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Looking back, Baby & Company owner and buyer Jill Donnelly recounts her beginnings saying, "forty years ago, the store introduced me to a world of fashion I had never seen before--my view of clothing would be changed forever more. Each season my friends and I could not wait to see what crazy fashion Baby would bring into the store. And then there were the displays! Sand covered floors with canvas tents and changing rooms and paper mâché sea creatures with portholes painted on the display windows. Suddenly, other clothing stores felt boring." 

Always the explorer, exposure to worldly brands like Castelbajac, Chevignon and Fiorucci shaped Jill’s curiosity for international fashion, sparking her to continually invite her tribe to ‘expect the unexpected’. Today we remain explorers of emerging designers and apparel brought to us each season to discover, and are invited to share the rosy lens that Baby first peered through on a sleepy corner of Seattle back in 1976. On it’s 40th birthday Baby & Company invites us to stay imaginative, open and curious for whatever comes our way.

The fashion landscape in 1976 was morphing and marching to a new beat, a funky and soulful disco beat, to be exact. A myriad of looks mirrored the mindset of the era, ranging from the Parisian peasant style-- capes, turbans, ornate fabrics, billowing skirts and puffed sleeves—to the clean-cut, all American look that borrowed cues from classic sportswear. Then punk came screaming onto the London streets with its androgynous rags, latex shirts and a safety-pin aesthetic, throwing fashion on it’s head while celebrating the raw and the ‘ugly', ultimately ushering in another kind of street wear that still prevails.  

Designers like Halston, Yves Saint Laurent, Betsey Johnson and Kenzo re-invented the ready-to-wear market to reflect the changing cultural landscape emerging from the political stew of the ‘60s. Then, in the mid-seventies, when the industry reshaped itself to embrace a liberated and paramount aesthetic, women went to work and pantsuits become the norm for empowered femmes and men alike.

Come 1976, Baby & Company opened its doors for the first time on the unlikely corner of 1st and Virginia in downtown Seattle--a city infamous for fashion. The neighborhood sensed precarious with the brick and mortar resting just outside the urban corridor that housed Nordstrom and I. Magnin. Incorporating their non-conformist surroundings into their persona, the store took advantage, becoming the first to introduce epic brands like Comme de Garcons and Kenzo to the West Coast. 

When the specialty shop switched hands from founders Uri and Baby Burnstein to current owners--and then buyer--Jill and Wayne Donnelly in 2008, the cutting edge design roster that set the company apart during its formative years remained the basis for the induction of its e-commerce store.

The anti-volume legacy that set the standard for the preservation of mindfulness continues today, countering the fast fashion fad with a focus on current timelessness and upholding the authentic spirit of slow fashion and sustainably-made, small-batch orders of artisan goods. Seeking out those who have a story and claim it as their own, Baby & Company tailors their somewhat studied, somewhat intuitive European Bohemian spirit to the diversely stylish, worldy and globally aware clientele that have helped them reach this milestone.


1 comment

  • What a fantastic narrative. Thank you for sharing this story and presenting such a vivid time line. The unbridled passion that Jill and Wayne incorporate into the landscape and culture of this iconic shop is what continues to make baby & co still so relevant today

    Barbara Kramer

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