If you’re looking for organic clothing for your own wardrobe, you’ve got plenty of choices… from high-end design houses to Wal-Mart, you can find apparel made from organic cotton and other greener materials in wide range of styles, and, more and more, for reasonable prices. But what about clothing for your little ones? Apparently, that’s a sector of the fashion industry still playing catch-up in this area… even as more new parents worry about exposing their infants and toddlers to chemical residue that may be found in conventional clothes for babies.
When Sameer Joshi started looking for organic clothing for his own newborns in 2008, he came away disappointed with the consistent combination of high prices and low quality they found. Rather than just settle, though, he and his co-founders got entrpereneurial, and started Funkoos Organic Baby Apparel in order to give new parents the choice of high quality, affordable organic clothes for their young children.
Now just over a year old, Funkoos offers a wide range of clothing and accessories for newborns and toddlers. The company sets pretty high standards for the items it chooses to manufacture and sell, as well as itself: “Our mission is singular – to manufacture our clothes in 100% fair-trade work environments, keep our clothing purely organic, and give a portion of our profits back to the planet through our many charitable causes.”
We like Funkoos approach to making clothes for kids. I wanted to find out more, and sent some questions to Sameer about the company’s products and practices.
Our interview with Sameer Joshi of organic baby clothes maker Funkoos
Jeff McIntire-Strasburg: On your “Our Story” page, you note that the idea for Funkoos was born with your disappointment over the organic baby clothes you found for sale – you not they were “really expensive and [of] average quality.” While that’s only been two years, have you noticed any broader efforts within the industry to raise quality and lower prices? Has greater demand for affordable, quality infant and toddler clothes free of toxins increased in this time? What’s needed to continue to increase this demand?
Sameer Joshi: We have noticed that the awareness of organic clothing is on the rise and most of the major apparel stores now carry organic clothing but quality organic clothing at affordable price is still a major gap. And, recently, the raw material prices of organic cotton have gone up in double digits; that has further increased price pressures on organic manufacturers.
Still, the demand is there: As per recent estimates, children’s (0-7 years) apparel market is $24 billion dollars (Total market includes non-organic as well as organic). Organic apparel is approx $800 million growing at a very healthy rate of 40-45%. Demand for organic clothes for babies will continue to increase as more and more people are now getting aware about toxin free options for their children.
JM-S: What specific steps have Funkoos taken to ensure both high quality and lower prices? Any missteps?
SJ: Funkoos has local representatives in India, where our products are manufactured. We quality control products on the assembly lines during manufacturing — that help keep quality high and lower prices by reducing the risk of rejection during the final inspection phase.
Funkoos may provide our suppliers with credit for purchase of raw material in bulk; this is reciprocated by suppliers in slightly lower prices that create a win-win situation.
Yes, we’ve had missteps. Manufacturing is 8-12 weeks cycle; initially, we underestimated volume movement of some of our styles and were out of stock for them. Based on this experience, we established a forecasting process that simulates demand for all our products across different channels. This has helped us to be better prepared from supply chain perspective.
JM-S: As you mentioned, your products are made in India. You’re certainly not the only company selling green products made overseas… is it just not economically feasible to make products like yours closer to home? What would need to change to make manufacturing in North America practical for a company like yours?
SJ: We would love to manufacture, or at least assemble, some products in North America, but as of now economics won’t make it feasible for majority of companies, including us. Greater support from the Federal and state governments in terms of subsidies and business assistance will offset at least some cost efficiencies gained due to overseas manufacturing.
JM-S: What green business practices have you integrated into your day-to-day operations?
SJ: We recently introduced our “recycle and save” program in April 2010. This exclusive recycling program is designed to give gently used baby clothes a second lease on life and offer significant incentive for consumers to recycle these products. Consumers can participate in this exclusive recycling program, as well as benefit their local community, by donating their used infant and toddler clothing to their local Goodwill or other charity.
By donating the clothes, rather than discarding them, Funkoos and its customers are giving these items a new lease on life, while benefiting the environment.
After donating, shoppers just need to send a copy of the donation receipt via email or fax — we can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or fax 888-666-4151. Funkoos team will verify the receipt and send a 25% off coupon code redeemable on Funkoos.com. We offer free shipping for those who participate in the Recycle & Save Program.
Consumers can use their discount to shop from a comprehensive line of Funkoos clothing that includes tees, pants, bodysuits, towels, bath robes, bibs, washcloths, sleep suits, sleep gowns etc.
JM-S: The term “organic” has been misused in a number of sectors, and the US government currently only regulates its use for food. Are certification programs like GOTS (the Global Organic Textile Standard, which you use for choosing material for your products) sufficient, or do you think that government mandated standards are necessary for regulating the organic label?
SJ: As of now certifications like GOTS are sufficient, but in next few years, as organic becomes more mainstream, we are likely to need more labeling clarity for consumers to clearly differentiate between non organic and organic clothing, and to understand the technical jargon.
Lots of complexities to making organic apparel for kids, but Funkoos seems to have a handle on them… and is making gorgeous, low-priced products in the process.