As a young mother – and the founder of Mama & Joey, an Isle of Man-based company that offers sustainable maternity and breastfeeding-friendly clothing – Katy Collister has her hands full.
The Manx businesswoman launched Mama & Joey earlier this year and has since been busy doing everything from designing the company website, to sourcing suppliers, and handling marketing.
“We try to pick items that can be worn before, during and after pregnancy so clients can get the most wear out of these carefully selected items,” explains the mother of two young girls.
Collister is also conscious about conservation, noting that budget prices combined with clever marketing from large corporations encourage consumers to make impulse purchases without thinking about the wider implications, including the environmental impact and even factory working conditions.
“The fashion industry contributes enormous amounts of carbon dioxide to our atmosphere and fast fashion items just aren’t designed to last. I like to stock timeless styles that don’t follow current trends, won’t go out of fashion, and won’t be thrown away in a few months’ time.
She also prefers to stock items made in Britain, but this has proven difficult and is one reason why she has been looking at developing her own product range. Her current suppliers are global, and Mama & Joey now offers handmade tops and dresses made from repurposed saris in India, and brands that use recycled materials or are made from organic cotton or hard-wearing linens that stand the test of time.
“We also use eco-friendly compostable postal bags and brown paper bags when selling in person.”
Her brand appeals to other new parents who share her environmental concerns.
“It is our children’s generation that will be left to try and repair the damage caused by global warming.”
The mental and physical load of being a parent can be overwhelming at times, however, and she occasionally needs to take a break from her efforts to be sustainable – guiltily resorting to disposable diapers once in a while.
“Sometimes we just have to be kind to ourselves and realize that it is okay to be imperfectly trying our best. As a family, we continue to do what we can do to reduce our environmental impact. We switched to a plant-based diet – doing our best to eat locally sourced produce – and we try to minimize our packaging and food waste and buy lots of second-hand items.”
Although – like parenting – running a business can be exhausting, it has also been a dream come true. Still, it took Collister a long time to tell her husband that she longed to start her own venture.
“He was incredibly supportive, but for me it has brought fears and anxieties to the surface that I didn’t know existed, and yet I wouldn’t change a thing…It is absolutely worth it and every time someone tells me that they love an item that I have stocked, or I make a sale, I can’t describe how happy it makes me.”
Family love and encouragement is the most precious reward of all.
“My eldest daughter Elowen is three and she tells me she is proud of me and wishes me luck every time I head off to a pop-up shop event and that makes it all worth it.”
Collister says we can all be doing more to reduce our environmental impact on the planet.
“Particularly within the fashion industry, as consumers we need to look beyond the price tag of an item and think about how that item came to be. More generally, I have noticed that vegan alternatives are becoming more mainstream, and there is so many more choices available now.”
She says that producers and manufacturers have a big responsibility to ensure they move towards sustainable practices, and consumers need to support the companies that have already taken that step.
“The biggest thing we can do is just consume less. Investing in slow fashion pieces will cost more initially but remember that fast fashion pieces are not designed to last. If you take a longer-term view, you can absolutely save money on the cost per wear.”
In her own business, Collister plans to increase her range of products and move into stocking reusable and eco-friendly mother and baby essentials.
“I also want to open a retail store if I can find the right space. Longer term, I have plans to launch a Mama & Joey branded range to offer sustainable and ethical slow fashion pieces that can be worn throughout breastfeeding days and beyond.”