A baby’s cry is enough to inspire any parent to act – but for Aster & Oak founder Melissa Blight, it was the cause of these cries that drove her to design and deliver a non-toxic product for little ones.
“My firstborn suffered severe allergies and eczema when he was a baby, which lasted for over four years. And once my second baby Lillian was born, she started showing the same symptoms and rashes as he did,” Melissa says.
“As we started to rule out triggers from their diets and clothing, I decided from then on I was going to do everything I could to limit their little bodies from touching anything that contained chemicals or any other type of nasties.”
Living in a small town in Western Australia, Melissa struggled to find clothing and bedding options made from non-toxic fabrics and dyes. That’s when she decided to take matters into her own hands and create her children’s clothing label.
“It needed to be something organic, non-toxic, practically designed and affordable,” Melissa says.
“I was passionate about refusing to cut corners, diligently seeking the best materials for the products, whilst still making sure all the boxes were ticked for social responsibility and without leaving a negative footprint.”
With lots of trial and error and “many months of sleepless nights”, Melissa’s third baby Aster & Oak was born in 2014.
Why organic cotton?
The Aster & Oak collections are made from 100% GOTS-certified organic cotton and dyes.
Melissa says that organic cotton offers a choice of fabric that is softer, healthier and more comfortable against a baby’s skin, while having a more positive impact on the environment and farmers.
“We are certified by GOTS, which is a worldwide standard for organic fibres. There are strict rules we must adhere to, certifications to apply for and social and environmental criteria,” she says.
“Fibres must be free from harmful chemicals, processes must reduce wastage and environmental harm, and workers must be employed safely and fairly. Our focus is to give mums and bubs a long-wearing high-quality product, which, in reality, can save them money in the long run.”
As an added benefit, without chemicals, the threads remain healthier and softer, making a more durable and silky smooth end product and will last for many seasons and babies to come.
Keeping the makers in mind
With limited manufacturing options on shore, the Aster & Oak babywear is ethically made in India and China, where Melissa says they have long-lasting relationships with their manufacturing partners.
“For many, many years the fashion industry has underpaid and taken advantage of its workers to keep costs low, especially in developing countries. The GOTS certification ensures that people throughout our supply chain from the farm to the manufacturing facility are paid in line with the International Labour Organisation standards and have a safe working environment,” she says.
Aster & Oak’s commitment to social responsibility doesn’t stop there. The babywear designer has also taken steps to reduce the environmental impact of the brand, and is officially plastic free – a huge feat for any business, let alone a product-based business that’s shipped around the world.
“All of our packaging including garment bags, postage satchels and tissue wrap are now 100% compostable,” Melissa says.
“Our packaging also carries the European & Australian certifications for being home compostable.
“We also have a no waste policy. Every garment will not be perfect; it may have a slight print error or stain when it arrives at our warehouse. But, we don’t just throw these garments away to the landfill.”
Instead, the brand distributes these pieces in its “seconds bags” for customers to enjoy at a lower price. Melissa claims this is a win-win for the business and the customer as it allows them to reduce their waste while providing products at multiple price points.
Results are everything
If the hundreds of positive reviews on the brand’s website and Facebook page are anything to go off, parents are stoked with the quality, breathability and softness of the babywear.
But Melissa says the best feedback is when it makes a real impact for mums and bubs.
“We get feedback saying our apparel has done wonders for their bub’s skin and rashes, how they wish they had found us earlier and how Aster & Oak is the only brand they buy now,” she says.
“I love this as it reminds me why I started Aster & Oak in the first place.”
Find out more and shop Aster & Oak here.