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Inverness mum's garage made T-shirts for girls proving a big hit


By Neil MacPhail

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Emma Roomes with daughter Matilda in workshop. Picture Gary Anthony.
Emma Roomes with daughter Matilda in workshop. Picture Gary Anthony.

AN Inverness woman has built a booming online business making inspirational T-shirts for girls.

Scarf Monkey was born in Emma Roomes’s garden shed in Milton of Leys, but success meant expansion to the double garage, comfortably fitted out by husband Will, of Highland Aviation Training.

Girl power drives the mother of Matilda (12) and Oscar (11) to produce clothing that does not conform to what she calls the “pink assault” on young female fashion, which majors on “vulnerable creatures” such as rabbits, butterflies, princesses or unicorns.

A secondary teacher for 22 years, she set out to change the clothes made for girls after noticing that animals on boys’ clothing are often predators, like sharks or T-rexes, while the girls had the fluffy creatures.

Her in-house designed T-shirts feature everything from sharks and wolves to suffragettes and other important women such as astronauts, scientists and athletes, as well as science-related designs.

Matilda Roomes models mums designs.
Matilda Roomes models mums designs.

There’s also a focus on inclusivity, with designs having multiple variations to feature a different girl at the centre: blonde, redhead, afro bunches, in a wheelchair or wearing a hijab. The intention is for every girl to find someone they relate to in the characters on the designs.

She said: “Matilda liked wearing bunny designs or sequined tops occasionally, but she didn’t want to wear them all the time.

“Girls’ clothes are very limited. There are no reds or greens, oranges or blues, no dinosaurs that aren’t wearing high heels or carrying handbags, and no sports or space designs.

“I’d never drawn anything, I had no sewing or fashion experience, and I’d never run a business before. I had to learn all those things aged 43.

“I spent the first three years working from my garden shed, and the response was amazing. We’re now able to produce our own organic cotton T-shirts, all cut, dyed, sewn and printed entirely in the UK, so reducing air miles.

“Scarf Monkey feels a long way from my career in teaching, but the shared principle is doing what I can to inspire and empower our younger generations.

“My children, Matilda and Oscar, often talk about what they will do when they grow up, and I tell them don’t decide what to do forever. Just think: ‘What will I do first’.”

After working abroad and in England the family moved north.

“We adore Inverness,” she said. “With Will’s flying interest we checked out weather stats before moving, and Inverness has some of the best weather in the UK.

“I loved teaching but needed a change. I love what I’m doing now too although it is very hard work. It taught me to have huge admiration for people in small business.

“I have plans to expand and employ other people, but no plans for a shop as I feel the future is online.”


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