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For the Lads

Every print tells a global story for Mark Jeynes, boys’ clothing designer and co-owner of Me & Henry.

Mark Jeynes with the furry namesake of his boys’ wear company, Henry.

Londoner Mark Jeynes might be one of the rare designers in the industry who hasn’t been inspired by his own children. This is the very reason to which he attributes his level of commercial success with his core brand Me & Henry; Jeynes has been creatively free to design for market needs instead of catering to specific little ones. He touts this as one of his superpowers. With more than 10 seasons of Me & Henry under his belt, Jeynes has simultaneously co-created five more collections: Me & Henry’s sister line Vignette (girls 0-16), Ettie + h (gauze prints for 0-7), Poppet & Fox (an Anthropology/Free People mashup up for boys and girls 2-16), Tickety Boo (hand-painted watercolors in bamboo for newborn – 24 months), and Tiny Victories (gifts for 0-5).

His entré into childrenswear began at UK-based department store John Lewis, where he spent 23 years working his way up from shoe fittings and selling uniforms to managing entire teams at a flagship location and eventually getting promoted to a director buying position. We spoke to the boys’ apparel specialist about his inspirations, hardworking team of 13 family members and friends, and the unique 100-page storybook that’s currently en route to retail accounts for the current selling season.

Earnshaw’s: What’s your background as a designer and how did you develop the design aesthetic for Me & Henry?

Mark Jeynes: I haven’t had any formal training as a designer and always feel awkward being called one. But after many years selling and developing kids’ clothing, that has defined me.

When I decided to launch a boys’ collection, people thought I was crazy because it was a time when labels and gender identity were being removed from many retailers in Europe. I did imagine the “me” in Me & Henry could be a boy or a girl, but I never doubted the demand for boys’ clothing. While we also have Vignette as the sister brand, we’re seen as one company because we design together, use the same manufacturer and share fabrics and color palettes.

ER: Do you have a favorite collection or set of items?

Jeynes: I love creating the dress shirt collection. It’s a smart and a cool look and something that has sadly died out in the UK. I’m a firm believer that boys want to wear more than just jeans and a tee, especially if dress shirts come in soft, colorful fabrics—so that’s my mission every season.

ER: What’s your design inspiration and how do you develop the theme and look for each season?

Jeynes: I travel a lot and can draw inspiration from walking around a city, looking at other retailers’ windows, soaking up a market in a far-away place—just the colors and smells and surroundings of life! I’m a very visual person and need to see things laid out in front of me so designing the new collection involves a huge amount of space.

With boys, it’s hard to come up with new ideas and shapes, but I work on a ratio of 40% absolute newness every season, be it a different fabric or item. This spring, I’ve added terry to hooded tops and polos, so that will be fun for buyers to include in their offerings.

me + henry

me + henry

Earnshaw’s: What do you have planned for marking the 10th season of Me & Henry?

Jeynes: I designed a 10th collection with graphic tees using prints from all the books I’ve written so far. Every season, I write a 100-page bedtime story book that is shipped free, and retailers can give them away as they wish. The illustrations are done by an amazing woman called Carolina Torres in Portugal. So many of our customers said to use the illustrations on the garments, so what was a one-off is now looking like a permanent part of the Me & Henry collection.

We gave our entire team the trip of a lifetime to India to celebrate our achievements. We also took time together to strategize and come up with new ideas for the future. We visited our manufacturer, went to the fabric market, visited an indigo dye factory and saw hand carved block prints being created—we created so many special memories as a group.

ER: Do you approach each season with a set of goals or milestones?

Jeynes: My only hope every season is that my amazing reps will love what I’ve created to keep their customers happy. I personally go to most markets and showrooms to meet accounts and sell the line, and I think they feel listened to and looked after. I want to hear first-hand what people like or don’t like. I want to know if there are any problems and what more we could be doing.

ER: To what do you attribute your growth and success in the industry?

Jeynes: I’m proud to acknowledge that through COVID, we still delivered on time and got sample collections to reps, I even a managed to get a special visa allowing me to travel to the U.S. to meet with stores—that helped people try us for the first time. We even designed and launched two of our new lines, Ettie & h and Poppet & Fox, during the lockdown days. I also have to acknowledge my partners in crime, Michele and Jenn, the owners of Vignette.

ER: Has your company been affected by supply-chain disruptions?

Jeynes: The ingenuity of our manufacturing team in Hong Kong was mind blowing during Covid. We also ship direct to our boutiques from there, and I was so astonished that during the peak period of the pandemic we were shipping early and complete. Last year when there were demonstrations across China about the zero policy, that’s the first time we properly hit a problem—but even then only a few styles shipped late. For the first time in almost four years, we were able to work with our Hong Kong team again in person this spring.

ER: What do you love most about what you do?

Jeynes: I genuinely love creating new things and designing new collections. My favorite and least favorite day are when the first samples arrive. Did they turn out ok? How does the fabric feel? Will people like them? I also love the fact that the entire team is made up of my immediate family and very close friends—it’s a joy and I consider myself very lucky.

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