Party Of Five: La Coqueta

    Celia describes the business as her sixth “baby”

    La Coqueta founder Celia Muñoz tells Susannah Warren about her elegant Spanish childrenswear brand and what it’s like to be a working mother of five

    As I arrive at the La Coqueta shop in Hampstead, Celia Muñoz is breezing around trying to dress her five children for our shoot. It’s cold and dark outside, and the kids have come straight from a long day at school. It should have disaster written all over it, yet everyone is full of the joys, telling each other excitedly about their day and cracking jokes.

    The party of five, ranging from three to seven years old, is immaculately behaved throughout (with only the promise of a packet of Pom-Bears at the end) while I simply look on, wondering how on earth this woman does it. Superhuman powers, perhaps?

    “There’s very little that we leave to surprise,” she explains. “It’s all about routine. I’m extremely organised, very productive. From the moment we wake up, we’re essentially on a schedule. We always eat at the same time. We cook enough food once a month for the whole month. We focus a lot on spending quality time together and I do have help in the evenings.”

    Born to a French mother and Spanish father, Celia grew up in Granada with four siblings and a huge extended family. “I spent eternal summers at my grandparents’ house surrounded by children my age.”

    The original plan was to have an even bigger family. On an early date with her now husband, Caspar, a Dutchman, they started talking about children. “We exchanged little papers and put a number on it – we both wrote six! We have five, and La Coqueta is number six.”

    Her sixth ‘baby’ came about due to her love affair with Spanish children’s fashion. “The Spanish love dressing their children and there is a beautiful craftsmanship behind it. I thought it was a great business idea.”

    After doing a Masters in mental health while pregnant with baby number three, she was all set to do a PhD, but changed tack to follow her dream of opening a shop. She did hours of research to see it if was viable and worked out an “affordable luxury” concept that allowed her to sell a whole look.

    She says of her designs, which are “proudly made in Spain” and sold online across the globe: “They’re beautiful, practical, durable and understated. The price point is very good, and the clothes are machine washable.”

    Unsurprisingly, it’s her own children who influence the design process. “Each collection always starts with me falling in love with fabrics or textures that I see [in Spain] that will work on the children. All my children are different shapes and sizes – it’s extremely useful. I always have them in mind when I design. And I ask them, ‘What would you like Mummy to bring this season?’.”

    Her daughters are obsessed with pink, which explains why this season’s collection features so much of it. “It’s the mood of the collection.” Mint greens, checks and florals also feature strongly. And she has launched La Coqueta’s first special occasion wear for SS16, too, motivated by the fact that daughter Flavia is about to have her first communion and “needed something to wear”.

    Despite being inspired by her children, Celia says those who guide her most are her customers. “I’m very close to them. I speak to them daily through social media and in the shop. It’s very interactive. We get it right 95% of the time, but if we don’t get it right, they tell us, and they know that we have tried our best for them.”

    It is seven-year-old Flavia who heads up Celia’s impossibly good-looking brood. And the designer identifies strongly with her. “She’s loud, passionate, quite direct, very temperamental and controls herself little – just like me!” Next comes Lucas, six, who’s “reserved, like his dad”; Siena, five, “a little gem”; Bosco, four, “the funny one”, and finally, three-year-old Hugo, who is “quite cheeky and knows all the shortcuts.”

    She is effusive when talking about them and ensures they are all made to feel special. “Our main challenge is to make every child feel important. The only time we have to do that is when they go to bed, so generally I take one at a time to bed and I spend 15 minutes with them reading or having a chat.”

    Her parenting style is, she says, quite French. “I was raised French. It’s about discipline, but in a warm way. We’re quite structured, very loving, we’re very focused on the children, but also on making sure the children know their parents are also people and we need our space.”

    That ‘space’ involves the couple going out to a different restaurant every Friday night together without fail. “My husband and I are very close and any time we have off is generally together. We just like being together whenever we can.”

    Weekly dates with her husband: check. Daily one-on-one time with her kids: check. Thriving global business: check. Being this brilliant in every department of her life – and against the odds – could prove galling to lesser persons, but Celia Muñoz is so charming and honest that you’ve just got to admire her. I certainly do.