LAST YEAR THE BABY CLOTHING INDUSTRY WAS WORTH OVER $10 BILLION IN THE US ALONE, ACCORDING TO IBIS WORLD, SPROUTFIT HAS REVOLUTIONISED FAST FASHION BABY CLOTHES.
Whitney Sokol, the “Founding Mama” of SproutFit, has created a unique line of size-adjustable, ethically produced clothing.
By the time Whitney’s son, Beckham, was 12 months old, the family had accumulated such an amount of baby clothes (hand-me downs, new purchases and gifts from friends), that he grew out of or never got to wear due to the season.
“When something finally fit him comfortably, he needed the next size a month later. It became time-consuming and frustrating to weed through clothing that wasn’t solving any of our problems. Getting the right fit is near impossible and so much time and money is spent in replacing baby clothes – not to mention many of the brands start falling apart after a few wears.”
Whitney and her husband believe in building their family in such a way that focuses on people, activities and experiences, that teach lessons and reinforces feelings of love, confidence, security and intelligence in their children.
“My most vivid memories of childhood were rooted in how I felt. Sitting my son in front of a TV constantly, or buying him more clothes and toys cannot provide that.”
As a conscious consumer, Sokol found it difficult to find ecologically considerate and American made options. As she spoke with her friends, she realised they faced the same dilemma, and were similarly seeking more sustainable options.
On a quest to learn more about the fashion industry, Whitney discovered why baby clothing sizes and quality standards are set up a certain way.
“Babies will triple in weight by their first birthday and will outgrow at least seven traditional sizes between 0 and 24 months. Parents know and anticipate this when creating a baby gift registry and prepare for the baby’s arrival. In essence, childrenswear companies have gotten away with creating the fastest revolving door in fashion.”
It is rare for adults to replace their entire wardrobe over seven times in two years, and Whitney questioned why that expectation came for parents, particularly those who wish to be seen as good providers for their littles ones.
“I felt duped and wanted to change the paradigm” Whitney explains.
Having always had a passion for entrepreneurship, setting up her first natural and organic consumer packaged goods company with a sustainable distribution and sourcing footprint at just 13 years old, she took on the challenge. Without a design background, she enrolled in Factory45, a fashion accelerator program known for taking sustainable apparel companies from idea to launch. Her studies and research led to an obvious solution for baby clothing: to create a capsule wardrobe, that can work across sizes and seasons.
“Having children and growing a family represents a time in life that naturally begs for simplicity. I know everyone can benefit from pairing down and choosing better, not more. This simple act (of capsule wardrobes) would force the fast fashion industry into a pivotal decision – to evolve with customer demands, or die.”
Like many new brands looking for investment that embraces creativity and solution-based products, Whitney launched her brand on the crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter. In less than a fortnight, through pre-selling options, SproutFit was 100% funded. The first mini capsule collection comprises of eight pieces that can create 60 unique outfits over a course of a child’s first couple of years. These include leggings, a body suit, bandana, and a blanket that can also work as a swaddle, car seat cover and nursing cover. This simplicity, Whitney believes, could be reflected in all our clothing needs, whatever our age.
SproutFit chose to manufacture in America, in order to support the domestic market. It also helped her develop better relationships with her factory and its employees, creating a positive trend of transparency and quality control, so the brand can confidently answer when asked who made the clothes. It took time to consider a sustainable fabric choice, that would be suitable for a baby, but bamboo jersey became the solution, as it is anti-microbial, hypoallergenic, and has thermo-regulating properties, all while still being durable.
“Our first preference was hemp but the comfort and stretch could not be achieved, our second preference was Tencel®, but it pilled at a quicker rate than bamboo. So, while bamboo viscose has a couple drawbacks, it was the best option. The bamboo used in our fabrics is organically grown with Oeko-Tex 100 certification and uses low-impact fiber-reactive dyes. The mill workers spinning the pulp into fabric are treated well and paid a living wage.”
SproutFit is also using recycled polyester, made from recycled water bottles, which Whitney says “are perfect for drooly babies” for backing their functional one-size-fits-all bandana bibs. Another unique feature of Whitney’s clothing, which may seem counterproductive for new brands trying to make a name for themselves, is that she decided to not have any internal tags in her collection.
“I liked the idea of no internal tags that could irritate because many babies have sensitive skin. By law, we have to include a permanent addition to the garment that outlines care instructions, size, and brand, so we are using a tagless, heat transfer label in the upper inside collar area.”
So what’s the future for SproutFit? Whitney explains, “We have a few exciting garments in development for the baby line, and have already begun initial ideation on childrenswear for 2-8 year olds. You can expect us to stay innovative and constantly improve our sustainability footprint no matter what we do next!”