Brent teachers open children’s clothes shop in Highgate

Teachers and clothes-makers Penny MacInnes and Aika Esenalieva open their new children's clothes sho

Teachers and clothes-makers Penny MacInnes and Aika Esenalieva open their new children's clothes shop in Archway Road, Highgate selling clothes made on the premises. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Two teachers from a Brent school who teamed up to create children’s clothes from authentic African fabrics have successfully opened their first shop.

Penny MacInnes, 62, and Aika Esenalieva, 32, who teach textiles part-time at Alperton High School in Stanley Avenue, Alperton, travelled the world together to search of inspiration for their Leaping Lizards range of Ghanaian-inspired clothes for youngsters.

Now they have settled in Highgate to open their first boutique together.

The friends met five years ago when Ms Esenalieva worked with Ms MacInnes’s daughter and the pair immediately hit it off over their shared passion for design and travel.

After sewing together for years, they took the plunge last year to start their own range of children’s clothes.

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Ms MacInnes, who lives in Highgate, said: “I think there is an interest in Africa and African style. I think if you look at the mainstream there are a lot of companies making pseudo-African clothing. There are a lot of animals and life in these fabrics, and every different pattern that you see has a different meaning.”

The part-time teachers, who will work together at a Brent secondary school from September, have moved their workshop into the shop so visitors can watch as they create unusual clothes.

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The pair choose unique fabrics first-hand from Ghana and India, and colourful styles are available for children up to the age of 10.

Ms MacInnes and Ms Esenalieva worked tirelessly for a year to promote their range at clothing shows and street markets before raising enough funds to open their first boutique.

In the face of fierce competition from online retailers, the pair are confident that their hand-made clothes will be a hit with Highgate parents.

Ms MacInnes added: “When you have a shop that’s different, where customers see you make the clothes there right in front of you, it makes the shop stand out.

“It’s just about diversity. You try it out and see if it’s going to sell. I think we create interest by the fact that we’re different, and that we’re doing something different.”

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