Behind the brand: Aden + Anais

Aden + Anais – it’s a name universally loved for bringing its versatile cotton muslin blankets to the mainstream, and it only continues to grow. Danielle Wilkins meets the woman behind the empire

Raegan Moya-Jones is only in London for a few more hours before she has to jet off back to her office in New York. The Australian-born founder of Aden + Anais has already visited Cologne, Paris and now the brand’s London office this week: “It’s a lot!” she says, exasperated.

“So even after 11 years of business, you’re still this hands-on?” I ask.

“A little too hands-on to tell you the truth,” she laughs. “I’m ready to put some of it in someone else’s hands now so I can have a bit of my life back. My girls may be older, but they need me more than ever. I’m finding the push and pull of my time between them and the business much harder these days.”

Raegan is no stranger to hard work. When she first had the idea for muslin blanket brand Aden + Anais in 2003, the former business development director was a new mother to daughter Anais and holding down a full-time sales job at The Economist. By the time Aden + Anais went to market in 2006, Raegan had her second child, Lourdes, and was pregnant with her third. “I didn’t leave my job at The Economist until 2009, raising three children and building Aden + Anais of a night,” she recalls. “I would come home from work, spend until 8.30pm with the girls, and as soon as they went to bed, I would work on the business until the early hours of the morning.

“I look back and think, ‘how did I do that?’ but I’ve always been a bit of an insomniac – and if it wasn’t for that, Aden + Anais may never have existed.”

The idea for Aden + Anais was born after Raegan went shopping for muslins in New York after the birth of her first daughter, but continued to come back empty handed. Everything the new mother found was either made from fleece, flannel or heavy cotton, and simply not right for swaddling.

Credit: Leonie Freeman

“My sister had given birth to my nephew back in Australia six months before – muslin was in every photo she sent. Over there, muslins are used for everything, and I thought to myself, ‘every Aussie can’t have this wrong’. I was sure if I introduced muslin to American parents they would respond in the same way.” That was when Raegan set about finding a manufacturer, a task she cites as much harder than she ever imagined. “It took me three years to work out how to actually get the product manufactured,” she admits.

But it didn’t take Raegan long to realise that it wasn’t just the mothers and fathers of the US who didn’t know about muslins – many other countries outside of Australia didn’t use them either, including the UK. Though that seems difficult to believe now, more than 10 years on, with so many companies out there doing what Aden + Anais started.

“I became fixated on creating a brand, not just a product,” admits Raegan. Rather than using distributors, the mother travelled to Japan, Canada, Australia and the UK, and set up offices there so she was able to grow and maintain control of the company. “I wanted to create this beautiful brand for mothers, and I was fiercely protective of that,” she adds.

So did her background in sales help? “Hugely,” she smiles. The word ‘no’ didn’t bother me in the slightest – I’d heard ‘no’ my entire career. When we first pitched to Harrods, we weren’t even taken into a meeting room; we had to pitch in the elevator of the store! And while that may have intimidated lots of people, 20 years of experience had taught me otherwise.”

While business development and sales are her strengths, Raegan admits she is no designer. “I just have a very strong opinion of what I like and don’t like,” she laughs. Raegan works with creatives at Aden + Anais’ New York studio, where everything is designed, then the pieces go on to be manufactured in India and China.

Having previously been spotted on the likes of Prince George and Beyoncé’s daughter, Blue Ivy, unsurprisingly, Aden + Anais’ swaddles still make up 50 per cent of the brand’s revenue, but Raegan is looking forward to evolving the company. “We are starting to develop products for older kids so mothers who love the brand can continue with us,” she says.

Since the launch of its swaddles in 2006, the brand has continued to bring the Australian legacy of muslin to the fore, with the creation of the muslin sleeping bag, thicker blankets and bibs, as well as bedding and clothing, not to mention baby skincare and collaborations with Disney. So where does she get her ideas? According to Raegan, it’s about running a company where everyone’s voice is heard.

Aden + Anais
Raegan works closely with a team of designers at her New York office

“It was never about me dictating the way forward,” she says. “I’ve always tried to make Aden + Anais the opposite of what my experience was in the corporate world. There are a lot of mums in the office, so we get ideas from them. And when I do travel to other markets, I look to see what’s working there.”

Eleven years on and Aden + Anais is still thriving. It now has 107 employees and is set to grow by 22 per cent in the European region this year. “It’s incredible that people still love what we do,” says Raegan. “Yes, we’re the ‘muslin people’, but we are continuing to look beyond that.” In the US later this year, the brand will be launching nappies, planting a tree for every pack sold. It will also be branching out into other fabrications of sleepwear, besides muslin.

It’s at this point I’d usually ask what Raegan likes to do in her spare time, but it doesn’t sound like she has any. “I have four children and a growing business – spare time is a moot point!” she laughs. “But you do have to remember to give yourself a break.”

So is that the biggest piece of advice she’d give to other would-be entrepreneurial mothers?

“That, and to really believe in what you do,” she adds. “I’m not exceptional in any way – and I don’t say that to be falsely modest. I wasn’t the smartest kid in school; I dropped out of university; I don’t have connections. What made Aden + Anais a success was that I genuinely believed I would help people.

“I’ve made mistakes, but you learn from them and move on. If I can do it, anyone can.
I really, really believe that.”

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