood, Jillian admits though that there is always room for “a little edge.” Emanating a sense of calm self-assurance, Jillian asserts that her favourite design in the current Raconteur Kid collection is the ‘All Ways Here’, the sentiment of which ‘How could I be lost when I am right here’ is something she certainly identifies with. “You are always right where you are,” she says. A reminder to those of us who at times feel adrift when the pressures of life become all-consuming and to our children an important piece of advice to stay grounded and be always present.
“It would be really fun to write a story and design a Tee for some of the great minds of history,” Jillian says on the subject of being present, “Einstein, Eddison, or some of the great explorers.” Making a mark, being remembered, recording moments, memories and milestones for posterity; that is what great storytelling can achieve and that is the overriding intention of Raconteur Kid. Instilling a belief in those who wear the designs that they have what it takes to be their own kind of Raconteur Kid and be the protagonist of their own lives as they reveal their story to the world.
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