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How it all started: owning a sustainable clothing shop - OAT & OCHRE
How it all started: owning a sustainable clothing shop - OAT & OCHRE

It all started about seven years ago when I had my first son. Like many first time parents, the first baby items I wanted to purchase was clothing. I always knew I wanted to be a mum and longed to be in the baby section of clothing stores. I would look over at the tiny baby sleepers and the little booties only to imagine by own little babe in the exact outfit. 

When I was about four months along with my son I started to shop for clothes. I would go to all the big box stores and walk out with bags full of items. I didn't know how many sleepers I would need, or how many bodysuits to buy, but one thing I did know is that I wanted ALL of the baby clothes. As I was getting closer to my due date and beginning to organize the nursery, I could not get over how many clothes this baby had. How and why did I buy this much? Not to mention the clothing that was given to me by family and friends. There was no way that one baby could wear all of these items. I would have to be layering sleepers and bodysuits to make sure everything was worn at least once. Think Joey wearing all of Chandlers clothes "could I be wearing anymore clothes?"

Once Sawyer was born I loved getting him dressed. I soon begin to have favourite items that I would consistently put him in. More often than not, I would choose clothing based on the comfort level (i.e. soft materials, stretchiness) and how easy it would be to take off and on. This meant that a lot of 'trendy' baby clothes went untouched, some would still have the tags on as I was cleaning out his dresser and storing away the smaller clothing sizes. Now don't get me wrong, I can appreciate a cute pair of baby denim overalls on the hanger, but putting it on your baby is a whole other ball game. Poor Sawyer would be laying on the floor under his play arch unable to move and trapped in a denim prison. Not exactly what I pictured when I purchased the outfit. 

When it came time to pack away the clothes that were too small I would always feel an immense amount of guilt and shame. One baby does not need all of these clothes. So much so, that there are items that have not even been worn. I would comfort myself by saying that I would use them for the next baby or I could donate them. Unfortunately, it took about a year and a half for me to really change my shopping habits. It was a slow process, but I soon started to find brands that fit my particular baby the best (long and skinny), this would narrow down where I shopped and ultimately how much I would purchase. Making sure that the clothing I was buying would be worn on a regular basis.

When Sawyer turned two I found out I was pregnant again and this time we were expecting twins. At our 20 week ultrasound we were told they were fraternal twin boys. This was perfect, all those clothes I had stored could be used again... or for the first time. I specifically remember pulling out clothing bins from our under the stairs storage and pulling out Sawyers old clothes, only to see that many of these items would not work for my twins. I was going to have 3 kids under 3, there was no way I was going to take the time to put my newborn in a five piece outfit. I could just picture myself trapped in pure chaos, one baby crying because it had shit itself, my oldest running around naked with his dong out and piss on the floor (potty training was difficult for this one) and then me in the nursery attempting to snap on a dumb tie to my babies business casual look. I did not have time for this. To add salt to the wound the boys were also born in different seasons so I had no need for all of these fleece sleepers in August. Now I felt frustrated, why do I have all this baby shit and no baby to put it in? 

I organized the clothes, stored some nostalgic items, kept some more versatile pieces for the twins, and once again, donated a ridiculous amount of baby clothes. When I would be dropping off these trash bags of baby clothes to Value Village or Goodwill I naively assumed that the clothes would soon be utilized by another parent. Yes I spent way too much on baby clothes, but at least someone go to wear them...right?

Fast forward a couple more months and we became a family of five with the arrival of Noah and Avery. I was officially a mum of boys. Life was a shit show. Everything revolved around efficiency. What clothes were the easiest and quickest to get on. There was no way I was going to worry about seven buttons, a clasp, and a random vest to complete the look. It did not matter what time of day it was, sleepers were the way to go. I was given a couple bamboo and organic cotton sleepers as baby shower gifts and these became my go-to for the boys. As soon as they were washed, I would have them back on the following day. The material was so soft, super stretchy, and the fit of the sleepers was perfect. My baby didn't look like a wrinkly old man drowning in fabric (if you have had a newborn, you know what I am talking about). 

I took a look at the brands and went online to purchase more but I was shocked by the price tag. How could one sleeper cost $35.00? Blasphemy! I could go to a big box store and buy one for $8.00. I focused specially on the price tag and not what the price tag meant. So I would just hope that someone would gift me the items and I continued to purchase low quality clothing that I did not particularly like, but was comforted by the price of the clothing.

Time goes by quickly and the boys were a year. I went and visited my best friend and she began sharing with me how she was purchasing adorable high quality baby clothes from some Etsy shops. Naturally, I needed to check these shops out for myself. I fell in love with a couple shops who made beautiful basics from sustainable materials right here in Canada. I felt good about supporting a Canadian shop and didn't mind paying the higher price tag when it came to supporting a small business. Over time, I began to purchase more and more items from these shops and less from big box stores. I wanted to find even more brands to support so let the crazy googling begin. This is when I found brands such as; Tiny Button Apparel, Jax and Lennon, Lou Lou Lollipop, Whistle and Flute, and so many more. 

I would start purchasing less clothing items and try out new brands during end of the season sales as the prices are often more affordable. Soon my kids closets were full of sustainable clothing brands and the clothes were not only adorable, but they were holding up. I was able to wash items over and over again and they were still soft! Sawyers items were able to be passed down to his younger brothers and were still in great condition. 

Around this time a couple popular documentaries were released about fast fashion, clothing waste, and how the clothing industry is a major contributor to climate change. I would binge watch these shows and spend hours googling. Often this would lead me to feel hopeless and anxious, it would result in me having long existential conversations with my best friend about the state of our planet, and she would calm me down and bring me back down to earth. Eventually I learned to feel empowered with this information. I was a consumer, I can make the choice to support companies who are making a difference and as a result I started to purchase from sustainable and ethical brands for myself and my husband. I would research which materials were considered eco friendly and why. Along with where clothes were being made and who was making them. What conditions were these workers in? What impact does my purchase have on the environment? 

In 2019 I became pregnant with our daughter, Quinn. To say I was excited to buy girls clothing would be an understatement. Finally, I could shop on the other side. Up until this point in my life it seemed like a forbidden territory only reserved for friends and families babies. But by this time I knew what brands I loved, what was a realistic and reasonable amount of clothing to have for a newborn and I thoroughly enjoyed the shopping experience. There were even pieces from her older brothers wardrobe that were able to be passed down to their little sister. All of the items in Quinns wardrobe were well loved by her and there was no shame or guilt due to overconsumption.

We had six weeks of pure bliss before March 2020 came and smacked the world right in face. Being stuck at home with four littles ones and feeling like there was no end in site I just started researching. I was bored and needed to feel productive. I started looking into organizations who promoted and supported ethical manufacturing methods while simultaneously researching which brands were following these codes of ethics. The more research I did the more amazing sustainable and ethical brands I cam across. With the being said, I also found a lot of brands who were greenwashing themselves and claiming to be sustainable while not actually integrating ethical ideologies into every facet of their brand...(*cough cough* h&m). Over a year of research and I was unable to find a platform that showcased strictly sustainable brands. A one stop shop if you will. There was a gap in the market and I could fill it. Add another couple of months of research, networking, and more research and here we are... oat+ochre is official. 

It has been a long journey and definitely not something that can be summed up in one blog post; however, I am excited to be on it. I feel hopeful for the future of oat+ochre. To say I am excited would be an understatement, lets go with something more like...fucking pumped, yeah, I am fucking pumped to see what is coming down the pipeline for oat+ochre. 

Thank you for coming along with me for this crazy ass journey. 

Rosalyn Campbell