Last summer we were absolutely delighted to be asked by the nice folks at the Houses of Parliament Gift Shop in Westminster to collaborate with them on a new range of sustainable organic cotton clothes for babies and toddlers. They loved the quality feel of our certified organic cotton and wanted to be able to offer their customers this ethical and planet-friendly choice. They were also attracted by our love of bright colours!
The brief was to produce a range of Baby Grows, Bodysuits, T-Shirts, Muslins and Bandana Bibs in a colourful and fun design (the LittleLeaf style!) that was unique to the UK Parliament.
The Portcullis Symbol
The crowned portcullis has come to be accepted as the emblem of both Houses of Parliament and with its reference to castles, clearly symbolises strength and security. This acceptance has come about through custom and usage, rather than any conscious decision. The adoption of the portcullis as the emblem of Parliament really took hold after Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin’s designs were chosen for the new Palace after the fire of 1834. The portcullis was the architects’ identifying mark and it’s found all over the new Palace, carved in stone and wood, as well as on books, curtains and wallpaper. It’s even cast in the metal of the Great Bell, ‘Big Ben’. You can learn more about the history of the portcullis emblem here.
Finding The Design
The portcullis logo is such a powerful symbol of the UK Parliament that we just had to use it in some way. In the UK we’re all familiar with the image from the back of our pennies. Our concern was that the image might be a bit austere, a bit historical and, dare we say it, a bit too grown-up for baby wear. But by combining the symbol with all of the fabulous colours available in the UK Parliament’s in-house colour palette – turquoise, green, yellow, pink and purple – the print really came alive.
Once the repeating portcullis design had been decided on, we set about drawing up designs for baby grows, T-Shirts, muslins and bandana bibs. A particular shade of purple that’s associated with Parliament was chosen for the rib trim around the necks of the T-shirts and bodysuits, as well as the cuffs on the baby grows at the wrists and ankles. We love a turnable cuff at LittleLeaf, as it gives that extra bit of growing room and makes our products stay useful for longer. The purple also means the clothes are suitable for both boys and girls. This unisex principle is very important to us at LittleLeaf, as it means our clothes can be passed on again and again.
Printing the Design
The other great thing about this ‘clean’ portcullis design is that we could screen print it by hand, since there are no overlapping colours to makes things tricky. We like to print this way when possible, because it brings with it so many advantages across the production chain. It allows us to produce really vibrant, durable colours and we can do this in-house with the factory we work with in India. Supporting this small-scale, artisan production means we can produce in smaller quantities, which gives us greater flexibility and less waste. Best of all, it directly supports those people who are actually doing the printing on the ground.
Who Made My Clothes?
It has always been important to us to have a close working relationship with the factory where our products are made. To meet and shake hands with everyone involved and to see for ourselves how the factory operates on a day-to-day basis. We thought this might be of interest to our customers as well, so recently we wrote a blog about our visit to the factory last summer. And we were able to time this visit so that we could see the Houses of Parliament designs coming to life as the muslins were being screen printed. It’s always a thrill to see the screens being lifted for the first time on a new design and to see the blank canvas transformed into the designs we have only ever seen on a computer screen up to that point.
You can learn more about our trip to visit the factory where LittleLeaf products are made here.
Always Choose GOTS Certified Organic Cotton
When it comes to organic provenance, you can’t get better than GOTS certification. Not only does it ensure that everything has been grown and made to the highest organic specifications, with care for the environment, but it also upholds the highest social criteria. This means you can rest assured that your products have been made with good working conditions, fair pay, holiday entitlement, the right to form unions and, of course, absolutely no child labour. Every step in the chain is regularly inspected by independent certification bodies, to ensure that these standards are maintained. In the UK these standards are administered by the Soil Association, who certify LittleLeaf.
If you’d like to learn more about GOTS, here’s a link to their website.
Caring for the Environment – It’s The Organic Way
The evidence shows that conversion to organic cotton farming will dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water usage and pollution. You can learn more about this and the benefits of organic cotton, to you, to the environment and to the people who grow and sew our cotton in our blog post here: Why is Organic Cotton Better?
Our organic cotton has so many advantages over conventional cotton, here are just a few . . .
its GOTS Certified organic, meaning you can trust our organic and fair trade claims
its made in a factory that is powered by its own solar panels
organic cotton uses 91% less water than conventional cotton
switching from conventional cotton to organic cotton helps reduce global warming
its ethically made, with fair pay and fair working conditions
Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do at LittleLeaf Organic. That’s why the GOTS and Soil Association standards are so important. They provide a strict set of standards, that you can trust, that control the use of herbicides, pesticides, harmful chemicals and unsustainable manufacturing. They also lay down, and police, rules that ensure fair working conditions and high social standards in our supply chains.
The Power of Solar
We are also delighted to be able to say that LittleLeaf products, including our collaboration with the Houses of Parliament Gift Shop are made in a factory that is entirely powered by its own solar panels.
Planet Friendly Packaging
We’ve always worked hard to make all our labelling and packaging as environmentally-friendly as possible. It’s amazing how hard it can be to ensure that all paper and cardboard is made from recycled and recyclable materials and to remove single use plastics entirely from the process. So we were very pleased that this was just as high a priority for the Houses of Parliament Gift Shop and we were delighted to be able to deliver on this commitment. So all of the hangtags, stickers and bands around the muslins are made from recycled paper and printed with eco vegetable-based inks. One of our obsessions is getting rid of those little plastic ties that are used to attach labels on clothing, so we always use string instead.
Everything also proudly displays the UK Parliament’s guiding principle of education:
“The House of Commons is made up of 650 Members of Parliament who are elected by the UK public to represent their views and concerns. The role of the House is to approve new laws, hold Government to account and debate the issues of the day.”
A Family Affair
We were thrilled when the products were finished and delivered and it was lovely to hold the beautifully soft garments in our hands. As a small business, at hectic times the whole family chips in, so when the stock arrived we were all busy putting on the size stickers, threading string and attaching safety pins, in order to deliver it to the shop as soon as possible. Special thanks to our youngest daughter, Liv, for helping so enthusiastically with this. There was a great feeling of achievement when the boxes were all packed and ready to be delivered to the shop, and it was wonderful a few days later when we got fantastic feedback from the Houses of Parliament Gift Shop. They absolutely loved the jolly designs and the quality of the workmanship and we’re looking forward to working together again in the future.
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning a little more about how these products came to life and we’re always happy to answer questions if you have them. You can see (and buy) the final products at the UK Parliament Gift Shop in Westminster or online here: UK Parliament Gift Shop or just click on one of the pictures below.