I was inspired to start crafting baby slings after giving birth to twin boys only 16 months after my daughter, Aliya, was born. I had been using carriers with Aliya and had been a passionate advocate of all the benefits of babywearing. When Ash and Oban were born prematurely, and so soon after Aliya, I soon discovered that using woven slings made having three children under two so much easier.
It was a scary time but from the moment the twins were born I focused on being in the Neonatal Unit as much as possible, pushing for skin to skin contact to support their development and to help bond with them. I found great solidarity in the babywearing community on the Natural Mamas Forum who rallied around my efforts to hold the twins and encourage breastfeeding, which proved more of a battle with the unit staff than you might imagine.
The twins developed well and were discharged after about a month. Once they were home, I discovered the joy of using woven wraps. I found they offered the most support and allowed for the greatest adjustments - perfect for the low muscle tone that premature babies have. After all the skin-to-skin time we had had in the Neonatal Unit, the woven wrap most closely mimicked the feeling of having blankets wrapped around us - providing comfort and warmth.
Slings soon became indispensable for daily life, even simple things like getting from the car into the house with twin babies and a toddler were a challenge that slings made possible. Woven slings allowed me time to bond with the twins and give them the greatest opportunity for healthy development whilst also allowing time for Aliya, who was not best pleased about the new arrivals!
The beginnings of an idea...
I had spent time practicing as a fine artist and my father, Mike, is an artist and graphic designer and we began to discuss how sling users had little choice for elegant baby carrying, with the designs on offer tending to be either quite plain or child-orientated. This very beginning of an idea occurred just as people in the babywearing community were becoming very passionate about getting just the right blend and design to carry their little one close. To Mike and me, it seemed like the requests from the community were unanswered, and we felt we had something unique to bring to baby carrying parents.
With that, Oscha was born: a wrap company whose passion is to make baby slings with parents in mind. Wraps and carriers woven with patterns designed to allow parents to feel stylish while caring for their children. During the formation of Oscha, my passion for sustainability was also front and centre. From the very start I was passionate about using organic yarns where possible, and from that point onwards responsibly sourcing yarns with ethical provenances has always been a core principle of Oscha.
I was also clear from the beginning that all production should happen in the UK, from weaving through to fabric finishing, and that all our processes should be free from harmful chemicals. This is important, not only because our slings were to be used against delicate skin, but also to limit the environmental impact of producing Oscha's woven baby carriers.
Oscha was the first wrap company to package our slings in reusable and eco-friendly totes, we are pleased to say that this sustainable practice is now the industry norm! Over the years Oscha have made sure that all our packaging is made from sustainable sources and is either reusable or recyclable … or both!
Bringing Oscha to life...
It was a long journey. Mike and I worked tirelessly creating new patterns and exciting colourways, while working with Oscha's weavers to bring our designs to life. We quickly learned everything about our new passion, from finding ethically sourced yarns to learning about fabric production; we worked hard to find just the right tools to get Oscha off the ground, never compromising on ethics or quality.
When Oscha released its first woven wraps online in 2011 things quickly grew and we saw that people were excited to discover our colourful, yet elegant aesthetic. This fuelled our passion for creation and we were soon working on more and more designs to keep up with a growing demand for our uniquely bold and stylish baby wraps.
It was the online sling community who really spread the word and the love for the new company. I had befriended a number of babywearers whom I sent products to test out. As I gathered feedback, more and more people started to get in touch asking to be involved - these lovely people started up threads on the key babywearing forums and soon the word spread and it started to become difficult to keep stock on the shelves!
For the first couple of years everything was managed from mine and Mike's houses. Rolls of fabric were delivered to my house and spread out over the lawn, then ferried off to various seamstresses around Edinburgh. Finished slings were then stored in any available corner of the house! Quality control checks were split between me and Mike before the final product was stored in tubs in the attic; this makeshift 'stockroom' meant days were spent going up and down the ladder with bags of stock. Meanwhile, the mail was sorted and prepped in the living room while three young children clambered over the piles of blue bags.
The photography was also managed in-house, on coffee and dining tables, in the garden, with me and the kids as models. Eventually, they began to work with a local babywearer who took all our flat shots and we began to send wraps out to babywearers around the world to photograph for us - creating the amazing diverse global network of models and photographers whom we work with now.
My idea was to focus the products around themes and our first Collection was based on the Western Isles of Scotland, with colourway names such as Dura and Islay, this seemed to really capture the imaginations of the sling community.
Oscha's early customers now fondly remember the first couple of years of frenzied releases: sellouts, oversells and a constantly crashing website. At the time though, whilst being absolutely delighted by the passion of our customers, it was a struggle to manage. The website was not up to the job of sudden high peaks of traffic when new items were sporadically listed, yet the business was not able to invest in the server power needed for these short bursts of activity.
Growing and developing…
Although there was a lot of love and passion from customers, there was also a growing confusion about why Oscha weren't making more products to meet the demand. Dealing with all the customer service and social media, I began to find this pressure more and more stressful. I really wanted to work to meet that demand and have a 'real shop' instead of an empty website.
One day Vicki, my mum, came to look after the children. She took in the scene of me sitting on the living room floor doing the mail, surrounded by bags, piles of products to check and rolls of fabric around the walls, while children crawled around, and declared, â€œThis is unsustainable!â€
Eventually, we found wee workshop in Loanhead, near Edinburgh, and at that point we were able to take on some full-time staff to craft the slings and help us with customer service. The business continued to grow rapidly, and I was able to focus on developing the product range. I wanted to bring in carriers, which would offer ease for those who didn't want to wrap, yet gave similar levels of comfort, as well as the elegant look Oscha was now well known for. When the Coorie and Cairis went into production we saw a real change in the business which inspired me to continue working on developments in Oscha's woven techniques, but also on new and innovative carrier designs.
Since then there's been many more changes, the Oscha journey has been all about learning how to manage a business, developing teams and working on developing a product I love and believe in. Every day brings new challenges and exciting opportunities. At the heart of it all is still the love of sustainable and responsible design, connecting with the babywearing community, and the irreplaceable moments of holding our little ones close.
Oscha is proud to offer innovation, luxury and style for parents and children, without compromising our responsibility to the planet.