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Why Gender Neutral & Unisex Kid’s Clothes Can Actually Harm Girls

Why Gender Neutral Clothing is Harming Girls

Why Gender Neutral Clothing is Harming Girls

With an explosion of gender neutral lines for kids & babies* have you ever wondered who these clothes are really benefiting? There is it turns out a dirty truth in the supply chain of some ‘gender neutral’ clothing: the empowerment of girls in the west on the back of the misery of the world’s poorest women and girls.


Clothing is, at its Heart, a Business Propelled by Women & Girls Continue Reading →

20 Ethical Clothing & Organic Clothing Brands for Kids We LOVE

Ethical clothes for kids we love

Ethical clothes for kids we love

We know it is hard sometimes to get hold of ethical clothing & organic clothing for kids. You mean well, intend well and then? Well the practicalities just get in the way of doing well. Muka kids is a social enterprise that exists to make it a lot easier to get hold of fantastic affordable ethical clothing & organic clothing for kids. One way we help is we have a marketplace for buying & selling accredited pre-loved (and some new) ethical and organic clothing. In this blog we want to tell you about the best of these accredited brands. Some of these brands actually offer discounts to those who trade on muka kids. So if you buy ethical sustainable clothes new &  ‘Regood’ them on our marketplace we reward you for being sustainable and well just super.

Ethical clothing all starts with some great small companies

In the muka model it all starts with those fantastic people pushing the boat out in small and independent ethical clothing and organic clothing brands, doing their darnedest to do the right thing and make clothes that meet ethical and sustainable standards. It is HARD: a hard slog, lower returns, with a small (but growing market) of customers.

These ethical clothing companies and the people who run them care. They care deeply about changing the way the clothing system works, and while all of them might not have the gold standard for ethical clothing or organic clothing in place right now, I tell you they are striving to do things a better way AND make sure they have a successful ethical business so they can keep making a difference.

Ethical Clothing Brands & Organic Clothing Brands We LOVE* (many of which you can find on our marketplace in affordable preloved condtion)

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We Have Design Prototypes in Organic Fairtrade Cotton!

 Let me introduce the sampling stages of garment development (Indian Styles!)

  1. 1st stage: prototypes
  2. 2nd stage
  3. Approval
  4. Other
  5. Pre-production
  6. Production
  7. Photo
  8. Size Set

As I am only up to stage one I have no idea what the other seven stages yet involve, but they both excite and frighten me!

This week I got some of the prototypes of the first designs. The prototypes are the fully made up design in the right type of fairtrade organic cotton fabrics, but NOT in the right colours – colour tests come next  – (so fear not, these are not for dressing mini all blacks). The first prototypes do not have any of the trims and prints either – so to you that is no pretty pictures on the garments yet.

The prototypes give an idea of how the fabric drapes, how the pockets look, the weight and the stretch of the fabric, and the basic shape and fit. There are some changes that I have already picked up need to happen, which is great, though frankly lets hope I get a bit more decisive by the time sample stage 6 comes around!

I must say they do feel lovely (all fairtrade organic cotton tends to feel very different from standard cotton).

Here they are (the Grinling Hoody is still to come)…..

ropey tee in first prototype

ropey tee in first prototype

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New Designs for Our Crowdfunding Stretch Goal

If you have not seen muka kids crowdfunding project by now do go check it out on spark my potential, simply to see how overwhelmingly positive people are about a business that has big goals to do things a DIFFERENT and better way for people & planet.

Our original target was to raise $5000 to document the ‘good’ journey of muka kids clothes and make our samples. We reached this goal in 24 hours of launching and are now at 170%!


So we have put in place a ‘stretch goal’.  A stretch goal is a reward we can give if we reach a level ABOVE our original target. Which is a pretty cool place to be for a small start-up.

So we set a stretch goal of $10,000 by the end of the project (September 7th) and if we reach that target then we can add two more of our lovely fair trade organic cotton kids designs to our sampling line up.  Regooders (our crowdfunding cheerleaders & backers) get to choose these designs at the close of the project. So without further ado here are the four designs (well actually 6 if you count the colour options!)  that Regooders will get to select from.

Do let us know what you think.

And if you are not yet a Regooder, but you want to have a vote, even a $5 pledge will get you in on the game!

Fossicking Trousers

140826 long sleeved top

rockpooling top

140826 Singlet dress

sundae singlet dress for all seasons!

140826 Cardigan

collecting cardy

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 →

How Many Kid’s Clothes Are Too Many? A Photo Blog

A big part of what drives me forward with muka kids is trying to address in a meaningful but positive way the impact that our clothing use has on the environment. I was kind of surprised when I looked into it in an earlier blog how much a family’s annual clothing allocation contributes to CO2 emissions, water use and landfill: it is 1.5 tonnes of CO2, 200 cubic meters of water and 70kg of waste per year….that is a lot for something that seems as benign as clothing.

So in developing the model of business for muka kids I was pretty focussed on how we could keep clothes in use for longer, and reduce the amount we produce and buy. What occurred to me while I was thinking about this was that my own kids seem to have quite a lot of clothes (many of them used, ‘gifted’, passed on etc). Yet they only seem to wear a few, and these are either

1) their favourite and kind of foul/torn/too small items or

2) really good quality clothes that are well designed, attractive and fit for purpose that can be worn and washed multiple times in a week (did I hear someone say laundry drudgeon?).

So then I wondered how many of those ‘other’ clothes do they actually have? I had a sneaking suspicion it was a lot because there is a looming and terrifying presence in our attic space that I try not to dwell upon too often…

Once I started counting I was a little alarmed (and even a little embarrassed).

Here are the results of my little challenge. What it really brought into focus was being smarter about my kid’s clothing. While I thought I was saving money by buying or obtaining a greater number of cheaper (and often poorer quality) or badly designed new and used clothes, in reality the total spend is a lot more with this approach than if I just restricted my buying to key, quality, really usable (new or used) items – which pretty much turns out to be what gets worn by the kids mainly.

So I dare you to undertake a similar exercise next time you are doing a dreaded ‘sort through’!  It will probably surprise you.

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