When I was pregnant with my daughter, we received bags and bags of hand-me-downs from other parents. We also got brand new onesies, tops, bottoms and socks in impossibly small sizes for our newborn despite not having any clothing on our registry. All that clothing was overwhelming. Where would we store it? (We lived in an apartment.) Do we really need it? (Nope.) Will she even fit in it when she’s born? (Definitely not.)
Carolyn Butler, founder and CEO of childrenswear startup Borobabi and first-time mom, had a similar experience and understood that this is a common dilemma for new parents. As a chemical engineer for over 15 years, what Carolyn also knows is that most of those hand-me-downs and fast-fashion clothing cannot be recycled. In 2018, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, 17 million tons of textile waste ended up in landfills. In fact, most clothing ends up in landfills or incinerators. And when you think about how fast our children grow, you can imagine how childrenswear contributes to those statistics.
Borobabi, which opened a pop-up in Venice this September, offers shoppers a unique and earth-friendly approach to shopping for little ones as a first-of-its-kind circular retailer for sustainable childrenswear. When I visited Borobabi’s L.A. pop-up boutique the other week, I instantly wanted to shop for my daughter. (Is it just me or is shopping for your kid more fun than for yourself?) The racks are well curated—not just by style, but by material and brand. Borobabi uses a circular economy, fiber level approach to everything they carry, which means everything you see is ethically made, organic and recyclable. You can choose to buy or rent the clothes for low monthly payments. When your child has outgrown clothing, you’re encouraged to pass it down to family or friends, or return it, in any condition, for free and receive 20% of the original purchase price in Borobabi store credit. If shopping isn’t your favorite thing in the world, you can have Borobabi’s stylists create curated bundles of new or pre-loved clothing, which is shipped directly to your door. To date, Borobabi has saved 82 tons of CO2, diverted .25 tons of clothing from the landfill, and saved 4.8 million gallons of freshwater.
Before Borobabi, Carolyn worked for big chemical companies in wastewater management, plastics, and agrichemicals, which is part of the inspiration behind Borobabi’s sustainable and circular system. When she was still working as a chemical engineer, she asked one of her bosses, “Why don’t we take this circular approach, where we take ownership and responsibility for the life of the material?” Apparently, he laughed at the suggestion. But Carolyn saw this as an opportunity. “I always had it in the back of my mind,” said Carolyn. “But once you become a mom—what is the phrase—’you’ve never known fear until you become a mom?’ and it’s totally true. I was around some of the most hazardous chemicals, and I didn’t even worry about it until I started thinking about having kids and then I was terrified that I would’ve caused something to happen to my child.” When her daughter was born, she became hyper aware of chemicals in clothing and the amount of waste that happens with clothing. She realized this was the one time in her life where her head and heart were telling her to make a difference.
Borobabi’s pop-up boutique is located at 798 Main St. in Venice. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Sept. 23.