The brand making breast feeding simple
Breast feeding, an intimate time for both mother and child, can be challenging – albeit a wonderful bonding experience. However, facing backlash for publicly feeding your own child as one mother, Lorna Cahill, experienced last Mother’s Day after breastfeeding in a pub can be all too common.
A Facebook post made by Sheldon Sparks, a man who was also in the pub, went viral after Sparks complained over how women feel comfortable enough “flop a breast out” in local pubs or cafes to feed their child. This type of behaviour is exactly what can cause mothers to feed their children in a public toilet, in fear that they too may have to experience bigoted behaviour.
Feeding your child, whether from the breast or bottle, is a woman's right and both should be supported by society. However, for women who want to make their breast-feeding experience as seamless as possible, a Swedish-based maternity brand has come up with a solution.
47 year-old Mia Seipel founded Boob, a maternity and nursing brand in 1999 after witnessing the complications her sister had when trying to feed her son. The ‘Fast Food’ nursing top was the winning idea Seipel conceived, a t-shirt with a lift-up flap that allows women to feed their child without having to fiddle with complicated fastenings.
“I bought some material, made a first prototype at home and tried it on my sister who was super positive. Then I just figured that this was such a simple idea, there must be something similar in the market,” Seipel tells sartorial snob. “When I didn’t find anything similar, I called [a club in Sweden who supports inventors] and they helped me out with how to apply for a patent, so that’s how it started.”
Almost 18 years later from her first prototype and Boob has grown to include every item a pregnant or breastfeeding woman may need, including swimwear and activewear. Seipel, who had no children when she first started, has had incredibly positive feedback from mothers.
Seipel laughed at her own surprise that she had children, she discovered how practical her inventions are. “I was so happily surprised when my first born started to scream in a supermarket,” she says. “She was really hungry and you get five seconds to solve the problem, I had my Boob dress on and from then I knew they worked.”
However, making women’s lives easier in terms of functionality is not the only thing Seipel has focussed on. “From the start, I decided regarding the production to have a production line I could stand behind and felt was okay,” Seipel explains of Boob’s ethical practices, an important aspect to her is ensuring that the factory workers who make her clothes are well supported. “My first thought was that it was probably going to be women making my clothes and I want the women who make them to have a decent salary and that’s where it started.” Boob now has suppliers in multiple countries, the main part of their production in Portugal, with some styles made in Turkey; but Seipel picks each supplier by hand, ensuring they work with integrity and treating their employees properly.
Sustainability is integrated into Boob’s foundation as a company. Although Seipel was born in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, she spent most of her childhood on her family farm where she learnt to take care of the ecosystem that she was a part of. “Also, my friend’s say my mother is the first hipster. She’s not an old school hippy, she’s really pro new technology and things.”
From 2008, almost a decade after the brand was born, Boob has increased its use of sustainably sourced materials from 20% to 93%, with plans to continue to phase out that remaining 7% of unsustainable materials. Seipel explains that as a product in the Boob collection, there is a checklist in order to fully pass the design process: “If you’re going to get into the Boob collection, first of all you have to serve a purpose, and you have to be made from sustainable material, you have to be Oeko-tex 100 certified and you have to be responsibly produced.”
It is due to being a small company (Boob reported a 47 million SEK revenue last year, just over £4 million), she says, that gives her such flexibility with her production and the ability to call the shots. Seipel thinks having no investors has enabled her to be able to continue to work towards being a completely sustainable brand, as investors would have made her cut corners because it wasn't good for the margin. However, style should never be compromised as sustainability is just a bonus. “Equally as important as your business idea is that inspiration is so important. I think that people or companies that are curating in the most attractive way ever is the new part of sustainability. That not only is it a better choice, it’s a more attractive choice,” Seipel says.
Boob released its recent collaboration in March with Emma Elwin, founder of online sustainability magazine and creative agency Make It Last. The capsule collection included black cropped trousers, a black-and-white striped Fast Food t-shirt, and an adjustable tunic dress sold out within a week. After discovering Elwin was pregnant, Seipel arranged a meeting with her, believing that it was a great opportunity for the two brands to collaborate on something that blended sustainability, fashion and maternity together into one beautiful Scandinavian capsule collection. “I think the Emma collaboration was a match made in heaven,” Seipel explains. “To start with, she was into sustainability, she was into fashion and she was pregnant with her first child and I was curious to meet her. When we met, we immediately felt like we had to do something together. For sure, Emma and I will work more together.”
Seipel is also working on adding more recycled and sustainable materials to her collections over the next year. Currently working with organic cotton, lyocell and recycled polyamide, Boob will start to close that remaining 7% gap to become a fully sustainable company. She believes that making clothes for mothers who are carrying the world’s future, shouldn’t impact on the future of the world.