by Megan Dunsby
Updated: Aug 27, 2015 Published: Aug 27, 2015
E-commerce start-up The Idle Man has bagged over £1.25m in a funding round made up of £258,000 Crowdcube investment, £510,000 from existing investors Foresight Nottingham, and £500,000 from new investor the Nottingham Pension Fund.
Launched in September 2014 by former ASOS executive Oliver Tezcan, The Idle Man is a fashion retailer which targets men aged 18 to 34 with a goal to be the “authoritative figure for the average guy who is interested in fashion but may be slightly reluctant ... when it comes to style and grooming”.
It stocks a range of leading brands such as Levi’s and Timberland as well clothing from the likes of Made in Chelsea star Oliver Proudlock.
It has a number of retailers set to join the site in the coming months including Northface and Alpha.
It will use the funding to build and invest in its own brand offering which it launched in May with a collection of over 100 items at “affordable price points”, and will also expand its team which currently boasts MTV’s former European boss Simon Guild as chairman.
In an interview with the Evening Standard earlier this year, Tezcan said he wanted the company to help men pass ‘the pub test’:
“Men using our brand can kit out their wardrobe and look sufficiently good that they won’t get the mickey taken out of them by their mates when they are down the pub.
If a man passes that, then the chances are women, or other men, will like his wardrobe too”.
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And if you think that sounds young, she is already an old hand at these events.
Mum Michelle Wilson has been dressing her in taffeta, tiaras and sequins for competitions since she was just 22 days old, making her the UK’s youngest-ever pageant star.
She says: “As soon as I found out I was having a girl I knew I wanted to find a hobby that was just for mum and daughter.
So I paid £35 to enter her into a pageant when I was still 35 weeks pregnant.
“I just had a feeling my daughter was a star in the making.
“My son, Roman Georgie, is four and a typical boy. Car mad, motorbike mad, dinosaur mad. He loves digging in the garden for dinosaurs.
Tiny steps: Harper Louise on stage
"Don’t get me wrong, I love to dig with him, but I started wondering what hobby my baby girl could do that would give us the quality time I so love with my son.
"She’d be too young for dance or ballet for a few years yet, but then I was on Facebook when I saw an advert for a Miss Winter Sparkle Pageant just after she was due last November.
“It was her first ever pageant but she was a natural – she didn’t cry.
She just looked happy and smiley.
“As we took to the stage she giggled and cooed and had the judges falling over
themselves. She’s got the cute factor!”
The contest had three competitive categories for under-twos, each requiring a different costume.
Changing out of her babygro for the “casual” round, Harper Lou wore jeans, a fur gilet, white fluffy Ugg boots and a white headband.
In the “beauty” round she wore an ivory dress with a shrug and matching shoes. And for “winter sparkle”, Harper Lou wore a dark blue dress covered in sparkly gems.
And to Mum’s delight, she was duly crowned Miss Winter Sparkle Second Princess.
“I was so thrilled,” says Michelle, “so I started entering her into one a month.”
Wizard idea: Dressed as Dorothy
Harper Lou has since gone on to win many more accolades.
At her fifth pageant she won Baby Supreme, beating kids in a higher age bracket.
For the First Teenie pageant she wore an Annabell the doll outfit (actual doll’s clothes, which fitted perfectly). She also won the Storybook Ultimate Supreme prize dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, with added bling that Michelle stitched on to her outfit.
Michelle says: “One pageant had an Olympic theme so I dressed her up as a boxer with those little pretend boxing gloves you can buy to hang off the rear view mirror in your car. They fitted her like – well, a glove!
“My partner Michael spent ages teaching her to box and as we hit the stage, she couldn’t wait to start bouncing around and showing off her jabbing skills.
She’s already got so much swagger, people ask me how she does it. I have no idea – but she just knows who to smile at, how to pull the cutest faces and catch the audience’s heart.”
Living doll: Aged four months in Baby Annabell doll clothes for the First Teenie pageant
The devoted mum spends a small fortune on Harper Lou’s outfits, but has grown canny, finding sponsorships so they now come as freebies.
"The dresses have cost me £800 and hotel, travel and entry fees add up to around £250 a pop. And I can’t have her wearing the same outfit twice, even though I spend hours sewing gems and sequins into each outfit to make sure Harper Lou stands out.
just dazzles!” says Michelle, a support worker from Deal in Kent.
“If I’m up all night sewing sequins on to a mini frock, it’s worth it to help Harper Lou look her best.
“Luckily, with sponsors for hair accessories, jewellery, Spanish designer wear, tutus and dresses we’ve got every aspect of her look covered.
“I get her ready 15 minutes before a show. There’s no point getting ready any sooner because the dresses aren’t for relaxing in – they’re for the stage.”
As Harper Lou runs out of space for her many prizes, sashes and crowns, Michelle – wearing jeans and with her own hair scraped back – sees the irony of her daughter’s over-the-top, ultra-girlie outfits.
She says: “The funny thing is, sparkles, glitter and tutu dresses are so not my bag. I’m a tomboy at heart, I frequently leave the house without make up, and my hair nowhere near brushed.
Give me jeans and a T-shirt and I’m happy.
“But when it comes to my baby, it’s a different story.
“I bling up her lace headbands with extra gems. Her ruffle dresses have fishing wire in the hem to add extra bounce She’s in lacy white pop socks with frilly detail and adorable little white shoes.”
Michelle is determined to highlight the difference between the pageant world and the real world.
Golden girl: Harper Lou
“Harper’s way too young for make-up, but I see the older kids at pageants and they love their outfits. They love wearing make up for the day.
“It’s no different to, say, motocross.
It’s a hobby. You get all dressed up for the day and do something you love.
“These kids don’t wear skimpy dresses and make-up to school. It’s a safe, fun
community where Harper Lou and I have made lots of new friends.”
Some of Michelle’s determination to give her daughter a life filled with glitz and glamour stems from the horror of nearly losing her just five days after she was born.
“I think I spoil her so much because I was so scared I’d lose her just after her birth,” she admits. “She stopped breathing just after I had breastfed her.
I had laid her on her mat and suddenly saw the colour drain from her face. She had stopped breathing so I had to do CPR on her for 20 minutes until the ambulance arrived.
“She was in hospital for four days and they eventually realised she’d had an allergic reaction to my breastmilk. It made me want to cherish every second of her life.”
Partner Michael Thacker, 24, a full-time dad, is happy to see his daughter enter the pageants but insists on vetting all the outfits and he uses the time Michelle and Harper spend at pageants for dad-and-son activities with Roman Georgie.
Debut: Michelle and Harper Louise at her first event when she was just 22 days old
Michelle says: “We do pageants, they go to the woods for walks and bike rides and watch boxing matches.”
But Michelle refuses to part with any of Harper Lou’s outfits.
She says: “I’m keeping them all for when she’s older.
She might want to give them to her own daughter.
“They’re piling up in my wardrobe but I make way for them by moving Michael’s clothes out. He’s used to finding his stuff in drawers because Harper Lou’s dresses need hanging space. They hold such fond memories for me and I hope one day they will for Harper Lou too.”
Michelle has surprised herself by entering her daugher in this glitzy, glamorous world.
She says: “If you’d told me a year ago that I would be entering pageants, I’d have laughed along with you.
But I’ve made lots of friends, I’ve bonded with Harper Lou, and I’m so proud to watch her blossom as a pageant star.”
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