Meet Mikaela Wallinder Clifford of Ruth & Ragnar; bomb diffuser, humanitarian and socially conscious entrepreneur extraordinaire who runs a webstore full of funky, colourful, fun and gender-neutral Scandinavian-designed organic kidswear. Based in Southern California, his effervescent designer is also creating her own line of kids clothes that is fully transparent, sustainably-made in USA, and raises awareness on humanitarian aid projects around the world.
Tell us about your brand Ruth & Ragnar
I am curating organic kids fashion and running an online store offering organic kidswear from a mix of sustainable brands. Some of our brands include: Agatha Cub, Anive for the Minors, Bandit Kids, DUNS Sweden, Filemon Kid, Gardner and the Gang, Koolabah, Maxomorra, Petitbo and Shampoodle.
I am also designing and creating my own line of organic kidswear to be made entirely in the USA.
Can you give us a sneak peek into what you’re working on for 2016?
I am using organic cotton grown and knitted in the USA in my own organic kidswear line due later this year. The fabric and the thread are both sourced in North Carolina where the printer and manufacturer are based. We are completely transparent in our supply chain so you will be introduced to the cotton farmer, the pattern maker and the printer we are collaborating with to create organic kidswear here in the USA.
We have chosen to use organic cotton due to its soft nature and, unlike conventional cotton, the crops have never been treated with pesticides, insecticides, herbicides or GMOs. Conventionally grown cotton uses more insecticides than any other crop in the world and damages our waterways, wildlife, the farmers and workers who come in contact with the toxins. Organic cotton was an obvious choice.
I have a passion for photography and always loved sewing but life got so busy I forgot how much fun it is! I spent my entire working life after University in the humanitarian field and I have now found a way to incorporate my four passions: sewing, photography, human rights and my daughter into my own company by starting an ethical kidswear line.
Ruth & Ragnar is made using 100% organic cotton, entirely grown, knitted and manufactured in the USA. I am using photos I’ve taken in various places around the world to create unique fabric prints that have a story. This way I am able spread awareness about issues I care deeply about while creating funky and fabulous kidswear for the coolest kid on the block!
What is the key purpose you hope to achieve through Ruth & Ragnar?
Having worked in several post conflict countries in refugee campsand with refugees here in the US, it has become very clear to me that many conflicts leading to these humanitarian disasters are caused by a fight over land and natural resources. Sometimes hidden behind ethnic, religious or racial agendas – resources are often the underlying cause. Be it oil, phosphate, water or diamonds – these are natural resources that are used to create products that we purchase.
My travels and previous work has therefore made me realize that my purchasing choices are extremely powerful. The more questions I ask and the more research I do before I make a purchase, the more I help ensure social justice in the world. It was therefore really important to me to only use 100% certified organic cotton in our clothing.
For our own clothing line, I also found it important to manufacture in the USA as I want to be transparent and involved in the entire production process. If we as consumers have all the information through a transparent supply chain, we have the power to make an educated decision when we choose to buy from/support a company and a product.
I want parents to know who made their children’s clothes and know that the people who grow the cotton are not exposed to life-threatening pesticides in the process.
What made you go down this path?
When my daughter was born I struggled to find chemical-free, organic kidswear. Her bed had an organic mattress and soft, organic bed sheets, yet the onesies and pajamas she spent most of her time in were made with cotton grown with highly toxic pesticides. My solution was simply to purchase organic clothing from back home in Sweden and have them sent here to my home in Southern California.
When Milou wore this funky, colorful Swedish clothing, other parents noticed them every single day and I found myself writing notes with information on web stores where these clothes could be purchased in Europe. There was obviously a huge demand for organic kidswear. There was also a demand for something new and unique. I saw a gap in the market so I decided to start small and see what happened!
Since 2011 when I first came up with the idea there have been more stores popping up in the US with some organic lines. It is incredibly exciting to see the change that has happened in the past four years both in kidswear and adultwear and I think Fashion Revolution Day Campaign had a lot to do with it.
Organic went from being alternative to mainstream. It has been amazing to see this transformation and to now be a part of it
Main source of inspiration?
Our daughter Milou. I want her to grow up in a world where people care about each other and our world. I want her to have clean water, forests, lakes and be able to breathe fresh air.
What actions do you take in your daily life to lead a more sustainable lifestyle?
It’s hard to notice our own over-consumption until we get far away from it and live in a place where such luxuries aren’t available. After living in a tent in Western Sahara ten hours away from the closest convenience store I realized that all I truly need is access to drinking water, food and the clothing on my back – everything else is a want, not a need.
When my grandparents grew up they had one set of nice clothing and they were to be worn on special occasions – and they were treated like the expensive, special possessions they were. Today, we often buy clothes to be worn a couple of times just to be thrown away as they are “out of fashion” or made so cheaply and poorly that they don’t last through a playdate at the playground.
I therefore really wanted to make clothes that last; that can be inherited from sister to brother to grandchild.
What are some of your favourite brands in the sustainability community?
For clothes made in the USA with sustainable materials, my favorites are by far Forest and Fin, Eenvoud, Mamachic & Be Kind Vibes. For high quality sustainable kidswear I obviously recommend all the brands in our store and one of my all-time favorites – Polarn & Pyret.
For wellbeing I’m using Young Living Essential Oils for all my needs – no more toxic substances in our house. We have replaced our cleaning products, beauty products, medicines and lotions for oils.
It is so fun being able to create the products you use in everyday life and to know the products are completely safe for my daughter.
Who do you think are the people who are doing especially great work in the sustainability community?
Shannon Whitehead of Factory 45 for sure. I had the honor of being part of the first group of Factory 45ers and this woman is just incredible. She’s a true ChangeMaker and such an inspiration!
Images Courtesy of Ruth & Ragnar