Peta Stinson still remembers the first week after her third son was born. He contracted meningitis at only six days old. We were emergency evacuated from Fiji and flown straight to hospital in Australia. Everything was touch and go, and we spent weeks in NICU, says the engaging academic-turned-fashion-designer. At the time, Stinson couldn't find any organic clothing that had been coloured with organic vegetable or water based dies...
“Their little lungs are so fragile,” she says. It was during these early, tiring weeks after her son arrived that the idea to create an organic cotton baby clothing label came together. Once he was on the mend, the dreaming and planning for Sapling began. “I’m the kind of person who literally has about 10 tabs open in my brain at all times. Being a stay at home mum sounded dreamy, but I was bored quickly and so the planning for Sapling happened quite intensely,” she says.
Stinson’s vision was to create beautifully designed, ethically made products. “It has always been a concern of mine that larger international corporations often take advantage of lax laws, low wages, long hours, child labour, and waste dumping among other things in the developing world. This is part of what drove me to start a company that was ethical, sustainable, responsible and respectful of our working community,” she says.
A mother of three boys (Max 11, Finn, 8, and Oliver, 5) Stinson recently relocated from Australia to Canada. ”The move to Toronto was primarily a business decision and secondarily a need to selfishly satisfy a deep wanderlust that exists in both myself and my husband,” she says. ”Raising children here has so far been a wonderful experience. Watching them adjust, and experience new things like snow, ice-skating, skiing, learning French, having access to literally everything and anything at your doorstep. It has been so fun. I think there’s so much more to education than what is taught in a class room, and by travelling the world with our kids we hope to give them a different type of education. One that is enhanced through the experience of culture and difference.”
Stinson has also just launched her long-awaited collection in collaboration with model, mother and actress Jaime King. We caught up with the founder of Sapling to find out more about the new collection, life in Toronto and her approach to motherhood .
What has motherhood taught you?
The ferocity of unconditional love.
What advice would you give to your own children on finding their career path?
For Max (age 11, hearing impaired):
You feel things so deeply within your soul. You are sensitive, loving, emotional and caring. I can literally see how deeply you feel within your big eyes. When you begin your journey to adulthood and finding a career becomes necessary, please choose with your heart. It will deaden you, if you choose something that doesn’t shine a light on your greatest gift, your heart.
For Finn (age 9, costume obsessed):
You are so incredibly blessed. You have the gift of intelligence and maturity. Please choose wisely. Think about what you can give to this world and pursue it. No dream is too big for you, but to get there, remember, you must always give your all and work hard. With that, the world is yours.
For Oliver (age 5):
You are so young, I can’t even fathom you as an adult. Working. Taking on responsibilities. As one so fiercely the centre of everyones attention, I wonder where you’ll end up. Take your time my love, be calm, there’s no rush. Stand back and look before you jump in. But always know, that whatever you do, we are here right behind you.
What advice did your own mother give you on juggling a career and family?
I don’t think my mother ever gave me specific advice. Sometimes I wish I had that kind of gingerbread house life where wisdom was handed out sagely and purposefully. But, life is life and I either didn’t listen to the advice that was given, or it was never given to me in that prepared sort of way. I guess the advice that I can take from my mother are lessons that I learned from watching and experiencing. The ones that became so ingrained in me and that at the time I’m sure were taken for granted. A couple of things I learned? Firstly, make time to read with your children. I remember the sweetness of being read to, the soothing sound, the character voices my mother would make, the sweetness and safeness of being read to, and the magic of being transported to another place. And secondly: family comes first. When faced with hard decisions try and make decisions in the spirit of what’s best for your family.
Whats the best advice you've ever been given about motherhood?
The best advice I have heard is the simple quote: ’The days are long, but the years are short.’ It always put things in perspective for me, and reminds me to appreciate the small things every day.
Can you tell us about your background and how you came to launch Sapling Child?
My background is in academics. I have a PhD in International Development and worked as a lecturer at the University of Melbourne, Deakin University, Griffith University and the University of the South Pacific. My studies focused on poverty in the developing world and issues including sustainability, health, human rights, refugees and civil action.
What inspires your designs?
It changes every season. It’s usually found in what is interesting in the environment (the sight of a bird flying, the ocean), highlighted by our underlying and unmistakable Sapling aesthetic. At the moment, I’m finding a lot of inspiration from other cultures, particularly Mexico and Japan. The history of textiles in other countries is fascinating, and an endless source of inspiration. I love tactile fabrics, textures and muted tones.
Why is Sapling Child unique in the market?
We apply amazing, incredibly thought out, unique design to a much-needed product, with a huge focus on sustainability and a commitment to social justice. Our next season drop will see some big changes (which I can’t disclose yet) in our product design, which is exciting.
What are some of your favourite items from this season?
Always, always, always our Essentials Collection. I never get tired of it. There is literally nothing softer or more timeless. My favourite pieces from the Jaime King for Sapling collection are definitely the Galaxy Bear prints. These prints were inspired by Ursa Major and Ursa Minor (Great Bear and Baby Bear), two stunning constellations visible in the Northern Hemisphere. We thought it so fitting that the love between a parent and child was literally written in the stars!
Can you tell us about your collaboration with Jaime King?
Our collaboration with Jaime King has been such a long time coming and I am so excited that it’s finally here. The collaboration itself draws inspiration from Jaimes life. From the butterflies she chased through peony flowerbeds as a child, to the ocean scape she now looks upon in LA and the spectacular sunsets that settle through the Hollywood hills at magic hour. The lotus flower, which also features in the collection has special meaning for Jaime, and myself. The lotus flower grows from the mud each morning and returns to the mud every night, yet every day it continues to flower. It’s such a powerful symbol of re-birth and purity.
What inspires you?
The talented people with who I am lucky enough to work with.
What are your tips for achieving balance?
I certainly havent found that Zen. I’m not entirely sure it’s possible to have a balance. There always seems to be a push from one side and a pull from the other, and that see saws back and forth as to what needs me more at the time. I guess once you stop actively trying to look for a balance, you find a peace within the chaos.
How do you juggle your work commitments with being a mother?
With great difficulty! When it’s pick up time, work goes away. I try and be present with the kids as much as I am able (often unsuccessfully).
How do you procrastinate?
And how do you focus?
I’m a high octane, always too much on my mind kind of person. I’ve always been in love with the idea of being a yoga or Pilates person, but when I practice, my mind always wanders towards all the things I have to get done that day. Boxing is the only thing I can do that literally forces me to focus. No other thoughts enter my head. It’s great because I find that the focus and intensity that I use during boxing generally remains with me for the rest of the day.
What's the most challenging part of running your own business?
Multi-tasking. Learning things that I have no idea about, from designing a newsletter to e-campaigns to PR. These are all things I’m learning on the fly and mostly through trial and error.
What is your advice to aspiring mother entrepreneurs?
Find yourself a mentor. Someone that has done it before, someone that can help you navigate the intricacies. Surround yourself with honest people. People that will tell you exactly what they think. People that will talk straight to you. People that will tell you honestly if they love or hate a new product and why. BUT trust your own gut. Pay attention to detail. Stay true to yourself and try not to follow fickle trends.
What's the hardest and best part of being a mum?
The hardest part is in the every day struggles. The end of the day juggling of dinnertime, with homework time and work time. The ennui in the everyday. I really need to learn to sit back and try and appreciate being in the moment more. The best part is still when they sleepily wander into bed with us at 2am, and I get to snuggle them, with the dark blue sky filtering through the window and breathe in their warm, clean, soap smelling skin.
What's your favourite part of the day?
Photography: Sisilia Piring