How many times have you found yourself discussing where to find beautiful baby clothes? It’s probably not something you think about too often unless you are a parent, an expectant parent or are shopping for children. The thing you will most definitely find yourself faced with though is the availability of styles and colours that surround the deeply-rooted stigma of pink for girls and blue for boys. Though unisex colours, yellow, green and grey have become more popular choices, it’s the gifts from all of the loving family and friends, most likely purchased at popular department stores, that subtly imply cookie-cutter gender stereotypes - that you wind up using anyway.
Pretty Without Pink is an online clothing boutique where you will find ethically made clothing for girls, that isn’t pink. Founded by Susin Thoroughgood, an Australian mum of two girls who didn’t want to push the stereotype of pink, frilly girls clothes for her daughters. The unique concept all started when Susin was pregnant with her first baby. “The moment we found out we were having a girl, I immediately knew I didn't want her to be smothered by a sea of pastel pink. We wanted her to be born into a world of possibility, without being confined to a predetermined set of rules”, as she states on her website.
Three years and another daughter later Pretty Without Pink came to fruition and Susin says, “it really wasn't until I started researching what brands I wanted to stock when it dawned on me that I didn't just want things that weren't pink; I wanted to make sure I wasn't buying anything that had been made in sweatshops. Or by children. Only then did I really start to research about ethical clothing production”.
Children’s clothes and their usage already have a fast-paced nature about them, babies grow, and grow quickly. Of course there is the community feel of parents saving clothes and handing them down to friends, family and even younger siblings, but of course the idea of long-lasting, quality items has never been so poignant in this state of environmental concern. There is wider understanding of the chemicals used in baby formula, nappies, creams, shampoos and moisturisers so it’s only natural for parents to be concerned with what they are clothing their children in.
Pretty Without Pink offers a choice to those who want to find beautiful outfits for little girls, aged 0-5 that isn’t just pink. Each piece has been carefully selected from small businesses specialising in ethical production, from those supporting factories in India, to companies using GOTS certified cotton or sustainable bamboo. We spoke with Susin and asked her what her experience dabbling in to the fashion industry with Pretty Without Pink has been like:
What is your selection process when choosing which brands to stock?
Being under a year old my process is constantly evolving. First and foremost it's aesthetics - I want to stock clothing that I'd dress my girls in; which is a range of pretty, girly things to grungy streetwear. So the brands reflect this. But before stocking brands I first ask how their clothes are made and most of the designers I stock have talked about their passion for ensuring that the clothing is ethically made, that they've visited the factories personally. There have been plenty of beautiful brands I've fallen in love with but not purchased because I didn't feel their ethos aligned with mine.
What aspects of ethical fashion are most important to you and Pretty Without Pink's vision?
It started with how the clothing was made - that's always been the line in the sand for me. The more I become aware about ethical fashion and the more I educate myself about the various facets of the fashion industry, the more I realise the way the clothing is made is really only the last step. There's so much more to be concerned about - how the cotton is grown, who's picking it, what the conditions are for those creating the fabrics. It's so much more complex than I realised.
Having learnt more about it, I've decided to slowly shift away from cotton altogether. Many brands I stock are already using GOTS certified cotton or sustainable bamboo, so there's already a strong ecological focus in the store. Eventually I want to shift away from just being about ethical production and aim to only have eco brands also.
With a wider awareness of ethical fashion, do you think currently there is a good market for mothers to make informed decisions on the products that they buy?
It's really tough for mothers, buying ethically is expensive - there's just no two ways about it. And kids grow SO quickly, and they're SO dirty, it's understandable why people stock up on cheap baby and children's clothing. Yes the market is there, but no I don't think there's enough awareness about just how bad those cheap clothes are. I mean, I spend more wholesale on one item than you'd spend buying 2-3 pieces in some department stores. I don't think the people buying them really grasp the ecological and social damage those cheap clothes are doing. And when you're down a salary because you're on mat leave, juggling to make ends meet, sometimes even if you know deep down it shouldn't be possible to sell something so cheap, you turn a blind eye because you can't afford to do it any other way.
What we need to do is to make ethical and sustainable clothing the norm so there's not even an option to buy otherwise.
Are there any other aspects that you find important to include in your brand concept. i.e packaging, supporting small businesses?
Packaging is really important to me. I've tried to reduce my carbon footprint as much as possible by using 100% recycled poly mailers, and I wrap the items in recycled tissue with hemp twine and biodegradable sticky tape, and the little thank you card is made from recycled paper.
How have you found feedback from your customers?
The feedback has been really positive. There have been so many comments from other mums saying they love the concept and that they were also completely sick of pink so that has been nice. I do think we're a niche group in that aspect as pink remains very popular! I think the fact we also cater to people looking to shop more consciously broadens the niche somewhat.
Venturing on this adventure, what have you learned about the fashion industry? Have there been any surprises that you weren't aware of previously?
As mentioned earlier, it really was the whole lifecycle of a product. The amount of pesticides and water used in cotton production, the working conditions for those picking cotton or in the factories who make fabrics. I think there's been so much focus on sweatshops that many people - myself included - never really thought too much about how the fabric was made in the first place. And it seems silly now, not to have thought about it, but that's why we need to keep educating ourselves and doing everything we can to make positive changes.
What are the fashion brands that inspire you and your brand?
Most of the brands I stock inspire me. Anarkid creates the most amazing pieces made from GOTS certified organic cotton and really show that ethical doesn't have to be boring. Milk & Masuki also - great, comfy, trendy streetwear for kids, with loads of unisex prints and colours. Aster & Oak is another gorgeous label - all their prints are hand illustrated and so beautifully made and swell & solis, a boutique Australian label, just creates the most divine, timeless pieces and use a lot of linen and natural fibres.
Where would you like to see the fashion industry in 5 years?
I don't know if it will happen in five years but it would be nice if one day choosing organic, sustainable, ethically made clothing was the rule, rather than the exception.