Behind the brand; Mats & Jo Nilsson of Polarn O. Pyret

Polarn O. Pyret

Polarn O. Pyret started in 1976 with the desire to make clothes that let children be children. This Swedish children’s wear brand makes and designs quality clothes that can be loved, washed and worn, then handed down the next child and the next.

In the UK they have an online store, four Polarn O. Pyret shops and are stocked in leading department stores around the country. 

Polarn O. Pyret

The founders Mats and Jo met at Durham University; Mats became a management consultant with Accenture and Jo worked in sales and marketing for Royal Selangor.  They brought Polarn O. Pyret from Sweden to the UK and Ireland in 2006, on a mission to introduce sustainable, long lasting clothing and outdoor gear to other families. We spoke to them about their company.

Mats explains: “We loved the timelessness of the smart classic stripes which personify the brand. Polarn O. Pyret also offered vibrant and playful colours, which made a refreshing change to what was being offered on the high street at the time. I grew up in Sweden, mainly wearing Polarn O. Pyret clothes and Jo quickly realised that the quality was amazing, as the baby clothes still looked and fitted like new wash after wash. We know of many garments that have not only been passed between siblings but also through generations!”

“As Mats’ job was taking him away from home every week, there was a concern that he was going to miss out on our family life and those treasured early years,” continues Jo. “So we moved back to my hometown of Lincoln and formulated three business ideas. Polarn O. Pyret had just started international expansion, using franchise partners for each country, so it seemed the timing was right. It took 18 months from the initial idea to opening four concession stores and two solus stores in 2006. By 2011 we had launched our e-commerce store and tripled the number of branches. The Polarn O. Pyret brand has gone from strength to strength, and we’ve just opened our first shop in shop concept in John Lewis & Partners, Leeds.

Polarn O. Pyret

Mats says: “I’m always so proud to be representing a Swedish brand with leading sustainability credentials. All of our baby cotton is organic and by 2020 all cotton used in the business will be GOTS labeled, so organic and processed in an environmentally sound way. All of our Polarn O. Pyret clothes are made to last for more than three children, so although it may seem counterintuitive for the retailer in me, seeing Polarn O. Pyret sold on or handed down again and again makes me feel so good.”

“I’m mindful of the benefits that well designed outdoor wear can bring to childhood, Jo explains. “Our own children are now 16 and 18 and only the other day we realised they didn’t know what chilblains were. I remember swapping soaking woolen mittens for cotton socks half way through a snowy day in the mid 1970s!  So providing technical solutions to allow children to play outside all day long in any weather is important to me.

Polarn O. Pyret

“Keeping a good work/life balance is quite simple: Mats is the boss at work and I am the boss at home,” says Jo. “I have been lucky enough to have a flexible role in the business and basing ourselves in Lincoln has meant that we have only ever been 10 minutes away from home, school, nursery and work. I’m passionate about employers offering flexible working for everyone, parents or not. Unplanned demands on your time will always happen, so workplaces with clearly defined and executed flexible working policies are so important.”

Both have indulgences that they treat themselves with when they are not working. “Mats loves new technology, which is no bad thing as parts of our business such as the marketing and e-commerce functions change and move on so quickly,” says Jo.

Mats responds: “For Jo, it has to be our two year old dog Piper, who is rarely away from Jo’s side. We’ve never owned a dog before and Piper has brought many smiles to our home and also to our head office.  We’re so lucky than we can bring her to work every day!?

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