As millennials age into parenthood, it should come as no surprise that a generation concerned with overconsumption and global warming is looking for the most sustainable way to clothe and raise their children.
The result is a circular economy of baby clothes aided by social media. “Facebook marketplace has really become the baby-gear silk road,” says Sashi Dharann, a social worker and father of a nine-month-old girl.
Despite the best intentions of this new group of parents, the chaos of early parenthood means the temptation of cheap new singlets and onesies has not completely disappeared.
This week we spoke to three new parents about how – in between bouts of interrupted sleep and endless loads of laundry – they make mindful purchases for their babies.
The father of twins: don’t waste money on nice baby clothes
According to James Gallichio, a web developer and father of two-month-old twin girls, “there is simultaneously no ‘fast fashion’ with baby clothes – because it all gets recycled and reused between families – and there is only fast fashion with baby clothes, because they grow out of everything so quickly”.
He and his partner have not bought any new clothes for their daughters because they’ve been given plenty of hand-me-downs from friends. He says it would be “insanely expensive” to buy a new set of clothes and undershirts every few months – “and even more so if you’re like us and have twins”.
Their twins were born prematurely, and Gallichio and his partner turned to online groups, and other families who’d gone through a similar experience, for support – and babywear. Being gifted premature-size baby clothes was useful, as they can be more difficult to source than newborn-size garments.
Gallichio once worked as a stylist, but thinks there’s no point spending money on nice baby clothes as infants grow so quickly. “I don’t really care what my daughters look like at the moment,” he says. “I just want them to survive past the useless blob stage and not be covered in poo while they’re at it.”
The thoughtful buyer: we trade bags of clothes
Wendy Syfret, the author of The Sunny Nihilist, says the last fast fashion item she bought was a onesie for her six-month-old daughter, “hurriedly thrown into a cart when the idea of doing laundry seemed overwhelming”.
“Not surprisingly, it made me feel gross,” she says.
As a parent, she wants to preserve her beliefs and value systems, and pass them on to the next generation. “Not to think too hard about the onesie, but so much of being a parent is trying not to lose pieces of yourself. Buying something so against my values felt like that.”
Organising clothes-swaps with friends and online platforms is Syfret’s preferred way to consciously source baby clothes. “I always appreciated circular economies but between parents it’s pretty much a form of communication,” she says. “Half the catch-ups I have are initiated as a way to trade bags of clothes.”
Becoming a parent has also changed the way she views her own wardrobe. “I imagine giving clothes to my daughter in the way my mum handed stuff to me. I notice I take better care of things now because I want them to last another 20 years. Rather than just picking up whatever from the mall, I really want to buy things I can hand down.”
The sceptic: don’t get sucked in by the marketing
Like Gallichio, Dharann and his partner haven’t had to buy many baby clothes because second-hand donations have come in “thick and fast” from friends and relatives. But he’s still mindful of how marketers attempt to capitalise on the susceptibility of new parents.
“When you’re about to have a baby you become so overwhelmed by everything you may or may not need to purchase,” he says. “Your web browser knows you’re going through this vulnerable moment so they target all their advertising to this specific purpose. You can really get sucked in if you don’t take stock and just stick to the basics, and only get what you need.”
Dharann is also wary of his own desire to dress his daughter. “You’ve just had the cutest baby that’s been born in this world, so you realise … they’ll look incredibly cute in anything,” he says. “You have to remember that and not get carried away with [buying] everything.”