So you know the moment you are in a shop, in some hideous shopping complex, which seems designed to bring on a state of panic through extreme lighting and bubblegum pop music? All you can think is “buy the stuff, any stuff, all the stuff and LEAVE! RUN!” Well that was me. One moment I was staggering under a mountain of gender-stereotyped, bright, cheap kids clothing and the next I had dumped it all and RUN madly towards freedom and blue sky. The 19-year-old shop assistant looked bewildered (and I noted with no small amount of envy utterly bereft of any understanding of what sleep deprivation and the resulting crazy can lead to). So there I was free, but somehow I was also considering my place in the universe. This I knew could not be good. Really. Seriously. Not Good. Here I was a professional thinker and scientist, years of experience juggling high pressure situations, brought to the edge of crazy by the experience of buying childrenswear; rubbish, cheaply made, kidswear.
So let me dial it back and explain…..
I like clothes and believe clothing is an important part of our identity, and self confidence. The same is true for kids clothes. A way for kids to dress up and down, to experiment with who they are, and really to just have fun. But outside that shop I was not having a lot of fun, rather I was thinking some heavy stuff . I was thinking ‘many kids clothes businesses leverage our selective blindness to the exploitation of women and families, their well-being and the environment, to give us a cheap and cheerful choice and healthy profit for them, and hold on a minute how did I end up supporting this?’ It made me pretty feel rubbish to be honest.
and there it was the flashpoint for starting muka kids.
In truth a big part of this thinking travelled with me all the way back from India. In 2008, while backpacking, I was sitting on the platform of a Delhi Railway station. In front of me was a pretty common sight – a seriously grubby little girl with bells tied on her ankles, dancing for a few rupee, she was probably 6 or 7 , but looked 4. Later on I watched a woman in a flame sari, blurred through a bus window, carrying a pan of road fill upon her head. Her kids played on the roadside while the chaotic traffic of India roared by and covered them all in filth. It started me down the road of some pretty challenging thinking about the way I live and I guess you could say it culminated outside that shop. It was a pretty pragmatic kind of thinking, not based on any particular belief system apart from just being a woman in New Zealand confronted with what being a woman in other (in fact most ) countries was like, and how my choices meant I played a part in many of these women’s lives.
In India I also saw that the local environment and ecosystems were used and utilized in whatever way was necessary to make sure the people living off it did just that – live. I saw that given limited or no choice people just did what they need to survive and taking care of their local physical environment came a pretty far last. I also knew that it was probably not the small scale farmers and manufacturers that created the most damage, larger scale stuff was happening all over the place to drive profit and growth.
So back to that crazy woman outside the shop. The businesses that produce those clothes I knew, fed the very situations which made me as a parent, an enthusiast for biodiversity and a humanist, feel deeply uncomfortable, yet there I was supporting those businesses through the power of my purchasing. BUT in a fit of unusual optimism I saw no really logical, sensible reason for it not to be different. It was not rocket science, it was not the dominion of the soapbox loving environmental or humanitarian crusader. It was totally within my power as a parent, a consumer, a thinking person to make a small step change that might hopefully one day have a positive impact on that girl in Delhi (or one like her), and in fact all our kids.
And so began my adventures in sustainable business with muka kids, and helping buyers of kids clothing feel positive about their purchasing decisions.
I am edging very gingerly (frankly I am not much of a leaper) into building an ethical enterprise which I hope will address some of the problems I encounter in trying to live and consume more consciously. Fearful and anxious about what will be in the deep end, I have stuck my head under. My hope is, that in sharing some of my experiences in building and growing muka kids, others find it just that little bit easier to take account of the environment and people when they buy stuff. What I also hope is that muka kids becomes one of the cogs in the gears that help us grind our way to understanding that business can be part of the solution.
Thanks for reading and following my adventures