Yesterday Christine wrote about why we strongly suggest that you read the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Mandatory Standards for Nightware for children, before designing P.J’s for children this coming winter.
|Pillow Fight Print by ImaginArt by Lisa Flanagan|
Calm down! Don’t be afraid! It’s not as scary as it sounds!
To help you understand what you need to do, we bring you an interview with Bec from Little Toot Creations. Bec has successfully designed a fantastic sleepwear collection, whilst complying with the mandatory safely standards. If designing sleepwear is in your business plan this coming autumn, then please read on to learn what you need to do.
How long have you been designing sleepwear for children? I launched my first collection of pyjamas in August 2011 – boys’ and girls’ short and long-leg pyjama pants matched with Australian made cotton tees.
On your bike Flannel pyjamas
by Little Toot Creations
When and how did you find out that you had to abide by the mandatory safety standards when designing your PJ’s? I had the idea to start making children’s sleepwear from beautiful designer flannelette fabrics about 2 years ago.
At first I didn’t give the fire danger issue much thought, until a fellow small business owner drew my attention to the mandatory standards.
Looking into it, I noticed that most bolts of fabric, particularly flannel, carry a warning along the lines of ‘not suitable for children’s sleepwear’. This is because cotton is highly flammable, and in particular anything with a pile, like flannel.
I consulted a lawyer friend, who advised against making sleepwear from these fabrics.
Itching to find out more, I bought a copy of the Australian Standard and read up on what was required.
What was your initial reaction when you found out? It became clear, after reading up on the subject, that selling children’s pyjamas without the correct fire danger labels or having them checked for compliance with the Australian Standard was against the law.
I was keen though to see what the market’s reaction would be to flannelette sets, and so I took a risk and started making children’s ‘lounge sets’. I called my debut collection ‘Lazy days and Sundays’ and was careful to never call them pyjamas. In hindsight – it was a stupid and grossly negligent thing to do.
They didn’t fly out the door, but the more I thought about it the more I could see a gap in the handmade market for quality, handmade pyjamas, and I could see Little Toot Creations filling that niche.
What did you then have to do? I already owned a copy of the Australian Standard, but without a legal background it was a little hard to read. I started researching online and looking for others who were making and selling children’s pyjamas.
I came across a small Australian company who were matching flannel pants with cotton tees, similar to what I had in mind, and so I sent them an email.
They would have been well within their rights to dismiss me, but instead I received friendly, helpful advice on the mandatory standard and what was required.
They even put me in contact with the RMIT Textiles Testing facility, which was so supportive of my small business and put up with me asking a million questions!
What was the process that you had to go through to get your products tested and how much does it cost? The first step in the process for me was to pay for a garment assessment. This looks at the size and shape of your garment, and compares it to the Australian Standard. It also checks that your garments are correctly labelled – with the brand, size, care instructions and the right fire danger label (there are different categories of garments, which require different labelling).
They have to test you fire danger labels also, to ensure they’re not going to fade when washed. These tests cost about $230 per garment (or style).
In addition, for my winter collection (that’s just been released) I needed to have my flannelette fabrics tested for flammability. These tests were more expensive.
What would the consequences have been if you had carried on selling your non-approved sleepwear? Under the law, a supplier (which might be the manufacturer or even a retailer who on-sells the items) may be found guilty of a criminal offence if they fail to comply with the mandatory safety standard. The maximum fine is $220,000 for an individual.
This is an offence of strict liability, which means a court does not have to consider the person's intentions before finding them guilty.
Do you have any tips to other children’s clothing designers who want to branch out this autumn and create sleepwear for children? I’m all for competition in the marketplace, but each and every time I see a handmade seller doing sleepwear (or loungewear that is obviously designed for sleeping in) I cringe, because I know they are breaking the law.
On the other hand, I have come across some amazing businesses, like Sienna & Sidney (whose sleeping bags I stock at Little Toot), who are careful to adhere to the rules.
If someone is committed to their craft, and to their small business, and they want to make children’s sleepwear (this includes baby sleeping bags and a whole list of other items), then I strongly encourage them to do as I did and get some professional advice.
Sleeping bag by Sienna & Sidney
While the chances of prosecution are probably small for a small handmade business, is a risk they are willing to take?
Thank you Bec for giving us such a great insight into your business ~ many people in our community will benefit from this.