When Katie Rockliff started researching the tween market over a year ago, she stumbled across some rather alarming statistics.
One in four tweens report being bullied, and one in three are teased specifically about their appearance.
The 46-year-old from the inner east of Sydney had just resigned from corporate life to spend more time with her young daughter and start a streetwear label for tweens.
As she delved deeper into the data and embarked on her mission to find out what tweens really want - what drives them, how they think and feel - it dawned on her the gap extended far beyond the clothing market.
"I realised that tweens are an unrecognised group in Australia overall" she tells Essential Baby. "There is a massive gap in terms of how they are perceived and the content they can access. It became very apparent that once kids reach the age of about eight or nine, they feel like they aren't being seen or heard - you're either a 'child' or a 'teenager'."
The other key finding Rockliff unearthed, is tweens strong desire to fit into society, both from a behaviour and looks perspective.
"'Am I pretty enough? 'Am I tall enough?'", Rockliff explains. "And while playground politics has always existed; this self-doubt is plaguing Australian tweens in statistically greater numbers, earlier in life today. And also taking a higher mental health toll."
Once Rockliff launched her Instagram page, she started connecting directly to tweens and parents. Her message, even before launch, was resonating. She heard personal accounts of bullying culture, and how it was fuelling children's anxiety and sense of isolation, even if they weren't directly involved. She was horrified.
"The stories I heard really lit the fire in me," she says. "These stresses have no place amongst 8-year-olds. But it's real. And it's a national problem. And one that resonates with me as a mother, and on a personal level, having experienced bullying myself. "
Photo: Real Pretty Kind / Supplied
It was at that point that Rockliff's business became far more than a streetwear label. The former brand manager and designer knew she had to apply her skills and create a safe space and platform that would help celebrate and empower tweens. And so, 'Real Pretty Kind' was born.
Rockliff emigrated from the UK at the age of eight. She had a lot of privilege and opportunities, but sadly, also witnessed dynamics that bred a fear culture in her extended family. There were adults she saw leading through intimidation, control, and verbal and physical unkindness.
"I saw firsthand, how bullying can lead to a diminished sense of self-worth and be debilitating. Bullying is isolating and the effects are emotionally scarring. But it goes beyond the victim alone. It ripples out and diminishes everyone - and creates a code of silence and denial."
However out of every negative situation, comes a positive - and Rockliff's eyewitness account helped her find her own personal strengths.
"What I saw taught me there's a better way," she says. "That kindness lifts people up. And no matter how others are treating you, you can take the power back by being self-kind. Find your joy - make it if you have to. And then share it."
And that's the core of what Real Pretty Kid is all about.
The brand now consists of three arms
- the streetwear label featuring 'cool' collectible, limited edition,'every body' styles for 8-14-year-olds
- 'Tween Things' which are a line of gifts championing tween friendship, kindness and self-care (eg. essential oil roller blends, cute stickers, 'Love' 'Peace' and 'Good Vibes' scented candles, and friendship cards)
- a quarterly 'Reality Bites' zine filled with opinion pieces, interviews, tips, book and art reviews, recipes and music playlists.
According to Rockliff, the zine has two sets of writers - experts such as personal coaches, educators, nutritionists etc; along with a global group of roving reporters aged 8 to 14 known as "the squad" exploring topics around the theme of the issue - including 'joy' and 'change-makers'.
In line with the brand as a whole, the zine provides a platform to champion tween spirit and empower young people through essential resources, inspiration and a channel for their voice to be heard.
"The response has been amazing," Rockliff explains. "And parent feedback is that we're delivering material of substance. It talks to their children's hearts and minds both, as well as offering themselves, added insight into tween perspectives and behaviour."
In order to achieve her brand mission, Rockliff also donates a portion of her profits to two amazing foundations. The Alannah + Madeline foundation that helps stem bullying and violence among youth and the Butterfly Foundation that aims to encourage healthy body positivity and a healthy relationship to food and nutrition.
REAL PRETTY Meet Eliza. Brighton 🇬🇧 One of our global tween force driving the Reality Bites conversations in our new Zine launching...drum rollllll...this week 🙌 This talented Tween charts her own path and we're a smidge THRILLED to be sharing her 'Tweens At Home article' with you - the first off the blocks as each of our SQUAD invite us back to their places & spaces to share their stories with us, Tween to Tween. Get ready for the eDM dropping your way with full, free article access. Or if you haven't yet, Sign Up toot suite for the goodness! Link in bio ☝️⚡️🌟 . . . "I’ve lived in Brighton all my life and I really love the artiness and freedom of the place. I love to perform; and I love singing, acting and drumming. I’m much more confident on stage 😊. I think that it is important to do what is RIGHT and not what is easy. My name is Eliza + I'm repping RPK". . #realitybites #rpksquad #eliza
"As a child, if someone has your back, accepts you for who you are, and empowers you to be your best self - that's honestly the greatest gift you can be given," Rockliff says in closing.
'Real Pretty Kind' is growing and evolving every day, and the Sydney mum is thrilled with the impact her brand has already made.
"I genuinely feel like we are living our mission. We are bringing joy to people and I get that response on a weekly basis."
"A lot of parents are nervous about kids becoming tweens because it means - 'oh no, the teenage years are coming and that lovely confetti unicorn phase is over', but it doesn't need to be. We can extend that joy. And collectively make an even brighter future. Together."
To find out more about REAL PRETTY KIND, follow them on Instagram or go to their website.