Beibamboo is a Scandinavian baby-clothing brand that boasts a collection of cleverly combined basics designed for the ultimate comfort of newborns and babies. The collection comprises bodys, jumpsuits, pyjamas, trousers and multifunctional accessories, as well as a special line designed specifically for premature babies. These duds are perfect for crawling, with a unique cover seam that reduces uncomfortable chafing and Oeko-Tex 100 certified fabrics that guarantee the absence of pesticides, toxins and heavy metals. Easy to put on, wash and adjust for sizing, Beibamboo clothes incorporate sustainability into more than just the fabric through design and quality features. The Green Stylist caught up with founder Nina Ignatius to learn about the ideas behind the designs and get the scoop on her revolutionary garment rental system.
GS: How was the Beibamboo label set up?
NI: The concept was born about the same time as my daughter was born. She arrived into the world 2 months ahead of schedule, and so I started considering the usability of baby clothes during the time she was in preemie care at the hospital. Preemies have very thin and delicate skin, so the clothes they wear need to be extremely accommodating and should not be uncomfortable at all. Preemies also have special needs when it comes to dressing and undressing, as conventional baby clothing designs requiring the removal of their IV, which is a massive heath risk. I noticed too that all the logos and care instruction tags were located on the insides of the garments, and babies that small have no way of letting us know how uncomfortable something might feel. Another design flaw I considered was the location and number of seams.
When I was ready to return to work as a graphic designer, I had to make some choices due to the changes that had occurred during my time away from the business. By that time I had researched several baby-clothing manufacturers, not finding any that incorporated all my ideals, and so in 2009 I decided to start a business that would comprise the complete package.
As my daughter began to grow I figured that it would be useful to have some kind of adjustment mechanism since babies grow so rapidly in their first year. The clothes you need for a small baby really pile up fast. Even though the garments are small, you need plenty of them as you may end up changing their clothes several times a day. I started thinking that it would be so much easier to just borrow the clothes for the time that I needed them.
GS: What kind of a design process does Beibamboo currently go through?
NI: I had made some sketches of the how my designs could potentially work, considering where extra room was needed to facilitate dressing/undressing and where fabric would need to be turned over, what sections would need adjustment room, and so on. I then began searching for seamstresses in Finland, not even knowing that jersey wear needs to be sewn on a particular machine. But I called around, eventually finding a seamstress in Tampere. The lack of an inseam is a major part of the design. At first I made prototypes with all the seams on the outside, but these garments just ended up looking like they were inside out. It was a good idea, but wouldn’t have been aesthetically appropriate or appealing.
There are three main principles to the design of Beibamboo clothing, which aims to achieve ultimate comfort for babies:
- 1. There are no tags on the inside of the garment. Tags are often cut off, leaving a stub that can be even more uncomfortable. Cutting a tag off also renders the garment less usable when handing down or trying to resell, as it leaves no indication of the size or brand.
- 2. All Beibamboo garments contain a minimal amount of seams.
- 3. The clothes are adjustable, and thus grow with your baby, increasing their life span when compared to other brands.
In addition, all garments are made from natural materials and none are dyed with any harmful chemicals, all materials are Oeko-Tex-100 certified, and all garments are washable at 60 ° C, killing germs without the use of chemicals.
GS: What materials do you use in Beibamboo garments?
NI: As began to set up the business and make prototypes, I had to consider the type of material I wanted to use. I had purchased a set of 50% bamboo and 50% cotton towels at the time, and noticed that after washing and line drying them they remained extremely soft and didn’t turn into pieces of cardboard like regular cotton towels. That spurred me to choose bamboo for these baby clothes, as it is perfect for sensitive skin with the added benefit of being a natural material.
The fabric we currently use is 50% bamboo, 50% cotton. The material is made specifically or Beibamboo in Finland. We are considering adding some manmade fiber to the fabric, as it will increase the longevity of the garments. So, we’ve been looking into recycled polyester that also has thermal properties in an effort to cancel out any negative effects of using a petroleum based fiber.
GS: How does Beibamboo source materials?
NI: Our bamboo fiber comes from China and the cotton comes from India. The bamboo fiber is sourced from a certified sustainable plantation, although I am aware of the discrepancies in relation to how these certified farms are monitored. However, all of our fibers for fabric, threads, buttons and manufacturers do have Oeko-Tex certification.
GS: Where are Beibamboo products manfauctured?
NI: They are all currently manufactured in Finland. However, since I am trying to expand the business I’ve been looking into foreign manufacturing, but still keeping it close by in countries like Estonia and Latvia. The skills and equipment for garment manufacturing in those countries is higher, and the requirements for producing Beibamboo garments makes a higher level of efficiency necessary.
NI: The wraparound baby grow has been very popular, and so have the harem-style trousers. The trousers have a very high waist to accommodate the barrel-shaped body of a baby. Thinner waistbands usually don’t stay up on a baby’s waist, and can also be too tight and uncomfortable. The trousers are roomy, accommodating all types of diapers, the leg cuffs can be folded up and knee-reinforcements are specifically designed for crawling.
GS: What kinds of difficulties has Beibamboo faced?
NI: One difficulty that comes to mind is a pyjama design that I was working on, trying to figure out how to make the length of the back adjustable as it always seems to vary and change so quickly with babies. After a testing session that taught me a lesson about asking friends to evaluate my designs, we ended up producing about 200 pyjamas with a very long back panel and long sleeves that could be rolled up. It soon became apparent that all the garments had extremely long sleeves, but the legs were far too short. We obviously couldn’t make the legs longer, so we cut the legs off, creating a romper suit that was more suitable for larger babies since the sleeves and back panel were so long. We even gave customers who had purchased the ‘faulty’ pyjama the option of having it re-fitted into a romper. So I suppose that difficulty turned into a positive solution after all!
Time management is also a difficulty seeing as I’m in charge of pretty much all facets of the business. But in my opinion, if you’re going to take on a design venture, it makes much more sense to develop something new and revolutionary, rather than try to emulate what someone else is doing. There’s no point in trying to take on something that a large clothing manufacturer like H&M can do more effectively at lower costs, but an original idea is worth pursuing.
GS: Some consumers opt for cheaper and less sustainable choices because of the cost. How do you think Beibamboo garments address this issue?
NI: A baby will normally go through 6 clothing sizes during the course of its first year, and you typically need about 10 pairs of a garment in each size. Beibamboo garments are more expensive than ones from e.g. H&M, but the difference in quality, and the clever size adjustability feature means that you’ll need less of each type of garment. In turn, you’ll also have less to store away once your baby outgrows any particular size. In the long run, investing in quality baby clothes like ours is much more cost effective, especially if you plan to have more children. Another option is to look into a renting system, like the one I’ve set up for Beibamboo.
NI: To begin with, rental orders are made through our online shop. Customers can choose from two sets with more or less garments, and the sets can be reserved for a minimum of 4 weeks with fees collected on a monthly basis. Sizes can be changed as the baby grows, while the used sets are sent back washed and dried, ready to go to a professional cleaner. Rental sets can also be pre-ordered, but will be sent and charged for only once the customer actually needs them. The intention has never been to imply that a baby should be clothed solely in rental clothes, as the needs of different families differ according to the time and place. It is mostly presented as a practical and sustainable solution for eliminating the accumulation of garments that are used for a relatively short time.
The rental service is currently only available in Finland, although we have had a lot of interest from abroad. However, it’s not feasible for us to provide the service overseas from Finland, as the shipping costs would not make it worthwhile. We would need a business partner to work overseas, shipping used garments from their local base and establishing an agreement with a local cleaning service. The whole rental service could be very interesting as a franchise, but we would need to make good connections to ensure that the quality of the brand stays intact.
GS: Does Beibamboo follow any trends?
NI: I wanted these clothes to be timeless and season-less, another reason for staying away from chemical dyes, rendering the fabric the natural color of bamboo fiber. I think babies are works of art in themselves, not needing to be dressed up in decorated clothes to look adorable.
GS: What does Beibamboo’s future look like?
NI: I think it looks rather bright. We’ve got unique, prize-winning concepts behind the garments, with the design, usability and longevity as main features. The rental service is also rather clever, presenting an extremely economical, environmental and practical option. We have been developing a preemie line for hospitals, based on the preemie collection I’ve already got out. It’s a bit tricky to work with hospitals though, as they don’t want brand names on the garments. Beibamboo needs more recognition in order to succeed, and so parents and others involved in the dressing of babies in hospital care would need to be informed of the other products that Beibamboo produces in order for the project to promote our name.
So the future looks a bit hectic because of all the factors involved, but if user feedback is anything to go by, we’re definitely on the right track. Our service is easy to understand and we offer quality products. Several customers have told me that Beibamboo clothes are the ones that they prefer to use, which is fantastic to hear. I’m aware that all of the design aspects in our garments aren’t my personal inventions, but I have had the idea of combining these different aspects into one garment, making them multi-functional and very innovative.
All images courtesy of Beibamboo.