Creating a healthy and safe environment for children is the goal of most parents. With increased understanding of how some synthetic chemicals impact human health and the natural environment, the demand for certified organic items, and particularly organic products for kids, has soared over the last decade (the family organic lifestyle was made popular by Hollywood actress Jessica Alba in her quest for an Honest life).
While it’s becoming much easier to source some organic products such as organic baby food and children’s clothing, organic bedding for children is one essential item that has been overlooked… until now.
Two years ago, Victor and Alex Cetinic, had their own struggles trying to find ethically-made organic bed sheets for their children (now aged five and three) and their frustrating experience led them to start their kids organic bedding brand, Wriggly Toes.
“Our youngest had eczema which prompted us to look for bedding that was cotton and least likely to irritate,” explains Victor. “That’s when we started to unravel the whole world of Oeko-Tex certification and subsequently GOTS certification.”
In the textile industry, there are certification standards and labels that indicate a textile’s environmental and social commitment. Two such standards are Standard 100 by Oeko-Tex and GOTS, or Global Organic Textiles Standard.
So what’s the difference between Standard 100 by Oeko-Tex and Global Organic Textiles Standard?
Standard 100 by Oeko-Tex is an internationally recognised standard that primarily focusses on a textile’s product safety and its impact on human health. It essentially tests for harmful substances (legally banned chemicals and even chemicals suspected to be harmful) in all materials and textile products, whether made of natural fibres such as cotton or semi-synthetic fibres such as bamboo. Performed by independent third party laboratories, Standard 100 by Oeko-Tex will test for more than 100 substances known to be harmful including Azo dyes and colourants, formaldehyde, pentachlorophenol, cadmium and nickel.
GOTS, on the other hand, is a comprehensive end-to-end framework that considers organic farming methods such as pesticide and water usage, the textile’s impact on the environment and its social impact too, whether the workers are treated fairly and ensuring no child labour. It is the leading textile processing standard for organic fibres such as cotton and hemp. Globally recognised and accepted in all major markets, GOTS considers the entire textile supply chain, from seed and harvesting of raw materials right through to processing and packaging. As GOTS independently verifies the processes involved to ensure it is consistent with its high ecological and social standards, customers can have peace of mind knowing that a GOTS certified product has been audited and meets the strictest standards of ethical and organic production in the textile trade.
“We really identified with the GOTS certification as it seemed to tackle far broader implications of the cotton trade; by contrast Oeko-Tex only guarantees there is nothing harmful in the final product,” explains Victor.
However the couple struggled to find suppliers and manufacturers that knew about GOTS certification, and realised that they had to make advocacy a part of their mission. “From that point on it become our motto, to raise awareness of GOTS and organic cotton.”
So given their struggles, how did the pair settle on a manufacturer?
“Finding the right people for the right job is very hard to do, our manufacturer took us the longest time as we wanted to find the right balance of ‘needs to be GOTS’ but can’t make our product unaffordable, and we need to be able to trust them.
“We also really wanted to make this an all Australian product but ultimately the price point is a really key driver to our success too.”
Encountering many with a ‘no problem’ attitude (which the couple translated to ‘problems later’) they finally settled on a partner in Coimbatore, India. “We were really surprised [that they wanted to work with us] as they are such a big manufacturer; we didn’t think they would deal with us little guys. I think we got really lucky to find them.”
The couple’s determination and patience paid off; Wriggly Toes organic bedding is both Oeko-Tex certified (holding the second highest level, Product Class II which includes bed linen) and GOTS certified.
Now most certified organic bedding brands gear their products to adults, leaving the market starved for organic bedding that appeals to kids. Thankfully, Wriggly Toes fills this gap, creating lovely children’s organic bed sheets that feature super cute designs and gender neutral tones.
“We wanted to create quirky and magical characters to appeal to parents and children,” shares Victor. “We were so lucky to find the most passionate and amazing graphic designer Marta Escarra who shared our vision and became part of the Wriggly family.
“Marta was so passionate when we spoke to her and we were totally blown away by her talent and dedication for Wriggly Toes that the worst thing we could have done I think was interfere with [her design process].”
With backgrounds that seem unusual for running an organic bedding business (Victor is a software engineer and Alex is a pharmacist) how do the busy parents tackle the many entrepreneurial challenges that come their way? “Things take a really long time especially when you have two kids, two working parents and one passion project,” muses Victor. “We were lucky enough to have time up our sleeves so we could slowly invest time into this to get things on the right track. It’s taken us over a year to open our doors.”
While it’s still early business days for the entrepreneurial pair, officially launching Wriggly Toes in November 2018, the brand’s future looks bright.
“The highlight has been getting validation from customers that we have something people like,” says Victor. “In the week or so before our official launch, we had the website online and ready to go, and Google had probably only just indexed us. Someone was patient enough to paginate through all those search results to find us on page 200 or so and was so excited to see our bedding and sent us an email saying she wanted to buy our product but couldn’t because the website wasn’t taking orders at that stage!”
A promising sign for any business is observable customer demand, and as the couple switch gears from the R&D phase to the marketing phase, success will surely follow.
To browse the gorgeous range of children’s sustainable, organic bedding, visit wrigglytoes.com.au.