Hi, I'm Lucy. In 2017 I became a mum to little Layla.
I immediately became obsessed with her tiny toes and wanted to keep them warm and covered. I tried multiple different styles of baby shoes, but couldn't get any of them to stay on. Her feet were so wriggly and she quickly learnt how to pull them off.
On asking other mothers, I realised this was a widespread problem. So I decided to create a solution. The idea for Bambooties was born. A journey through baby feet measurements, podiatry, product design, manufacturers, sampling, testing and fabric research, and we finally got the design just right. They have a special design around the ankle, with velcro and elastic, so they stay on securely. We tested the final samples; they were kind around baby ankles and they didn't fall off!
So here we have it - wriggle-proof booties that keep tiny toes warm and snuggly. There are four size options - 0-6, 6-12, 12-18 and 18-24 months as well as a range of jazzy colours. The feedback has been hugely positive with one recent reviewer saying: “I love that Bambooties are soft and warm but actually stay on. Why do the other ones even exist!? So pointless as they drop off after minutes ... Before Bambooties it was babygrows all the way because that way her feet were always covered.”
Moreover, Bambooties are not just designed to solve the problem of socks and booties perpetually falling off. They’re also a product that gives back. Firstly, all profits go to ActionAid, with each pair bought providing a care package for a woman or child in need. Secondly, they’re ethically made with reclaimed cotton fabric, by a well-paid workforce of seamstresses, and packaged using recycled and recyclable packaging. So you can buy Bambooties without feeling any guilt about contributing to fast fashion and its terrible impact on the planet.
Please see below for a more detailed picture of the project and what it stands for. I’d love your help sharing this with others, so we can all raise money for a great cause and build awareness for ethical clothing manufacturing.
Thanks so much for your support. It means a lot.
What does “ethically made” really mean?
Before going ahead with this project, I wanted to make sure Bambooties could be made in a planet-friendly way. Below are some of the things I decided to focus on.
Using reclaimed cotton
Cotton farming is responsible for 24% of insecticides globally, 15% of fabric intended for clothing goes to landfill and 95% of this could be recycled. To avoid contributing to stats like these, I decided to use reclaimed fabric. A friend introduced me to an amazing husband and wife team, Deepak and Shweta, based in Delhi, India (thank you Floss!). Shweta connected me to lots of different manufacturers in the local area who would likely have excess fabric from existing production lines. The hardest bit was catching the excess fabric before it went to waste. Shweta spent ages racing to factories to try and stop them from throwing it away. We also wanted to be careful that the fabric was 100% cotton, to ensure it would be safe for baby feet. Eventually Shweta found a manufacturer who was a little more understanding about holding excess fabric for us and ensuring it was baby safe.
While we were still sourcing the reclaimed fabric, we needed to get a bit of feedback on the design, so we made the first run of booties using normal cotton. But, now that we’ve found a way to source it, every pair of Bambooties is made with reclaimed cotton. So, when you choose to buy a pair of Bambooties over another product, you’re protecting the planet by reducing fabric waste and you’re not contributing to global demand to grow more cotton, which has an impact on water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and the spraying of pesticides. There are also plenty of hazardous by-products created during fabric production and dying, so you’re avoiding all those too! :)
Treating people fairly
Another problem in the clothing industry is exploitation. 71% of clothing companies indicate there is a “likelihood of modern slavery occurring at some stage of their supply chain”. There are 152 million working children in the world, and 60% of these are involved in the clothing supply chain, often picking cotton in fields. Therefore I wanted to make sure I chose a small group of seamstresses I could get to know. Shweta and Deepak introduced me to a team of 10 seamstresses, who specialise in baby clothing, based in Delhi. They're paid properly, have good quality sewing machines and they enjoy working together as a team. So for each additional purchase of Bambooties, we’re providing them with work they enjoy while also helping them to support their families.
The tissue paper, cardboard boxes and brown paper wrapping is all made from recycled materials, and can easily be recycled again. The only part of the packaging that cannot yet be recycled is the stickers.
I wanted to make Bambooties into a giving project. I searched for a charity which combined all my interests - babies, female empowerment and the environment. I settled on ActionAid, who empower women and girls with the information and resources they need to create the future they want. ActionAid help women to make more conscious choices about the course of their lives and how many children they want.
ActionAid's work is also deeply connected to the protection of the environment. David Attenborough says that giving women power over their own bodies is vital if we want to solve one of the biggest environmental challenges: overpopulation. I also believe that women have a different way of thinking about the world and are naturally more nurturing. So, in my view, the more women we can empower to do what they want with their lives, the better chance we’ll have of preventing environmental collapse.
With the help of ActionAid, Bambooties is a One-for-One project. For every pair of Bambooties sold, we can provide a care package to a vulnerable mother and her baby, who have often had to leave home with nothing.
For every £20 pair of Bambooties sold, £5 goes to the seamstresses in India, £5 goes to ActionAid, and the remaining £10 covers the initial set up costs of the design process, sourcing and purchasing of the reclaimed fabrics (frustratingly, it's actually more expensive to buy reclaimed fabric than new fabric!), recycled packaging, carbon offsetted shipping, stall costs at local markets, website costs and transaction fees.
To those of you who have helped this project in some way - thank you! Some of you were the initial testers of my very first attempts at making a shoe for a baby. Some of you then went on to buy a pair of the first run and then sent me amazing snaps of the babes wearing them. Many of you have listened to my mad ideas, given me advice, helped spread the word, or encouraged me to keep going. Every bit of encouragement has collectively made a huge difference.
With your ongoing support, I've managed to design, test and create a pair of wriggle-proof baby booties, while also starting to raise money for women in need. And so far, by buying Bambooties, you've already provided several care packages to vulnerable new mums. So thank you!
It's been a complex journey of learning and discovery. It's, quite literally, baby steps. And the most awesome thing of all is that we're starting to make a genuine difference to people who really appreciate our help.