An interview with Amanda Callaghan, owner of eco baby wear label, babyjo.
When thinking bamboo, one instantly imagines happy pandas feasting on the young green shoots. But bamboo isn’t only panda food. Long used in Asia to create paper, bamboo has many practical uses and is increasingly utilised to produce eco-friendly fabric for clothes.
There are plenty of reasons why bamboo is in demand – it’s a sustainable, renewal resource that can be produced with low environment impact; it’s not reliant like other plants on pesticides and herbicides for survival; and it’s biodegradable so can be easily returned to the earth.
As a fabric it’s highly durable, while also soft and smooth – a winning combination for any garment, but especially babywear, which is why you find the bamboo-loving panda on the logo of Australian eco-friendly baby wear label, babyjo. Owner and eco-friendly mama Amanda Callaghan knows the importance of bamboo and uses this fabric, along with organic cotton, in all babyjo garments.
Amanda is committed to ethical, healthy living, and these values are reflected in the babyjo brand. Based in the Blue Mountains, a bevy of local contractors form the extended team; a local newborn baby was even the subject of a recent photo shoot.
LivingNow caught up with Amanda to find out why this fibre is so baby friendly and what it takes to produce garments with bamboo.
Rewind to the beginning… How did babyjo come to be?
After working for several years in my organic online baby store I realised I wanted to develop and promote my own sustainable baby brand. Through research I found babyjo as a business for sale. After speaking with the [previous] owner we realised we were both on the same page. She was moving in another direction, and the values of babyjo aligned perfectly with mine – not to mention that my 14-month-old son is also called Jo! We both felt it was meant to be. Originally babyjo was created to cater for babies who had eczema-prone skin, and bamboo was the perfect solution due to its naturally therapeutic properties.
What kind of pieces do babyjo offer?
The babyjo range has wonderful classic pieces such as the kimono-style baby rompers and divine newborn bamboo swaddle blankets and beanies. I have now expanded on the current range and I am excited about its future.
Are new babyjo products released as part of a seasonal collection or do you follow a different model?
The biggest driver for me is ethical sustainability. It is my belief that seasonal ranges just for the sake of fashion are not in alignment with ethical sustainability. In a bid to reduce the impact of traditional consumerism and production, babyjo has chosen to have high quality, classic pieces that remain beautiful in years to come. Supporting this will be ranges that are inspired by needs, interests and local artists. Babyjo will have the much loved bamboo range and a new fair trade organic cotton range to complement our ethos of creating beautiful, sustainable clothing that is made with love.
That’s exciting! When will the free trade garments be available?
The range is due midyear. This is a really exciting step for me personally as it is such a fantastic way to be of service in my business. It has always been a dream of mine to create ethical work opportunities in developing countries.
Currently babyjo products are extensively made from organic bamboo fibre. What makes bamboo so special?
Bamboo makes gorgeous fabric because it is naturally antibacterial, odour-resistant, highly breathable, biodegradable and super soft. In order to meet the wash and wear demands of babies, we added organic cotton into the fabric mix, as bamboo on its own is very delicate.
Since having children, my passion has been organic baby products – so discovering the benefits of bamboo was very enlightening. Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on Earth. Therefore it’s a highly renewable resource.
Is bamboo fabric accessible for manufacturing in Australia, or do you need to source it overseas?
Although bamboo is now being farmed in Australia (on a small scale compared to China), unfortunately there is currently no local bamboo fibre production available for us to utilise. I sincerely hope to see this change soon so we can have a fully self-sustaining bamboo manufacturing industry in Australia.
For manufacturing we have sourced a facility in China that employs very high work safety and environmental standards, and that uses effective waste water treatments to ensure that additives used in the process do not end up in the surrounding environment. All our bamboo garments are made from 100% organically grown bamboo farms. The fair trade will use 100% organic cotton.
What excites you most about having your own label?
Touch is vital to a newborn. I believe that what they first wear is so important. When my children were born, I chose only products made by businesses that I felt were ‘conscious’. To me, that meant the products were made with the baby’s health, comfort and soul in mind – and made with love. I am blessed to be returning this love. For me, every time I create a new range I am doing exactly this.
There must be some challenges too?
The greatest challenge for me at the moment is aligning my vision of ethical and fair trade practices into the production cycle, which I mostly have no control over. Currently China is the only place to source bamboo textiles, but they have no Fair Trade agreements in place. What I have done is source the best factory I can, and expanded the range with other eco textiles.
Bel: This bit following could be laid out as a break-out box? If so, instead of Melisa’s question, and the first para (green highlight), replace them with:
“It is never too late to be what you might have been”.
I have always been inspired by these words by English novelist, George Eliot.
In honour of Mothers Day, can you offer some words of wisdom for any mums reading?
Something that always inspired me is a saying by [English novelist] George Eliot: “It is never too late to be what you might have been”.
This inspired me because I have always wanted to make a difference and love what I am doing in the process. Before my organic baby journey, I was earning a large income in a soulless job, paying the bills, and going home feeling defeated, exhausted and broken. One day I decided to just stop. This left me with no house, no car, and no relationship. It was in this moment of self-discovery, that I was born. This birth resulted in a new way of seeing, a new way of being and a new belief in what was real for me.
Three key things that I have learnt are:
- Self-love is everything. If you cannot find what makes you feel loved and happy, then you are not living the life you were born to live
- Open your eyes to what is in your life now. Let go of anything and everyone who does not support you to feel happy and inspired.
- Have the courage to BE YOU, and let life happily support you!
Melisa Gray-Ward is a writer and editor focusing on fashion and literature. Originally from Melbourne, she now lives in Berlin. She is a self-confessed reader, daydreamer, tea drinker, shoe hoarder and puppy lover.
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