Times are changing. It’s becoming easier and easier to find, and love, eco-baby wear which doesn’t cost us the earth. There is a plethora and range, it’s not all extortionately priced and the quality speaks for itself. We are in love with Rosie & Cooey in our house! They are a UK online baby and kids clothing shop for 0 to 10 years, which has a beautiful hand-picked a collection of fun, colourful, funky, and ethically made children’s clothing sourced from various sustainable brands. Parents can find scores of clothes designed with style, sustainability and social responsibility at heart. Rosie & Cooey have drawn their line by choosing to only work with brands trading ethically and striving to achieve sustainable production. Their brands do this in a number of ways including using non-conventional materials that have a lower impact on both human health and the environment, such as organic cotton, recycled polyester, and Modal®, coupled with their commitment in ethical production.
Picture above: Småfolk’s Eltern Bodysuit with Panda in soft organic cotton.
What does this mean for parents concerned about their babywear? Well, take for example, Designer Småfolk who only use 100% organic cotton and have been OEKO-TEX certified for the last 9 years. Instead of throwing a lot of good clothing with small print mistakes away (a source of great waste in our industry), the brand donates these clothes to children in need. Or stocked brand CarlijnQ, who create products in an environment-friendly, sustainable, and healthy way and without the use of any hazardous chemicals. Their factories in Istanbul, Turkey only use certified organic cotton with approved dyes which are free from hazardous elements such as nickel, lead, formaldehyde, amines, pesticides and heavy metals.
I caught up with one of the brands amazing co-owners, Antonette Duff, to find out more.
PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELF AND TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR BRAND?
I’m Antonette Duff and I am the co-owner of Rosie & Cooey. My business partner is my husband, Chris. We named our business after our two daughters, Rosie (6 yrs) and Ailsa (3 yrs). When Ailsa was a newborn she happily cooed a lot. I made up a cooey song for her and that nickname Cooey caught on at home- both Chris and Rosie also started calling her Cooey.
One of Cooey’s godparents is from Finland and she sent the girls some gloves and scarves from there and Rosie commented on how lovely and different her gloves were. We wanted to find clothes for our kids that are different from the high street. However, we didn’t want to settle for clothes that are just different from what the high street can offer, but we wanted sustainably made clothes.
We wanted our kids to grow up with certain values. Values that go beyond raising them as polite and kind girls. We wanted them to understand the consequences of their actions not just with their daily lives, but also how what they buy can affect them, everyone around them, as well as the environment.
We believe that sustainability is not just for adults. Children can be made aware of sustainable issues (going beyond teaching them how to recycle things). Children are naturally inquisitive. By dressing them in sustainable clothes, a conversation with our kids can start. Our eldest Rosie does ask us about organic clothes, etc and that’s because it has become part of our lifestyle and wearing organic clothes sparked a curiosity in her which led her to ask questions. Clearly we had to keep our answers as simple as possible as talking about sustainability to a 6 year old is too much for them to grasp at this stage. Over time our children will understand the importance of thinking about what they buy, who makes them, where they are made, how their clothes are made and so the hope is they will grow to be socially responsible.
Rosie & Cooey is a UK online baby and kids clothing shop for 0 to 10 years. We have hand-picked a collection of fun, colourful, funky, and ethically made children’s clothing which are sourced from a variety of brands around Europe. Sustainability is very important to us. We only work with brands who strive to achieve sustainable production. Part of our commitment to social responsibility is that we will be donating 50p per item sold to charity (both full priced and sale items). Our chosen charity is – WE charity.
TELL US ABOUT THE VISION FOR YOUR BRAND?
We want Rosie & Cooey to eventually become synonymous with sustainable and ethical children’s clothing. Our goal is to make ethical kids clothing accessible and a lot of the prices are in-line with the major organic brands in the UK as well as other high street shops. Our vision is to establish Rosie & Cooey as a one-stop shop for sustainable childrenswear in the UK, as well as in other parts of the world.Photo credit: Rosie & Cooey Facebook
HOW DO YOU APPROACH SUSTAINABILITY/TRANSPARENCY WITHIN YOUR BRAND?
Sustainability can mean different things to different people. For the sake of consistency and enables us to clearly set our criteria when selecting brands, we have used Dr. Anna Brismar’s (Green Strategy) ‘7 Forms of Sustainability’ and these are: “On Demand & Custom Made”, “Green & Clean”, “High Quality & Timeless Design”, “Fair & Ethical”, “Repair, Redesign & Upcycle”, “Rent, Loan & Swap” and “Secondhand & Vintage”.
As a company we have chosen to focus on three, Green and Clean, High Quality and Timeless Design, and Fair and Ethical and it is on these three pillars that we base our decision on which brands we want to stock. For us Green means that all cotton has to be organic, for polyester it means recycled, and Clean means no harmful chemicals are used in manufacturing, and no pollutants are allowed into the environment.
To ensure the brands we stock are fair and ethical we primarily look for recognised certification i.e. GOTS, Fair Trade, SEDEX, Nordic Swan, ATC, ETI, etc. however we also understand that as some of our brands use small factories which would not see the benefit of obtaining certification due to the high costs involved, if this is the case we ask our brands for assurances that they audit the factories regularly and ensure that workers are paid fairly and afforded suitable working conditions.
Kids should be kids, and being a kid means playing, clothes should be made to be able to withstand these childhood activities which is why we only stock high quality clothes that are designed with childhood play in mind. We also strongly believe that clothes should be passed on, often kids will outgrow their clothes long before the garment has worn out meaning clothes are often thrown out when they have lots of life left in them. A big issue we see is where families have boys and girls and clothes cannot easily be passed on as a lot of childrenswear designs are very gender specific. Instead we try and choose items that can be worn by both boys and girls especially the baby wear which is normally replaced every three to six months as babies grow. Clothes that last long mean parents then have the option to pass them on.
Transparency is one of the most important things we look for with the brands we stock, when brands want to talk to us about their manufacturing processes and how they ensure safe working environments and fair pay for workers then we start to build trust. Those brands that are unwilling to share with us we know deep down they do not share our values. By working ethically there should be nothing to hide as it is something to be proud of. I have once dropped a brand from our list because we later found out that they weren’t being completely transparent about their company and they didn’t actually live up to their sustainability claim.
WHAT MORE DO YOU THINK CUSTOMERS ARE LOOKING FOR THESE DAYS BEYOND GOOD DESIGN? OR DO YOU THINK THAT DESIGN IS REALLY ALL THAT MATTERS?
Obviously design is important, after all there’s no point buying something that your child just won’t wear, the designs have to appeal to a child’s imagination. But beyond design people want quality, they need clothes that will last through many wash cycles and still look good, and survive everything a child can throw at them. Unfortunately price is still a huge deciding factor when buying clothes, a lot of people expect a bargain, however all this does is fuel the demand for fast fashion which results in poor working conditions, and poor quality clothes. It also drives a lot of independents out of business as they cannot always compete with the big chains when it comes to writing off clothes in sales.
This paradox is a mindset that needs to change, quality, in all aspects i.e. quality of life for the people that make them, and quality in the end garment means a higher price for the consumer, cheap clothes whilst benefiting the consumer have a devastating impact on the quality of life of those involved in its production, as well as having a negative effect on the environment.
In saying that, there is certainly a shift towards conscious consumerism. More and more people are becoming aware of the issues concerning the environment, human rights, animal welfare, etc and more people are talking about it and so are able to tap into people’s consciousness. Conscious consumerism will eventually become mainstream but it is still lagging behind. Certainly, things are changing and consumers are beginning to realise that we need to take action. Social media and internet have made it easier to share information, which is why we are seeing a shift in ethical consumerism and we are now discovering more sustainable companies.
HOW DO YOU ENSURE QUALITY WITH YOUR BRAND?
By carefully selecting each brand we aim to only work with those whose products live up to our, and our customer expectations. With the volume of stock we receive each season it is impossible to literally quality check each item, but we do conduct random inventory checks within each brand deliveries, and we have refused to stock a number of items that did not meet our expectation.
Apart from the inventory checks that we do once we have received our deliveries from the brands, our girls wear clothes from each of the brand that we stock. As parents, longevity and high quality of clothes are very important to us and we wouldn’t want to sell something that we wouldn’t be happy for our girls to wear too. Not only do we want our girls’ clothes to last and endure the sort of play that they do, but we also want our children’s clothes to be passed on to other kids once they have outgrown them.
But beyond the quality of clothes, we want Rosie & Cooey to be known for quality throughout the buying process, we try and answer customers questions and emails as soon as we receive them as we know how a personal touch reassures customers when purchasing on-line. We offer a free 30 day no quibble returns policy as we know life moves fast with kids and often you don’t get time to post within 14 days. We want buying from us to be an enjoyable experience.
WHAT WERE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU FACED WHEN TRYING TO GROW AN ETHICAL BRAND?
As a start-up, trying to establish your brand generally is extremely challenging anyway. But trying to establish yourself as a sustainable brand and you find yourself up against these mainstream brands that have already fully established themselves with a strong following and are able to market their clothes cheaply, that’s a momentous task.
Ethical consumerism still has a long way to go. There is still that huge customer segment in the market where a lot of them are unaware of the problems with fast fashion. And those that are aware of these issues, wouldn’t necessarily feel that these actually impact them directly and immediately as customers.
There are a lot of mainstream retailers that sell kids’ clothes and their designs are on-trend and can mass-produce and sell them cheaply. A customer can buy a trendy unicorn dress for £5 from a supermarket own-brand and that’s not even in the sale!! A lot of customers that bought that item wouldn’t have necessarily questioned the integrity of that item.
Also, marketing our Rosie & Cooey under the umbrella terms ‘sustainable’ and ‘ethical’ is very difficult. Sustainable and ethical fashion, these are terms that are very subjective and can mean a lot of things to different people. There isn’t a conclusive definition and it could be about a number of issues and what is important to one person may not be relevant to another. At the end of the day, customers will make their value judgement when it comes to their purchases and what sustainability means to them will impact their willingness to pay for something.
It is very important for us that we are able to convey our message clearly to customers. As a business, not only is increasing brand awareness important to us but also is customers’ increasing awareness of the problems with fast fashion. Also, we don’t just stock sustainable British brands. A lot of the other sustainable brands that we stock are from around Europe and a lot of UK customers have not heard of them. Social media has been great in terms of increasing our reach and getting our brand out there and it makes it a little bit easier to share information about the brands that we stock. Because of social media and the internet our customer data is growing.
We also have to find this balance between being a profitable business but also staying true to our values on sustainability. For example, we refused to participate in the Black Friday sale. Although this would have given our business a huge and much needed boost in sales, we refused to take part as the whole idea of Black Friday is just completely against our values on sustainability and against our views on consumerism. The office was very quiet that weekend!!
As a company, we try to strive to be as sustainable as possible, which is why we personally take responsibility for removing and recycling the plastic polybags each garment is shipped to us in. This is an additional cost for us which we feel responsible for and we don’t pass the costs on to our customers.
Trying to keep our business viable and at the same time, keeping in line with our values on sustainability is not very easy!
Discover Rosie & Cooey here.