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Kids’ kit with a conscience

We were very excited this week, as we got to interview Mark Jeynes, VP of Rockin’ Baby, the children’s brand with charity at its heart. For every baby sling or pouch sold, Rockin’ Baby donates another (the aptly named ‘hero sling’) to a mother in need in Haiti or Kenya (and currently working to see if they can help in Nepal) – mother to mother.

And now Rockin’ Baby are set to launch their first range of childrenswear; a collection that is playful, cheeky, vibrant and imaginative with attention to detail. Think bright and bold, with contrasting patterns and prints. Their first line is inspired by a range of themes (and we love a theme!): Space, Circus, Woodland Wonderland, Hero and Forest Friends.

As with their slings, for every piece of clothing sold, Rockin’ Baby will donate the same item from their Hero range, brand new, to an Ebola orphan, providing vital clothing for children with next to nothing – child to child. This is a beautiful brand with a big heart.

Our interview with the brand’s UK vice president, Mark Jeynes, below, explains the inspiring story behind the company. We also have hot-off-the-press details for where to buy Rockin’ Baby childrenswear.

You’ve just had your 13th birthday. How does it feel to be a teenager? 
I like to think of us still as babies :-). Myself and Kathryn have only owned the company for five years, despite the brand itself being born in 2002. The ladies who started the company back then had a great eye for a trend and knew what was missing in the baby carrying category, so they did a superb job of bringing a new product to market.
Rockin Baby was introduced to the UK in 2013. How has it grown? 
Our first fan was Mothercare, who carried us exclusively. It was important for us that as many mums as possible knew who we were and how we differed, so we needed someone giant to get our name out there. More and more mums are realising the benefits of baby carrying, and it’s all about getting on with your daily life indoors – why put a baby in a crib to sleep during the day when you can have them with you? There is also a massive global trend towards attachment parenting right now, and I think the combination of that, our charity message and our bright designs has meant we stand out.
The Mother to Mother scheme was born in 2011 – how did the idea come about?
We have just witnessed the awful situation in Nepal, but people tend to forget that almost 316,000 people died in the Haiti earthquake. Kathryn, my US business partner, was greatly inspired by TOMS shoes and their ‘one for one’ model. As a mother of six she had worn and was an absolute fan of Rockin’ Baby slings, so when she bought the company she modified it to a one-for-one business model.
Horrified by the living conditions in Haiti, she offered to donate a sling for every one we sold. By giving a mother a sling, her arms became free – something so basic that drastically improves her ability to survive. Anything that keeps babies and children close to the parent is a huge help. We started working with a charity called Midwives of Haiti and now pay the salary for two midwives there.
Kenyan mothers, by contrast, are proficient baby carriers, but a charity called Vessels of Mercy asked if we would help the Maasaii tribes in Southern Kenya. They were carrying their babies using worn pieces of fabric, which is of course terribly dangerous. We were very happy to step in and donate there, too
How many mothers in Haiti and Kenya have you helped? 
We have donated tens of thousands. The sling we give away is called our hero sling and is bright orange, so if anybody who has purchased our slings or pouches watches a news article about Haiti, they will most definitely see women with the hero slings and instantly know they have really helped.
What are the benefits of using a sling? 
There are so many studies supporting baby carrying. There’s the obvious bonding and closeness to your heartbeat, body warmth and rhythm of your breathing, which calms a baby, but also many parents have found carrying a baby in an upright position can help ease the symptoms of colic. Whether you are in the UK or in Haiti, the slings also give you the freedom to get on with daily tasks.
In August you plan to launch a childrenswear range. Tell us more
All parents buy their children clothing, so a mother buys what she needs whilst helping another child somewhere. We are working with a charity called Child Fund International, who are helping 18 million children in 30 countries around the world. They have currently signed up to look after all the orphaned children affected by Ebola in West Africa.
With our launch collection we have already sold 50,000 units of clothing. At the end of the season we will ask Child Fund what they would like from our ‘hero collection’ of clothes (ranging from rompers and T-shirts to trousers and blankets) and will manufacture 50,000 items for them to donate – all brand new. The more we sell, the more we can give away.
From a retail perspective, what are your favourite children’s brands? 
Well given I have worked at Joules and JoJo Maman Bebe, I would absolutely say they have a place in the hearts of many a UK mum. But further afield I am wowed by Boden’s domination in the US – their simplicity and consistency is impressive. I love Crew Cuts and Tea Collection in the USA, but in the UK I am also a huge fan of The Little White Company. If I can justify spending more as a gift then Bonpoint is just gorgeous.
Who or what inspires you? 
I love travelling, so colours and textures in far flung communities and architecture and marketplaces in bustling foreign cities get my creative juices flowing. I am inspired by people who want to help and do better in the world. People like Blake Mycoskie, who started TOMS, and my partner Kathryn have taken the all-important first steps to make business help communities. I want to feel that when I have long gone I did some good too.
And where can we buy Rockin’ Baby?
We have lots of boutiques across the country stocking our childrenswear. In the UK, we are excited to announce that Fenwick and Not on the High Street have just confirmed they will be stockists – news hot off the press!
But the best possible place to view our entire collection, of course, is on our website The all-new collection drops in August!

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