Child’s play: the enchanting world of online retailer James Hart.

James Hart was the very first employee at ASOS. In 2016, after fifteen years with what would become the mega online retailer, he finally bade farewell to that good ship in favour of captaining his own. And, as one of the most experienced and well-placed businessmen to launch his own retail site, it’s proved a move that has paid off handsomely. Cleaving to the model on which he cut his teeth, Kidly is a one-stop site designed to cater to busy parents who want to buy well-sourced, beautifully designed children’s clothes, accessories, toys and homeware without having to trawl online shops for hours. The beauty is, after all, in the pre-edited pieces, as well as in the exceptional service.

As he reflects, ‘In my fifteen years at ASOS I grew to love what we had built; a true fashion destination, selling a trusted edit of the world's best brands and our own-label. So, when I became a dad I looked around for a similar edit of 'all things kids', but it just wasn't there. Rather than settle, I decided to do something about it and, in 2016, we launched KIDLY, the only store a modern shopper needs for the 0-5s in their lives.’

Here he shares the brand he’s loving right now, his ambitions to develop the business in the physical space alongside online, and how he knows he was born to do what he does.

Favourite place in all the world?

Florida. The moment I step out of Miami airport the combination of heat and palm trees instantly relaxes me.

Dream holiday?

I have never been to Japan. I’d love to experience their blend of ancient history and futuristic cityscapes for myself.

Most coveted item right now?

I am currently loving a brand called Vuori and covet most things they sell. I’m a sucker for athleisure.

Proudest professional moment to date?

To be honest I pinch myself every day that I am actually doing this thing – that people choose to work with me at KIDLY and customers choose buy things from us over other worthy retailers. So, I’m proud of that. But at the same time, I am not one to reflect. I prefer to look forwards. Plus there’s a long way to go.

Your dream future project?

Although I've grown up – work-wise at least – building online stores and although KIDLY does serve a digital-first customer and that is our priority, we recently opened a pop-up store in St Albans. The interaction I had with customers and, to be honest, the amazing feedback we have had, makes me want to do something a bit bigger, better and bolder in the physical space – albeit something that complements, even enhances, our digital experience for customers.

Who has been your most inspiring mentor, professionally or personally?

I’d have to say Nick Robertson, the founder of ASOS. He gave me my first job, convinced me to stay with him and become the first employee on a new Internet idea that became ASOS. Then I got to see him steer us from a standing start to a £1bn business over fifteen years. He is a great leader, a lovely person and, to this day, always makes himself available to listen to my founder woes.

Where would you live if you could live anywhere?

I’m a Londoner but also love a country walk or trail run and a holiday in Florida. Can I pick three places?

What book is on your nightstand/ kindle right now?

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I tend to rotate between business books, crime novels and sprawling character studies that take me deep into other people’s worlds – and out of mine! This one falls into the latter category.

Best film you’ve seen recently?

The one film from recent years that I still think about is Joker. A mesmerising masterclass from Joaquin Phoenix.

Best binge-watched TV show?

I watch a lot of new stuff, but I do love discovering an older show that I missed, then watching the entire set of seasons. A couple of comedies we’ve devoured this way are Parks & Recreation and a little British gem, Detectorists.

Your hero?

It may be a cliché, but my dad. He dragged himself out of post-war East End of London to create a better life for himself, started his own business and gave my sister and I the education he never had. We were the first family members to go to university. I owe him and my mum everything.

If you were an animal, what would you be?

Judging from the easy, stress-free lives our two dogs and cat live under our roof, I’d definitely be a domestic pet. (Although, being a human at this point, the thought of doing nothing all day terrifies me.)

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I don’t recall anything specific, but I did enjoy creating little businesses as a kid. I used to trade computer games via classified ads at the back of magazines. I sold bits and bobs at a stall outside my house and even created a library, trying to ‘rent’ my books out for a small fee (terrible idea). So, in a way, I think I am actually doing now what I always wanted to do!

Favourite café/ restaurant?

Last Summer we discovered the Seabird at the Hoxton Hotel in Southwark – the roof terrace is amazing. It’s like stepping into a holiday when you walk out there.

What tune always makes you want to dance?

Not one specific tune, but my formative years were spent at Manchester Uni in the early 90s, so club tracks from that period tend to do the trick for me.

Favourite website or app?

Certainly my most visited app is Google Analytics! I’m a data nerd, what can I say. Was I meant to say

Most useful thing on your desk?

At my age, my reading glasses!

By Nancy Alsop
June 2022

Nancy Alsop


Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.