Eco friendly costumes. Yep! Did you know there was such a thing? I didn’t. Until I talked to Katie and Rachel about their new costume line, Hijinks Costumes. Katie and Rachel join me from Los Angeles, California in episode 19. They open up about what it takes to start an ethical, sustainability-focused business, and how they did it. They talk about their mission to create high quality, durable costumes that will be passed down from generation to generation, inspiring creative fun in kids forever.
And they share 6 awesome simple ideas that we can all try in our daily lives to help the earth and animals. You’ll find links to their recommendations below.
6 Simple Ideas To Make a Difference:
- Invest in companies that have sustainability as a priority. Spend a little more to support brands that clearly use environmentally conscious materials and ethical manufacturing.
- Quality vs. quantity. Rather than purchasing more, we can try to reinvent what we have. For example, rather than buying another new doll, make new clothes for the same doll.
- Mend ripped clothing and toys. Rather than tossing something for having a hole in it, teach ourselves, and our children, how to mend. (DIY video links below)
- Dye stained clothing. Rather than tossing stained clothing, throw a bunch of pieces into a bucket of dye and make something new. (DIY articles below)
- Help kids sell their toys on Facebook marketplace. Rather than immediately donating, teach kids to buy and sell second hand by letting them make their own money to use.
- Support “Right to Repair Laws”. Write to government officials asking them to pass a right to repair law in our state.
About Katie & Rachel:
Hijinks Costumes was founded by Rachel Jones and Katie Miles in Los Angeles, California in 2019. Rachel and Katie met in Los Angeles in 2017 and quickly discovered their mutual love for sewing, designing, art and fashion, becoming fast friends.
During a discussion about their children’s love for dress-up, both agreed that there was a lack of quality costumes for kids on the market. They had been in search of open-ended play costumes made from durable, natural fabrics. Unable to find these types of costumes, they resorted to making their own or buying cheap costumes that disappointed or fell apart. After talking about this shared experience, they had their “aha!” moment and Hijinks Costumes was born.
Rachel and Katie combined their design, pattern making and sewing skills and set out to rethink and redesign children’s costumes. What they came up with is a toy that will inspire and be durable enough to withstand hours and years of imaginative play.
A Focus on Sustainability:
Sustainability is a primary focus for Hijinks Costumes. A central goal of the company is to construct all of the products with recyclable, biodegradable, eco friendly fabrics and to design all of the costumes to last so that they can be used everyday, washed, and passed down rather than ending up in a landfill.
Complete sustainability is an evolving goal and they haven’t figured it all out yet, but they are continually tweaking their practices to be as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible. They currently hunt for deadstock (material left over from the end of a large production run that would otherwise be headed to the landfill) or organic cotton. They also try to find their fasteners and closures in a leftover surplus warehouse in Los Angeles, buying as little new as possible.
Inspire Imagination & Creativity:
Hijinks Costumes are all made with children in mind. Here are some cool features:
- easy to put on, take off, and fasten in the front
- comfortable organic cotton or remnant fabric
- biodegradable or recyclable materials
- durable materials that can be washed many times without falling apart
- loose jumpsuit does not restrict their body movement
- non-branded characters inspire open ended play
- gender neutral so children are not stereotyped into one costume or another
Why is Open Ended Play Important?
When you give a child a toy, or costume in this case, that is open ended, the child can really choose for that to be anything that they want it to be. Research shows that giving children open ended toys will help with their overall creativity and imagination as they grow. And although both Katie and Rachel share that they are not against character costumes, and their children have some, they wanted their line to be about inspiring open ended play.
When a child puts on a Hijinks Costume, they can create the story of the character that they become. As opposed to reenacting the character that they’ve seen on tv or in books. Hijinks Costumes are made with an eco friendly costume jumpsuit base. Hoods and tails, wings, etc. can all be added as the child would like. So they can be a unicorn dragon, for instance. Or a unicorn Spiderman, by connecting it to a costume they already have at home. The possibilities are really endless.
How Rachel & Katie Met:
Rachel and Katie met when Katie moved to Los Angeles from New York about three years ago. Katie heard from an old friend that Rachel hosts mending parties at her house, where women drink wine and sew clothes. Katie attended one of the parties and both ladies say it was love at first sight. ;-)
They both had backgrounds in sewing and had wanted to start new entrepreneurial ventures. They decided to spend a full day at the spa brainstorming ideas and eco friendly costumes were what came to the surface. They both had costume baskets for their kids, they both sewed their own costumes for Halloween, they both cringed at the quality of almost all of the store-bought kids costumes, and Katie had already had an Etsy costume shop in her past.
From then, they spent 10 months perfecting their designs and deciding how they would have them made.
Eco Conscious and Ethical Manufacturing:
Katie and Rachel started off by spending almost every day together creating patterns and perfecting each piece. They use a small batch manufacturer in downtown Los Angeles to make the eco friendly costumes. And they love that they can walk in and meet everyone, talk about their designs, and see that they’re using an ethical facility where people make a living wage.
There are a lot of small scale manufacturers all over the world, so if you’re interested in starting a small eco friendly clothing line, you may be able to find a small batch manufacturer near you. Katie and Rachel share that they really “pounded the pavement” looking for theirs and ultimately chose someone who was referred to them. There are most likely cut and sew shops in your city. Just start asking anyone and everyone you know for referrals.
As far as being a consumer, there are a lot of businesses who do share their supply chain and materials, and we can choose to purchase from them. We talked that knowing every single detail of the supply chain is probably going to be difficult. But, we can always try, and we can support businesses that honestly try too.
In episode 22, I’ll be talking to Steve Brown from The Provenance Chain Network about a software that he’s developing that will allow all of us to scan a product and see where it was made, and where the materials in it were made too.
The Hardest Part of Having a Sustainable Line:
Rachel shares that the biggest hurdle to overcome in making their eco friendly costumes is financial. Producing environmentally conscious and sustainable costumes, in Los Angeles where they can physically visit the factory and talk to the people making them, is expensive. It allows them to stay close to their mission, and to their values, but it makes it hard to get the business going. Once they’re able to reach larger volumes it will become easier. I think this is common. It’s what I found with our animal welfare line as well. If we can reach large volumes, we can bring the price down. But with very small volumes, things are expensive.
Inspiring Kids to be More Sustainable:
Katie and Rachel share ideas that they use to teach their kids about sustainability within their daily life.
Rachel told a story about how she recently talked with her daughter about wanting a new baby doll, even though she already has a few. She tried sharing the idea of giving all of her love to just one special baby doll, but her daughter wasn’t buying it. She then introduced the idea of making new clothes for her doll, and that got her excited. Rachel was able to take scrap fabric and make her daughter’s baby doll exciting again.
Katie described how she used the pandemic to teach her daughters how to sew and mend their own clothes and toys. She said that now they fix their clothes, rather than look to donate or recycle. We share tips for that below.
Another cool idea that Katie shared is to take clothing that has stains and save it in a side bucket. Once we have a few pieces we can throw them into a bucket of dye (Katie mentioned using dark blue). This dye covers the stains and creates what feels like a new piece of clothing!
Katie also mentioned that she has been helping her kids sell their old toys on Facebook marketplace. She then lets them use that money to buy their own new items, introducing them to second hand buying and shopping through a fun, real life experience. It occurs to me that this would also be a good lesson in picking durable toys, because they’re more likely sellable when they’re finished with them. Inspires strategic decision making too!
Mend & Dye Our Own Clothes:
Going off of Katie and Rachel’s suggestion to breathe new life into clothing through mending or dyeing, I’ve added some useful links for us here.
MENDING CLOTHES WITHOUT A SEWING MACHINE:
- Sew a button back on
- Repair a seam by hand
- Repair a hole in leggings
- Repair hole with iron-on interfacing
- Mend denim
DYE CLOTHES AT HOME:
- Tub dyeing instructions from Dharma Trading Co.
- Make DIY natural dyes from everyday foods
- Buy already made natural dyes
If the clothing is really something that you are ready to pass on and cannot breathe new life into, consider trading it in a forum like Trade Closet, which we discussed in episode 18. Or sell it in a second hand marketplace.
Support Right to Repair Laws:
We can all write to government officials in our state to support “Right to Repair Laws”. In general, this means that companies would be required to give us the tools to repair products that we buy, rather than assume we will just throw them away and buy new.
Many states are in the process of trying to pass these laws. They seem to be mostly focused on electronics, but hopefully this will extend to everything. Imagine what a difference it would make!
Google “Right to Repair (and the name of your state)” to see how you can support the law in your state.
Recycle Clothing That Cannot Be Worn Any More:
H&M, Zara, and And Other Stories will all take any material or old clothing for recycling. Once the clothing reaches the recycling plant, the biodegradable, natural materials, like cotton and linen, are much more likely to actually be put to good use. But it’s a good thing to know for when you’re finally done with clothing and it cannot be resold… it can be recycled. Check with your local store to see how their process works.