The pairing of fashion-forward and parenting doesn’t often go hand-in-hand. That is, at least, until Sophie Doyle set out to reshape the market. After becoming pregnant with her first child in 2015, Doyle quickly realised there was a lack of parenting accessories that were not just functional, but stylish too. “I wanted to be the mum that still felt like herself,” she says. “So, the real gap that I saw was that I just couldn’t find a baby bag that I liked.”
Enter Alf The Label, the local accessories label that completely transformed what it means to be a ‘parenting-focused’ brand. And while eight years on, Doyle and her team continue to excel in their niche, that wasn’t always the intention.
While holidaying in Indonesia, Doyle designed a bag that would be the unintentional beginnings of the now award-winning range. The idea? To create something that fit in with her personal style, and that was practical for her life as a new mum too. It didn’t take long for the the design to garner the attention of her local mums group and others, and eventually, orders began flooding in for her to get more just like it.
“In my fairly naive entrepreneurial brain at the time, because I didn’t have these aspirations to create a massive baby bag brand, I thought I could just get a few made and sell them at markets and to people I know. It would be pretty low-key,” she explains of Alf’s beginnings.
It was clear, people — particularly women — were desperate for the accessories she was looking for too. Sleek, elevated and functional.
“My goal, my dreams for the brand, has always been bridging the gap between ugly, practical parenting and fashion, because I just don’t see why there should be such a gap. I don’t see why we should have to invest money in low quality or that doesn’t resonate with us as a person. Why can’t we just create things that are beautiful and that last a long time, in those high quality materials.”
And just as Doyle evolved in her parenting journey, so too did Alf. From nappy bags to convertible backpacks and even stylish men’s accessories, the brand has seen a natural progression in its range, catering to all kinds of parents, for all different stages.
“I’ve designed so many pieces that fit into different stages of parenthood,” Doyle explains. “Every time I sit down to design something, every pocket in that bag has a purpose.”
That’s perhaps what makes Alf so unique, each piece is designed with clear intention. From bags with different compartments — as Doyle explains, to seamlessly segregate the different areas of your life — to totes, crossbody bags and even key chains and pram accessories, all with the sole purpose to make life that little bit easier.
“You almost see this journey of going from newborn parent all the way through to having multiple kids and coming out the other side and becoming a corporate or working mum again,” she says.
Years on, Alf The Label has not only seen its loyal customers return time and time again, but solidified itself in the fashion space. That is proven by the brand’s most recent accomplishment, appearing as the very first parenting-focused brand on the runway at New York Fashion Week, in partnership with U.S retailer Flying Solo as part of their ‘Ones to Watch’ show.
For Doyle, it was an incredible moment that saw her years of hard work pay off. It proves “[women] can be themselves, they can keep their own identity,” she says.
Beyond the brand’s continued success and the huge achievement at NYFW, Doyle says she’s really proud of the team she’s brought together and the environment that Alf The Label has in its hometown of Fremantle (Walyalup in Nyoongar language).
“I often think my team is really one of the things I’m most proud of,” she says. “We’ve got a lot of women who work for us, who are also parents who work part-time, who are incredibly skilled at what they do but need to look after their children. They need the opportunity to work in a meaningful role. I think I’m really proud of being able to offer a flexible working arrangement, we are absolutely set up to work remotely, we’re always the first ones to say if your child has an assembly, go and experience that, this can wait.”
As for what’s next? Doyle says Alf The Label will be continuing to create the pieces modern women actually want to see in their wardrobes, that doesn’t compromise on their personal style.