Meet Mikaela, my friend and fellow Factory45 entrepreneur who just launched her colorful, funky organic kidswear shop, Ruth & Ragnar on Tuesday. Mikaela Wallinder Clifford has combined a background in humanitarian work with her life-changing experiences as a mother to create a socially responsible apparel company for kids. Her web shop is chalked full of cute, funky (did I already say that?), colorful (and that too), gender-neutral apparel like leggings with red and blue dachshunds or pink and orange zebras wearing top hats with reflective glasses or yellow armadillo tshirts. Yes, it's that awesome.
In addition to offering a highly curated collection of Scandinavian-designed organic kidswear, Ruth & Ragnar is pioneering a new line of kids clothing that will be made entirely from US-grown-and-knitted organic cotton. The new line will be fully transparent, sustainably-made, and highlight humanitarian aid projects around the world, because raising awareness and changing attitudes is at the forefront of Ruth and Ragnar’s core values.
If you haven't read Mikaela's fascinating story yet (like how she disabled old land mines in Western Sahara or lived in Singapore), she's a seriously impressive women with some fantastic values - check out her blog for more details. Mikaela has been diligent in figuring out sustainable solutions for her new line of clothes and has been a big inspiration for me as I researched sustainable solutions for the Bicycle Wrap Skirt. Since she's well traveled, invested in humanitarian work, and lives by the beach in California, I decided to ask her how she finds her Earth-life balance. Here are her answers.
Describe your work in a few sentences.
I am curating organic kids fashion and running an online store offering organic kidswear from a mix of sustainable brands. I am also designing and creating my own line of organic kidswear to be made entirely in the USA.
How is your work influenced by the environment?
For my own line, I am actually using photography from travels that I’ve done around the world. It can be photos of animals, scenery or architecture. All places I’ve visited through travels and work have inspired me and I want to share those experiences with the world; I am using eco-friendly materials and production to do so.
Describe one place on Earth that inspires you.
One place! Really? That’s too hard – the planet inspires me. I have never been anywhere on earth where I haven’t been inspired by my surroundings. Some highlights have been living and working from a tent in Western Sahara, floating in the Dead Sea in Jordan, train hopping around the insanely beautiful countryside of Italy, standing on a mountain in awe and speechless by its beauty in New Zealand and watching the sun set over the pacific ocean nearly every day here in California, That’s why traveling and living in different parts of the world is like a drug; once you start you can’t stop. It’s so eye-opening, challenging and inspiring to get to learn how people live their everyday lives around the world. It has really opened my eyes to how I live and what changes I can make to live a more peaceful and sustainable lifestyle. It’s incredible how diverse this planet is, how many languages and customs and insanely gorgeous scenery there is. If I could, I would see it all! So yes, earth inspires me – the entire planet.
What is your favorite outdoor activity?
Walking! I could walk for days on end if I had the time. I love walking as a form of exercise, as a form of sightseeing, as a form of meditation and as a form of socializing. In my previous work I used to hear the most horrific stories that used to make me doubt there was any goodness left in this world – stories from refugees that have been through such indescribable torture by other people that I simply felt, what’s the point? But then I’d go for a walk on the beach, see the children play – families laughing, get my blood pumping and the endorphins moving and I’d feel and see the beauty of life again. I used to always tell the people I was working with that when things are rough, go for a walk. Many come from countries where they used to be able to walk everywhere and they can’t believe no one walks here – especially in the city suburbs so eventually they stop walking too and I could see the difference in their mood. Walking was not going to fix all the horrific things they carry with them from their past but we all noticed how the energy gained from walking and the fresh air helped getting through the everyday struggles of starting over in a new country.
Do you have any go-to items of clothing for that activity?
Anything! That’s the beauty of it. Just go outside in whatever you’re wearing and start walking!
Name one Eco-friendly practice that you regularly incorporate into your life or business.
I am using organic cotton grown and knitted in the USA in my own organic kidswear line due later in the spring. I spend a very long time finding the greenest printer in the USA and TS Design in North Carolina was the only one that lived up to my sustainability standards, I therefore went on a search for a pattern maker and sew shop in North Carolina that could help me create my line. Although southern California has a wealth of amazing production companies, it made no sense sustainability-wise to me to ship the clothing back and forth between the east and the west coast. I found an amazing collaboration partner with SewCo., a full-service cut and sew manufacturer of highly crafted sewn objects in North Carolina. Now we are leaving as small eco-footprints as we possibly can by centralizing everything in one State. The fabric and the thread are both sourced in North Carolina where the printer and manufacturer are based.
What do you do every week to find your Earth-Life Balance?
I go to the beach nearly every day. I don’t know if it’s the sun or the waves, the ocean, the atmosphere or simply a combination of all of the above but it heals whatever is broken, it inspires new ideas, it makes me appreciate what I have and it makes me conscious of my choices. It’s why we’ve chosen to live here despite how expensive it is, how much traffic there is – it just makes me so happy and restores my balance. I try to go every day, even if it’s just to cycle down there for ten minutes to see the sunset.
Name your top 3 favorite animals.
I’ve grown up with dogs and am a full on dog lover so that would have to be my first choice. I also love flamingos because of their bright color. When I was working in Tanzania I got to see them in their natural habitat as we drove past this lake and they were just stunning – with the back drop of the green, lush mountain – it was like art! Third, hmmm.., probably puma. They are such mysterious animals and you never really see them featured anywhere, they get overshadowed by the leopard and cheetah but they are just stunning creatures. And for some reason, I’ve always called my closest friends pumas and that’s what they call me. I have no idea why or when it got started but that’s what they are, my pumas.
Thanks so much Mikaela and congratulations on your launch and your beautiful funky website! :)
Check out her website here: www.ruthandragnar.com. And if you plan to do any shopping, you better hurry because word on the street is that she's sold out of some styles already!