To celebrate the launch of organic baby and children’s clothing brand, Frugi, at My Little Green Wardrobe, we spoke to the cult label's CEO, Sarah Clark (pictured below).
She answered all of our questions about the awesome ethical business.
Find out all about how Frugi maintains its sustainable ethos, the new Frugi repair patches, the new design on their Snuggle Fleeces, and the Frugi clothes swap rail!
So here’s everything you wanted to know about Frugi but were afraid to ask…
When was Frugi founded?
“Frugi was originally called Cut 4 Cloth, because Lucy Jewson (the founder of the company) was at home on maternity leave and couldn’t find clothes that were good enough to go over cloth nappies. And so the Frugi Parsnip Pants were evolved.”
How do you pronounce Frugi? What does Frugi mean?
Froo-gee (hard g, as in gas)
“It’s from Latin, so for those who aren’t up to date on their latin classes, it means ‘fruits of the earth’.
It started off with the innovation of wearing clothes over cloth nappies, but what was at the heart of the brand was how can you make an ethical business and still be profitable while giving back and being mindful of how things are produced.
And that’s when the name evolved and went to Frugi to represent this whole idea of us thinking about earth and nature and where things come from.
But also unintentionally it plays into this idea of thriftiness and being frugal. We want people to think they’re making a great purchase and we all need to be a bit more frugal - so it has two meanings now.”
Does Frugi sizing come up big?
“We’ve always been quite generous in our sizes.
That’s for two reasons: one is, apart from the fact we have clever clothes that grow with children, there is always a little bit of a tendency that we want them to last and kids tend to grow like weeds!
And, secondly, most of our clothes are made for twirling, swirling and playing outside in the dirt. It's not mini-me fashion, so it’s not skintight fashion clothes.
We don’t get that many returns so hopefully that’s a good sign - hopefully if people get an item and think it’s a bit big, they hold onto it until the child grows into that size.
My advice: pick the size you usually pick. It'll be a little bit generous but then it will last you a bit longer.”
How is Frugi more sustainable / ethical?
“A lot of the harm and damage of the textile industry is done right at the start of the production process, with how cotton is grown and how it’s processed.
Right from day one Frugi has only used GOTS-certified cotton which is really important to us.
Unlike in food, where there is an actual standard attached to organic, there is a much looser understanding when it comes to textiles.
But GOTS ensures lower water use, fewer chemicals and better deals for farmers.
It traces end-to-end across the supply chain so we can be totally reassured that everything is being done in the right way, with the least harm and impact on the planet that we can hope for.
We want cotton to be grown in an organic way, but equally not processed with chemicals either.
What a lot of people don’t realise is that organic is not only good for the environment and soft on skin, but it’s actually tougher because it hasn’t been broken down by chemicals.
So there is no compromise - it’s softer but tougher.”
Where is Frugi made? Who makes the clothes?
“Being environmental, we want to keep the manufacturing near the sources of the raw materials. India is a ginormous producer of cotton so we have a lot of Indian suppliers and some of them have been with us for the 18 years we’ve been in business - so very long-standing relationships. We also use neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka.
Then closer to home we manufacture in countries like Portugal and Turkey.
The most important thing for us is not so much the country but it’s that we can only choose GOTS-certified factories. It’s always the factories that are the draw for us, not the actual market.
Because they're set up with GOTS they also have much more forward-thinking environmental programmes - millions have been invested in solar power, reusing rainwater etc.
These suppliers go to the maximum effort to make the manufacturing as clean as they can be.”
Are Frugi products made in the UK?
“The ideal would be that we have much better manufacturing here in the UK and while we do own a manufacturing unit in Glasgow - where we make reusable nappies and sanitary wear - unfortunately the UK just doesn’t have enough of the skill set yet.
We just don’t have the people to run a lot of UK production.
I do philosophically wonder whether we will at some point reverse some of the globalisation seen over the last centuries and see more of a localisation where we rely more on our own labour and our own materials…
Because we can spin flax linen here but we don’t. And in years to come you do wonder how reverse the scenario will be.”
Does Frugi donate profits to charity?
“Since day one we’ve always given one percent of turnover to charitable causes - which I was very impressed with when I joined. Because it’s not even one percent of profit, it’s one percent of turnover whether we made a profit or not.
As a result of that, we’ve given over £1million in our lifetime, which is going to lots of lovely great local causes and also lots of national causes.
We’ve done a lot of work with eco-schools, which are there to make sure that nature and connecting with nature is in children’s curriculum.
The whole circle starts with children wanting to connect with nature and appreciating their environment. That's obviously the start of the journey: making people respect their environment which affects the choices they make as they get older.
We’ve also funded thousands of teachers and also done a lot of work with Leaf, part of Keep Britain Tidy.”
Is there a Frugi repair service?
“Not currently - but this summer we’ve got a series of lovely little designs and patches being released, encouraging people to mend when all the usual rough and tumble happens.
And, honestly, for a child I think it can be something very cool because then it’s something that makes the item much more personalised and relates to something they did - the little fall or knock into something… and then they get a little patch and it tells the story.
There are about half a dozen different patterned patches at the moment and people will be able to choose the colours. Some people might want complementary colours, others might want something a bit more clashy.
And then the most exciting part of it is that we’ve got this wonderful tape for mending outerwear. Because if you try to pierce or sew outerwear, you’re compromising the waterproof properties of the product.
Technically, we’re not into glue so we wouldn’t offer that as a solution, as it’s not in-keeping with our stance on chemicals.
So we’ve worked very hard to find a supplier who’s got a tape that has no chemicals but it’s still strong enough to seal outerwear.
It’s super easy to do at home and means you can get more life out of the product!
Now we just need to start encouraging this kind of mending culture at home so that we can get more life out of existing products.”
Is there a Frugi swap shop?
“We’ve just opened our very first shop in Street in Somerset where we have a rail where people can just come in and swap previously worn Frugi clothes.
As we get more physical spaces - some of them temporary, some of them permanent - our job is really to enable parts of those spaces as a swap shop.
We don’t take any commission as a brand, we just want to use the space to enable people to come in and swap - because it’s part of our ethos that we don’t want anything to go to waste.
All we are trying to do is prevent something from going to landfill. That’s the criminal end of it.”
Why have Frugi Snuggle Fleeces become thinner and reduced in quality?
“They are thinner - but it’s exactly the same quality. It took us quite a lot of development to make these fleeces a lower weight but have the same durability and provide the same warmth as well.
We wanted to remove some of the bulk to help kids manoeuvre in the product.
It’s definitely not an intervention on quality but definitely an intervention on the durability of the fleeces and making tham a bit more of a manoeuvrable product.”
What next for Frugi?
“We are very busy in product - we’re working very hard on making the products recyclable. We’re doing a lot with recycled cottons, because we think that’s very important.
We are working with the Circular Textile Foundation on how to minimise waste within design.
We are working with Leeds University on destruction testing to make sure the product really is as robust as it can be.
We are looking to open more stores because it’s brilliant to be able to see people face-to-face and not just for people to be able to see the range and feel and touch it, but also for events. Connecting over activities together is really fun.
And our poor European customers are very high on our agenda because we arrogantly just expect everyone to speak English at the moment which is not very good.
We have a lot of fans in Europe, so we’re working very hard at the moment on our German translation website and understanding more about what they’re buying, why the market is different and why that’s important.
So lots and lots on the go! We have a very small team but we’re very busy. I'm having a lot of fun.”