Archive | July, 2014

Secret Project Progress

As some of you will know, I decided to take the great leap and throw muka kids into the running for a national project. The project is based around crowdfunding, but more than this, really I don’t even know! Hopefully by this Friday things will be clearer on how muka kids has fared.

In the meantime I have been jumping through a lot of hoops. Most of which I was pretty prepared for. Background on the project, where muka kids came from, what we want to achieve in the short & long term. It has been a great way for me to really focus on what muka is all about, and confirm how important muka kids is to me as a beacon for sustainable business development.

What I was less sorted for was the media stuff I need to prepare. Oh and the video (on to that in a minute). So publicity shots, not my happy place I must say. I realized that we are bombarded with so many pictures of perfection, beauty, stylised perfection (people and the world around us), that seeing ourselves in hard copy, with all our “original and intact’ features can be confronting. I have challenged myself to just let that go and hope a twinkle in the eye and a woman on a mission is all that matters to others too.

the enorm croc

DO NOT eat the children

Now the video. Well this is 2 minute film all about muka kids, where it came from, where it is going. I decided that making a film about a kids clothing company without kids in it would be a little odd. First practice with my own was a total disaster. The oldest threw a huge tantrum because the sign she was holding was only written in black pen and not rainbow colours (!!!!), the small one just wanted to stand on a chair and draw on the camera lens. It all ended in tears (mainly mine) WHAT WAS I THINKING?  Anyway the show MUST go on, so the real filming will take place Sunday morning. I do need a few more slightly older kids who can follow basic instructions and hold up a sign to camera (frankly I think the small ones will create total carnage!). So if you are Wellington based and have a spare 30mins on Sunday morning, do let me know (, I would love to have your help and just say hi.

well now back to to the prep….

I Have Run Towards the FEAR!!!


this is a scared secret squirrel.

This week muka kids was giving a massive opportunity to take part in a new project (yet to be revealed). I was given a 10 day time frame to get my proverbial together and bring in a crowdfunding campaign (more than this I cannot say). It totally freaked me out! 

I have my oldest starting school on Monday (and all the hesitations, emotions and excitement that go with that). I took on ANOTHER bit of research to deliver in the same time frame last week, alongside my already existing work. To top this all off I know sweet fanny adams about making a video (and frankly have no funds to pay a professional). And this I need to do in 9 days!

BUT, the potential for muka kids is massive. It would drive the launch that much closer, enable me do the trip to India I need to do to meet the producers and really tell the muka kids clothing story, and allow me to get the samples made. All of which would mean I could do less of my consulting work and dedicate more time to muka kids. This however is just the cherry on top. The main pie would be the buzz that muka kids could have around it from being involved in such a launch.

SO, I ran towards it. I will as usual be taking a deep breath and asking for help (which frankly I am rubbish at doing, might make me look vulnerable you see…sound familiar?). But muka kids has been from the start all about exposing myself to a new way of going forward with my life.  I don’t know if I will make the cut yet, but I feel really excited about trying*.

*Note to my sponsor and long suffering partner, I thank you in advance for forgiving me for being a weeny bit grumpy in the next few weeks…

Fairtrade Clothing is a Woman’s Issue? Seriously?

I was contemplating a particularly strange social media phenomena recently; where women post selfies with signs stating why they don’t need feminism ( for a giggle read this great come back). Anyway, I was considering this straight after I had made a post on a documentary exploring cheap clothing manufacture in Bangladesh and South-East Asia, in which I highlighted something I have noted before – that the cheap clothing industry operates cheaply primarily through the exploitation of women.

In fact  80% of the jobs in clothing production are occupied by women, though the lions share of senior positions and wages go to men. I have also noted in my post on the problems with clothing production that one of the serious hidden issues in clothing production are ‘homeworkers’ or ‘outsourcing’. Where a mainly female workforce, working from home is required to deliver massive outputs to factories for what equates to less than the local minimum wage (they are paid per garment not by the hour). This is possible because such work flies under the radar of the casual factory observer, they are often on no contracts at all and do the work casually, so there is no record either. Which is why I always put on my ‘face of skepicality’  (yep a new word I made up just for this) when people tell me they know their manufacturers are ‘fair’ ones because they have visited the factory floor. So fair trade is a woman’s issue because:

Women working in industry in developing countries are just like you and me but without real choices.

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The 3am Question. Can I Make Sustainable Business Happen?

One of things I continue to struggle with is this idea of how to best ‘fix’ the problems as I see them.

So here is the problem for me – a totally unsustainable system of production (notably in clothing), where both the environment and people are exploited for the purposes of business development, economic gain and so-called ‘individual consumer choice’.

It all sounds pretty radical when I put it like that, but basically for me it is about business and systems and politicians acting like dicks.

So, muka kids is my small (currently one woman, but I am always looking for others!) approach to addressing the problem. Make organic fair trade kids clothes, make them well, take them back & reward people for returning them (thereby both incentivizing supporting ‘good production’ and keeping clothing in use longer so reducing their footprint), use the resale of those second hand clothes to support women in poverty through microloans (therefore addressing one of the fundamental problems that allows business to exploit women garment workers – lack of choice).

is the solution to this?

is the solution to this…….

140708 Jess.svg



BUT, here is the rub, the question that gets me at 3am in the dark. If the problem is a systems level one is the solution going to be an individual level one? The answer to this is probably a bit of yes & no.

Having spent most of my career in public health, I am trained to focus first on the high level solutions to problems. With helping to address the ‘obesity epidemic for example’ I think first about changing the physical environment, increasing public transport availability, reducing junk food outlets etc, as these are the things that the research tells us has much greater chance at success than expecting a whole lot of individuals to overcome massive personal barrier to behaviour change and eat differently.

So when it comes to sustainability and ethics in clothing, is expecting individuals to change their behaviour before any of the systems have changed the most effective approach? What I mean is, does creating a kids clothing business that does the ‘right thing’ have the impact required to change a system, through providing a single option for consumers to make the ‘good’ choice when buying kids clothes?

Well what population health approaches also note is that grass-root movements can have a lot of impact when combined with those larger systems changes. A noisy and engaged group of individuals can have an impact. A good public health example is when communities come together to fight the licensing of more alcohol outlets within their local area to reduce the harm from alcohol.

Also a small and successful project can have wider reaching implications for change. They can serve as an example of leadership and provide a talking point in the space where change is required. For me, Kowtow provided that model by showing that fairtrade organic clothes that were focussed on design could work. But it takes hard work and a lot of engagement, and it can depend on hard to replicate factors like personality, drive and just plain ‘good luck’.

So back to me at 3am. Well really being an analytical kind of person I don’t think the answer will ever be clear. All any of us as individuals can do is put our personal resources (be it skills, energy, passion) into where it seems to make sense at the time. The idea that the ‘right thing’ will be evident to you (or me!) is probably about as true as the idea that there is a single effective way to address the problems rife in the production of many items we buy and consume. The best we can do is try it out (accept the risks inherent in that) measure our impact, take stock and assess whether we are achieving what we set out to do, and then be flexible. Being flexible is a much more accurate term than failing I think. Flexibility tells us that a level of analysis has been applied to something we tried and we assessed a better way to achieve our goals.

So, is muka kids the solution? Well it may well be one solution for me and for you hopefully. There are others too (which I will talk about in another post). In the meantime I will turn off the light and hope that within 10 minutes of going back to sleep the children DO NOT attempt a swat team mission to get into our bed.

10 Ways to Make Kids Clothes Last Longer: Care (Part 2 of 2)

Extending the Life of Clothes WILL help save the world

Extending the Life of Clothes WILL help save the world

Increasing the lifespan of clothes has a whole HEAP of benefits.  At muka kids  we know making kids clothes last longer will actually will help save the planet and is (of course) better for family budgets. This is part of the reason why we have a marketplace to buy and sell previously loved organic and ethical kids clothing. In part 1 of this blog topic, I focused on ten design features that make kids clothes last longer that you can look out for. This second post is focussed on the ten things you can do to look after kids clothes so they last (based on science- I love science!)

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10 Ways to Make Kids Clothes Last Longer: Design Features (Part 1 of 2)

Increasing the lifespan of clothes has a whole HEAP of benefits.  At muka kids  we know keeping kids clothes in longer use will help save the planet and is (of course) better for family budgets. Improving the sustainability of clothing is part of the reason why we have a marketplace to buy and sell previously loved organic and ethical kids clothing. In this, the first of a two part feature on making kids clothes last,  I want to focus on the ten design features that make kids clothes last longer. The second feature covers 10 ways that you can care for kids clothes that will help them last longer (based on science- I love science!)

The carbon, water and waste footprint of clothes is surprisingly large (the average family’s annual clothes requirements produce carbon the equivalent of driving 10,000 km, uses 889 baths worth of water and creates the waste equivalent to throwing out 80 pairs or so of jeans). So, it is a resource intensive process making new clothes, using them (and then not using them). The longer we can make clothes last and the greater number of kids that wear an item, the less environmental damage that particular piece of clothing is responsible for (and all the better for budgets too).


140707 Quote for extending life of clothes blog part 1


What are the Ten Design Features  That Help Clothes Last Longer? Continue Reading →