Dandy Star: The parent project that made a colourful mark on East London

Dandy Star

One of Columbia Road’s most colourful businesses celebrates 15 years of trading this year.

Dandy Star has had a remarkable journey. It started life as a small T-shirt printing business set up by two artistic mums, had a spell supplying some of the Capital’s leading department stores and is now a beautiful shop and wholesale business.

The Local Buyers Club met with one its founders Charlotte Day, who originally started the business with her friend Rose and now runs it alone.

Dandy Star

She said: “Rose and I were friends in a similar situation with young kids - both artists who wanted to be around for our children but weren’t feeling fulfilled creatively. Dandy Star was a parent project. It started with just a child’s t-shirt -simple but with bold colours. We went all through the alphabet to try to decide on a word to print on it and came up with LOVE. We did a whole sweetshop array of colour combinations, dyed them in the washing machine and printed them ourselves.

“We’d found a t-shirt supplier in the East End who sold us a batch of a few hundred not terribly fashioned thin cotton t-shirts. The idea was that for children we didn’t want to make anything too fashioned – a t-shirt and jeans are such staples. Our mission was to add colour and a message that was playful and positive for kids.”

They invested in a Carousel printing machine, which they kept in Rose’s garden shed in Boscastle, Cornwall. Once a month Charlotte and her young baby would head from East London to Cornwall and a local woman would look after the kids while they printed mass numbers of t-shirts.

Then Charlotte would drive the stock back to London and sell it to independent shops – they had a good early breakthrough when they sold to The Cross, a boutique shop in Notting Hill, which was seen as a leader. It opened doors to sell into other shops.

Eventually the business went on to supply Fenwicks and Selfridges. They were put in touch with a factory in Portugal, enabling them to fulfil much larger orders and freeing up their time to focus on other products such as art prints and adult t-shirts.

(Charlotte Day of Dandy Star)

Over the years the business has expanded to include more homeware, mugs, cards and cushions. Rose left the business six years ago and jus