One of the biggest challenges faced by 1 to 12 Baby Lounge as we grow our sustainable baby clothing range is how we can produce quality items that keep that in mind.
In today’s climate of fast fashion, it isn’t always easy to do that, and make sure the cost of striving to be eco-friendly and sustainable isn’t passed on to you when you buy.
In the past, 90% of our production was done in China. With the exception of our baby shoes, which are made in Portugal. However, my quest has and always will be to create sustainable baby clothing that offers peace of mind. Not only for you as a new mom and how the clothes feel on your baby’s skin, but also from an environmental and cost perspective. In essence, high-quality sustainable baby clothing brands should also be affordable and durable.
Why We Were Producing Eco-Conscious Baby Clothing In China
I spent a lot of time in China before moving to Canada, and in the 1980s and 1990s, my parents built the very first vertical cashmere factory. It was in Tian Jin, a tax-free zone that was created to attract foreign investors to stimulate their economy, so I always had a relationship with the region.
I also knew how to source ethical and sustainable fabrics from the area. That’s why our cashmere blankets are made there. I have been to the suppliers. And I know they not only look after the goats like they’re kings, but also the workers have a good life. Sustainable baby clothing is as much about the environment of the workers.
It’s really nice to visit them and see the factory and see their process. They have their own organic garden which they use vegetables from for lunch for their staff.
They also use clean electricity which is generated in a very environmentally friendly way. These things are important to me because I know they are important to you as a new mom.
For me, it is the knowledge that when we say we use artisan processes and we create sustainable baby clothing, I’ve seen it with my own eyes! It’s not easy to find factories that work like that in China. For example, a lot of them want to make as many items as possible for as little as possible. And that creates more pollution on so many different levels.
The Importance of Being A Sustainable Baby Clothing Brand And Affordable
In 2020, I was very excited to create our latest toddler collection using non-toxic dyes that are kind a baby’s skin. The cashmere and cotton sweaters were very colorful and of such great quality. We were creating an amazing sustainable baby clothing collection.
We knew the shipment was coming and I had allocated around $3000USD which was our usual fee of shipping and duties.
But then I was horrified to get a bill of $7900USD! I couldn’t believe it. We had to pay the additional fees to get the goods released and I had to personally take care of the extra since it wasn’t in our budget. This was during the height of COVID. When the retail sector was hit so, so hard.
This was nothing to do with 10 to 12 baby Lounge focusing on making sustainable baby clothing. It was about charges being levied on all businesses trying to work with and be supplied by China.
I know we were lucky. But it made me wonder how many smaller businesses have been hit with these increased duty bills and couldn’t pay. Are their goods stranded in a port somewhere? Did they have to close? It was all at a time when the retail sector was being crushed.
Why It Costs So Much To Source Ethical Baby Clothing
Why WAS the duty high? A lot of it was to do with the Trump administration who increased 25% of the import duty from China on to encourage businesses like mine to buy within the US. I understand that. And it’s important to try and source locally. But it’s not feasible to source our level and quality of cotton and fabrics that are created sustainably here in America, to create sustainable baby clothing. And trust me, I have looked. We started working with suppliers in LA. But the cost to produce even a baby t-shirt was $30USD which means we had to sell these T-shirts for $60 to other stores and ended being $120 as retail price and it was just way too high.
10 to 12 Baby Lounge had to make the decision, in our quest to be the best baby clothing brand, to move a lot of our production.
The Move To Peru From China To Be The Best Baby Clothing Brand
I started looking around for cotton that was created using an artisan process and was also ethical and eco-friendly. Our ethos is to create high-quality sustainable baby clothing that doesn't pass on a lot of the cost to you as a new mom.
And that is what led to my discovery of Peruvian Cotton. You can read more about the process and why it’s such good quality on our blog here.
It was hard for me to move a lot of production out of China, but I knew it was necessary. And it was an obvious thing to do. In Peru, we now have artisan factories and production lines. We have a sustainable, durable fabric in Peruvian cotton. One that is kind to babies’ skin, very absorbent, cooling, and cozy at the same time.
The new flexibility I have of producing in Peru means I can now provide new moms with even more cozy clothes for their kids, which is exciting for me!
And it means we can become truly global in sourcing the best quality for you as a new mom and your baby.
The Importance of The Global Marketplace
I know not every brand has the margin to be able to do what we have done. It’s something that will make you think twice, especially if you’re a smaller business. But I felt like we had no choice but to move a significant part of our production. Sadly I think these tariffs are going to make it harder for smaller brands.
I also firmly believe you don't want to produce and source your products in one country. That's monopolistic. I was sad to pull so much of our production out of China – it was easy for me to work there because I speak the language and I know the process. I have a lot of advantages there. But it was such an obvious thing for me to do, especially when it comes to using cotton that is of high quality. Our goal has always been, let's find the best thing each country can produce.
And for now, I can't imagine us going somewhere else other than Peru for our cotton.