I’ve had a long relationship with the beautiful ladies at Urban Baby Bonnets (UB2) for a long time now. UB2 sent me a gorgeous bonnet for Bo when she was just a little chubby thing and I have since purchased more bonnets and beautiful dresses for Bo from the lovely selection handmade by the very clever UB2 ladies.
Being a long running sponsor of Inked, I thought it was due time that UB2 had a little feature giving you a chance to get to know them a bit better. The ethics and the foundation of UB2 are admirable and make the brand something I am very happy to stand up and support.
Meet Collette, the mastermind behind UB2.
Where did UB2 begin?
My daughter, Sabine, was born in early October 2007, and I was very lucky to have lots of support. My husband’s grandmother, Ada, lives close by and she started coming down to our house twice a week to play with Sabine while I got some work done. At that time, I was still teaching environmental studies. One afternoon, Sabine’s great-grandmother, Ada, came over with a special gift for Sabine– a little bonnet that she made. It was adorable– featuring a black retro floral fabric and long strap ties. She was so sweet to make it– she knew I loved black, and chose a fabric she thought I would love. And I did! But, the bonnet was too small. I asked Ada to make another, larger one, but I was already on a mission to make one myself.
I looked online at some commercial baby bonnets, thought about what I liked and didn’t like about each and then designed a pattern for Sabine’s first real bonnet. Oddly, I’d been collecting fabrics for a different art project, so when I completed the pattern draft, I went to my small but growing fabric stash and picked out two fabrics that seemed to really play beautifully off of one another. The bonnet I made was the “vines & goldenrod” bonnet– and it was a hit everywhere we went. It’s the “signature” UB2 bonnet– the one that’s on the front page of our website and on all of the hang tags. People were constantly stopping me, raving about how cute the bonnet was, and asking me where I got it! And I thought, if this many people love the hat, maybe I should make a few to sell! So, I snapped a few pics of little Sabine in the grass wearing her bonnet (the pic on the hang tag!) and posted a listing in my brand-spankin’-new etsy shop. And just that quickly, *UB2* was born!
What are your ethics when it comes to the design/production of your wares?
I strive for heirloom quality in every thing that UB2 sells. We are really careful with the sewing details of the hats. There are seams that cannot be seen that are treated in special ways so that the hats will stand up to many, many washes and so they will still be in great shape even after a couple of kids. That said, we’re human. And even though my sewists do quality checks, and even though I do them again before anything leaves my studio, sometimes we mess up. I recognize that… which is why we guarantee everything we sell. Nothing anyone EVER buys from us will fall apart at the seams, lose a snap, or have any other defect that could have been prevented. But in the rare case where something DOES happen, we will take the product back and replace it or repair it, depending on what happened.
In terms of design, I strive to make things that I love. I want to really feel my heart quicken when I place two fabrics together. There is a way that two fabrics will “sing” when they are the right match. Kind of like two people falling in love, combining fabrics has a special magic to it. When a combination is right, it resonates. And when I am at my best, the designs I produce are more beautiful combined than any of the fabrics by themselves. Design is the part of my work that I love– it’s my passion– and I truly love sharing the things I create with the wider public. It lets me slip a little bit of art into people’s everyday lives.
Do you live to work or work to live?
A little of both. I LOVE my work. I love design, and I do all of the fabric design for UB2 as well as almost all of the web and other graphic work. Although I have a PHD in philosophy, I am an artist at heart. After I was laid off from being an environmental studies prof, I was kind of crushed and I had no idea what I was going to do with myself, my career. But, then the bonnets found me… and I’ve realized that if I never have to read another philosophy text as long as I live, I will still be perfectly happy. And in my most honest moments, I have to admit that I never really did like reading the academic stuff. But creating? LOVE it. I would do it no matter what. When I could not afford much in terms of materials, I made things from found objects. I am an artist in the deepest and also most general sense. I strive for art when I put an outfit together, matching (or mismatching) colors, textures, patterns. I’m an artist when I make a salad with colorful tomatoes and flowers and different textures of lettuce. I’ve been a ceramcist, a painter, a metal artist, and an installation artist. And of course, most recently a fashion designer and textiles artist. For me, art is not so much something I do or make, but it’s a way that I approach the world. I am in love with beauty and resonance in the visual world… and no matter what I’m doing, I’m seeking it. So, as far as that goes, I live to work.
But I also work to live. I work at home so I can be with my daughter. Yes, it was a little bit of chance, but at the same time, I could have given up early on when things were hard. I could have taken the safe/easy route and just applied for a job working for someone else. It would probably be better pay, and would definitely be more secure month-to-month. But I do the work I do because I wanted to be present for my little girl…. and working from home allows me to do that. I also want to set a good example for her. I want her to see my work ethic. I want her to see me dedicated, working hard, and being successful. I want to be a role model for her– someone who shows her that with hard work and dedication, you can do whatever you set your mind to. Maybe it sounds trite, but I really do show her that women are amazing, creative, strong, and successful. She sees Daddy leave for work everyday and that’s one kind of model. But I am showing her, every day, that there are other ways to approach the thing that grown-ups call “work.” I want her to find her own work and love it. I feel incredibly fortunate to be in love with the work I do, and I hope I can help my daughter find that kind of success, too.
What are your dreams for UB2?
We’ve come so far! I started out with just one bonnet, sewn on a machine I bought at a discount bog-box store… to contracting with other women to do the sewing and customers around the world! My dream for UB2 is that I will someday be able to do the design, while a staff of gifted work-at-home women do all the rest. I have to admit that sometimes I have these fantasies where UB2 becomes the next “trumpette” or “tea collection.” But, as cool as that sounds, I also think I’d lose something of the hand-touched beauty that’s part of UB2 now. I think it’s really cool, for example, that I am the one that answers every single customer service email. I am the only person who ever answers the phone. I ship out just about every single bonnet myself. That’s a level of touch, of interaction that most company owners just don’t get. And although I would sometimes really like to give that work up, it’s part of what keeps me tied to the realities of the day-to-day with UB2. And I think being BIG would take that away, at least in part. Of course, the benefit of such a success would mean that I could devote myself full time to the design part of my work… which is what I most love. All in all, I just want to keep doing what I am doing. I make a living that helps support my family, and I help other women support theirs. And I provide a beautiful piece of wearable art to my customers. I think that’s perfect!
Want to get in on the UB2 action? You can find the gorgeous Urban Baby Bonnets online here and over on Facebook here. The lovely ladies at UB2 are offering you a 10% off discount for the month of August. Just use the code 10colours at checkout
And right here, on this post you can WIN ONE OF YOUR OWN! Bo has two that she has just grown out of, they are now in her keepsakes box because they are just too beautiful not to hang on to. I hope that one day her own little girl, should she choose to have one, will wear them and Bo will get as much joy from the funky patterns and fun colours as I did.
Want to win? Just like Inked and UB2 on Facebook and then leave a message on this post letting me know that you have and letting us know which bonnet you think would be perfect for the little person in your life (and then pass this competition on to your friends!). The competition will be randomly drawn next weekend with a winner announced soon after.
You gotta be in it to win it, so get in it!
*** This Competition is now closed ***
The winner of the competition is Brandee! Collette will be in touch with you shortly lovely lady!