Thursday, 26 March 2015

Interview with Chloe Hoole, founder of new ethical brand Darlo

Chloe and Jim, Founders of Darlo 

The first brand I ever worked with on my blogging journey was Darlo, an ethical baby wear company that stands out from the rest for a very good reason. Darlo produces beautiful baby clothes made from 100% cotton. What's amazing is that for every single item that is sold, Darlo donates a whole week's worth of meals to an Indian child! My Dad was from India, I'm half-Indian so this company plays an important role close to my heart. I decided to interview Darlo founder, Chloe Hoole to find out more about the story behind the company, their work in collaboration with an India charity and their plans and hopes for the future. 

Hello Chloe! Lovely to interview you. Please tell me more about Darlo.

Darlo is a new ethical babywear brand with a difference. For every item we sell from our 100% organic cotton range we will donate a whole week's worth of meals to a child in India. Working in collaboration with Mumbai based charity Project Crayons, we have created the A Little Giving Food programme. 1 in 3 of the worlds malnourished children live in India according to Unicef. We are motivated by this serious social mission and strive to make a difference by placing giving at the heart of the purchasing decision. While there are a number of brands who donate a percentage of profits to charity we are currently the only baby wear brand with such a tangible charitable element.

How did the idea for Darlo come about?

In 2012 I spent time in various developing countries such as India, Cambodia & even had the opportunity to volunteer at an orphanage in Bolivia. This was incredibly eye opening and I was particularly affected by the lack of support structures for children in these developing countries. Basic rights that are often taken for granted such as food, shelter, and clothing are so often being denied to these children. This was something that stayed with me when I returned and I simply could not ignore the obvious truth that a relatively marginal financial contribution here in the UK could go a long way to making a big difference there. When I met my boyfriend Jim we talked at length about my experiences and what we could do to help. We both felt that the attitude of ‘what difference can I make on my own’ is ridiculous and defeatist!  Financially the contribution really doesn't have to be a lot to make a profound difference if enough people are involved. So with his encouragement and from the living room of our East London flat I set out on launching Darlo, an ethical babywear brand with’ a little giving’ at the core. With Darlo you are not only buying beautiful super soft organic cotton baby wear but you are helping the environment by buying organic and you are also feeding a child in India for a whole week. 

Darlo's range of beautiful baby clothes 

Since Darlo was established how has its popularity increased? 

Darlo is unique and totally different to anything currently on the baby market. We hear a lot of positive comments on the quality of our clothes, the unisex colours and the feel of the organic cotton but when people hear of our social mission on top of this we find this is always very well received. We were thrilled with the positive response we have received since launch. We debuted our first collection at Bubble London where we were shortlisted for the Rising Star award. Following the success here we launched into a number of beautiful independent boutiques in London and we launched our online shop in October. In addition we are also listed on NOTHS and Ebay. We had a stand for the A/W show again at Bubble and Indx kids and we have now managed to double the number of outlets we are in and also double the number of meals we have provided to Project Crayons!

Has starting a business been challenging?

Yes, extremely and every day usually presents a new challenge. When we first started out neither Jim or I had ever worked in fashion, so we were constantly learning, listening to feedback and evolving. It’s been a real adventure! Our biggest challenge has to be the arrival of our first production. We were not 100% happy with one item from the range and ended up rejecting this stock. Having a quality product is of the utmost importance to us and we had to start true to this. However when you have been dreaming of the day your stock arrives so you can start getting out there and selling, for it to arrive and not be perfect as you had hoped is pretty sole destroying, not to mention what it does to your cash flow! We always believed in the project so we just had to break down the issues and work out what to do next, one step at a time. Luckily our factory in India have been fairly co-operative with this issue and we have managed to recoup some of our losses here.

How does one item of clothing feed a child for a week?

Darlo have partnered with Mumbai based charity, Project Crayons and together we have created the A Little Giving Food programme. Rather than giving a percentage donation from our profit we wanted to provide a more tangible benefit for Project Crayons which is always donated on every item sold. Each month we pay into our food programme which then helps off set the food bill at their Udaan Ghar girls home in Mumbai. We aim to cover all food costs for the charity but eventually set up further projects to help others living in the slums of Mumbai.

Chloe and Jim at Udaan Ghar, Mumbai

Tell me more about the children that you support

All the girls at Udaan Ghar were born into local Mumbai slums and they haven’t had the easiest start in life. Their families simply can’t afford to keep them, or in more extreme cases they have been abandoned. The girls all live together at Udaan Ghar permanently and receive food, shelter, education, love and support. There are currently 54 girls ranging in age from 7-18. A chance meeting at an Indian Business Council event led me to meet Neishaa Gharat, Voluntary Director for Project Crayons. We instantly hit it off and we both got very excited about the prospect ahead. Neishaa immediately saw the benefits and potential about working with a brand and has been fantastically supportive and patient in these early stages. As mentioned above, our first A Little Giving Changes Lives Project at Darlo is to cover the entire cost of the Project Crayons food bill at Udaan Ghar, freeing up funds for Project Crayons to continue to pursue other fantastic initiatives.

Udaan Ghar

Your clothes are 100% organic cotton and amazingly soft. Tell me more.

We think there are so many benefits to organic cotton. Firstly babies often have very sensitive skin, and the materials, chemicals, and dyes used in non-organic baby clothes can be harsh and cause aggravation to their skin. Clothing them in organic cotton means only natural breathable fibers are against their skin, removing any potential for irritation. In particular if the baby suffers from eczema, changing to organic cotton is a must. Organic cotton is also much better for the environment and the surrounding farming communities near the cotton fields. Pesticides and other chemicals used in conventional cotton farming damage surrounding crops and disrupt natural ecosystems, often finding their way into water systems which contaminates the water supply to local villages. Conventional cotton farming also places great financial strain on farmers as they must buy the expensive fertilizers which can often lead them bankrupt should their crop fail. For these reasons all Darlo products are made from super soft organic cotton. 

Why would your products appeal to the conscious parent?

Following on from the above, simply when you see organic cotton is being used you know that only natural, breathable fibres are in contact with your baby’s skin. When you buy from Darlo you can be assured of the following:
  • All garments are made from 100% organic cotton
  • All garments are made in GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) accredited factories which essentially means they have been produced in clean, safe, adult only factories where the workers work set hours for fair wages
  • No pesticides are used in the production which is better for the environment, the farm workers, and ultimately for your baby
  • One item provides a week’s worth of meals for a child in India! (Gift packs 2!)

One of Darlo's gift packs

Why should buying ethically made clothes matter?

It is wonderful that ethical fashion is becoming more commonplace and more prevalent on the high street. Ethical fashion is about being responsible and this extends all the way from the factory to the consumer. As consumers we are increasingly aware of the choices we have when we shop and we are better able to understand the implications that those choices have. In 2013 The Ranza Factory Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh shocked the world with news of over 1,000 workers killed after the substandard factory they were working in collapsed. This was fast-fashions darkest day and prompted many to take ethical production seriously, with many high street brands shamed into changing their approach to production. If we choose to support brands that produce on ethical lines this can only lead to positive global change and I think in time this period will be seen as a major turning point in attitudes to ethical fashion seeing it move from the periphery to the mainstream.

Tell me more about Darlo's collection

Our first collection is our organic cotton comfies collection for babies from 0 – 12 months. The collection was inspired by the Girls at Udaan Ghar who are full of smiles, laughing and joking with each other. The home is not sad it’s bright and cheerful. Filled with amazing characters who all have such a warming aura. With this is mind it just felt right that we focused on bright, beautiful and slightly unique colours for baby clothes that captures our whole brand ethos and values.Each season we will be adding more lovely unique colours to our collection along with more styles and designs. We will soon be adding a sleep suit with zip to the range as well as a long sleeve top for the spring.

What are your future hopes for Darlo?

Soon we would hope to be offsetting all the Project Crayons food bill and to have expanded the A Little Giving Food Project into other parts of Mumbai. We hope people see Darlo as a credible force in fighting malnutrition and the promotion of ethical fashion whilst offering stylish unisex baby clothing. We want those who want to follow our work in India and the A Little Giving Food Programme to be able to do so in good detail. We want to be a transparent and inclusive brand with a completely ethical supply chain from the cotton farmers in India right the way through to the shop floor.

What an inspirational lady & company! If you would like to see the fabulous Darlo range please visit their website. As Chloe says a little difference here can make a BIG difference somewhere else. 

Thanks for reading 


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