Ester Ford, mumma-maker-designer and founder of kids lifestyle brand Dinki Human, tells us how she’s fulfilling her two greatest passions, and why she’s future-proofing her brand by putting social and ethical responsibility at its heart.
On the inspiration behind Dinki Human…
I started Dinki Human in November 2016, just after my daughter was born (madness!). The brand has been a dream of mine for so long that I felt maternity leave was the perfect opportunity to make a go of it. The word “Dinki” represents small, cute and miniature – it was a word I used to describe my baby in pregnancy and the phonetics mean it’s an easy word for young children to grasp. The word “Human” represents a child’s place within society; we no longer believe “children should be seen and not heard”, children are the future, they’re humans who just happen to be Dinki!
Having worked in fashion and retail for over 10 years, I had in-depth experience of the designing, buying and manufacturing process. As soon as my partner and I decided to start a family my priorities changed and I desperately wanted flexibility. I needed to carve out a new career path for myself that allowed me to be the mother I wanted to be and also the designer I wanted to be. This wasn’t easy, at all. After returning to my job after maternity leave it was clear it wasn’t fulfilling my passions as a mum or as a designer, so in March of this year I left my “9-5” and focussed on Dinki Human and Mumming.
On balancing the demands of a young business…
Start-up life is hard! Running a start-up brand alongside parenting is hard! However, I feel lucky every single day. Both of my roles as business owner and mother are the hardest, and most rewarding roles I’ve ever had. I’m fortunate that my daughter goes to nursery for three days a week, but I have a constant “there aren’t enough hours in the day” feeling!
A typical work day is spent in my home office with my French Bulldog Beetlejuice for company – I ask his opinion on ideas for graphics A LOT. As any small business owner will know, time is spent in a variety of completely different tasks. On a day-to-day basis I am drawing and painting, sewing, blogging, photographing, managing a website, managing finance, phoning my suppliers and creating content for the likes of Instagram and Pinterest.
On her decision to create gender-neutral products…
I’m passionate about gender-neutral parenting! Research tells us by reinforcing gender stereotypes we restrict our child’s choices and risk affecting their perceptions of themselves. I’m a proud feminist and I want to raise my daughter to become a strong and independent woman. When beginning my search for gender-neutral baby clothing I was horrified by the lack of options available. This isn’t just about avoiding pink for girls and blue for boys, it’s about underlying problems with shapes and slogans.
As a result I decided all Dinki Human products should be gender-neutral and all prints are designed to be inclusive and empowering. And luckily, as a lover of leopard print, I see leopard print as completely gender-neutral and I look forward to one day having a baby boy to dress accordingly!
On the importance of social and ethical responsibility…
Having worked in the fashion industry for my whole career to date, I have extensive knowledge of garment and cloth manufacture and its impact on our environment. Dinki Human is committed to operating in the most environmentally-friendly way possible, and is designed with safety and responsibility in mind. The range uses GOTS certified organic cotton and non-toxic OEKO-TEX standard inks, and the packaging is plastic-free – even the swing tags are made from recycled cotton t-shirts.
The Dinki Human collections are continuous, there aren’t “seasonal” ranges that push out previous ranges or aggressive discounting to clear old stock. Simply put, the brand is not fast, throwaway fashion to end up in landfill. I actively encourage the “Dinki Tribe” to get the most from their products and love to see things passed on to younger siblings when they’ve been outgrown.
Soon every consumer will be demanding this kind of social and ethical responsibility from brands, and Dinki Human will be ready, along with some other fantastic small independent brands in the marketplace. Manufacturing in this way is far less cost-efficient, and aligning the Dinki Human ethos in this way is expensive and time-consuming. However, I believe I’m future-proofing and building a brand with integrity, and that’s what matters.
On manufacturing in the UK…
I design everything from my home office in Dorset, I feel very lucky to live in such a beautiful place and I am heavily inspired by my surroundings. For the last two years I’ve been making everything myself, but in order to grow the brand I made the decision to have my next range of kids clothing and baby blankets manufactured in a fantastic factory in the North of the UK.
I’ve spent a long time sourcing the best materials and suppliers that fit with Dinki Human’s ethos and I’m keen for my brand to support the revival of British clothing manufacture. The range will launch in February 2019 and will be gender-neutral, ethically-made in the UK using organic cotton and packaged plastic-free.
Photo credit: Jack Ford