My name is Gwendolyn Gardner, and I am the founder and designer of Simply Chickie Clothing. Over 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Breast Cancer. That same week, I broke up with my boyfriend and found out I was pregnant with my little girl, Elizabeth. As you can imagine, the juxtaposition of life and death was confusing, yet transforming. I started thinking about what I put in my body and eventually what I put on it. I paid attention to smells and food and everything coming in contact with my mouth and my skin. I was eventually operated on and the cancer was excised. However, I couldn't stop there. I started taking really good care of myself—exercised—ate organically grown fruits and vegetables —and practiced yoga. I needed to live because I was going to be a single mom, and I didn't just want to be here now, but for years to come. I paid attention to labels and discovered that the lovely soft cotton clothing I enjoyed hid a dirty secret: the cotton crop is one of the most polluting crops grown.
As I started making life-altering changes, I also thought about Elizabeth every step of the way---and other children just like her. I knew for sure I was going to do everything in my power to ensure my little girl was as safe as I could make her--hence the idea of Simply Chickie was born. Since baby skin is very porous, I created an organic cotton clothing line for babies--that not only did I know would be safe for my Elizabeth and all other children who wore it, but I also printed the funny stuff that woke me up at night about babies on each piece. I wanted to make sure I gave the parents a moment to laugh because I remember a time when I couldn’t. And now, thank goodness, laughter is part of my every day.
How are the materials produced?
Organic farming is a farming system that relies on natural inputs only. No synthetically produced pesticides or fertilizers are used. Beneficial insects are allowed to flourish to keep pest insects in check. Crop rotations with legumes help maintain fertility and soil microbiology. Weeds are controlled with precision tillage and the old fashioned hoe. The successful organic farm requires much more intensive and innovative management.
I craft all of my designs based on inspiration that is sparked from interacting with my daughter, and sometimes her friends. My first design “Inside Me I’ve Got” occurred when my daughter and I were taking a nap together. Her soft breath on my face made me smile and filled me with wonder, so I wrote a poem about the experience. I printed it on clothing, and “Inside Me I’ve Got” became my best seller. To create much of the original artwork, I initially cut pieces of beautiful paper found on my travels around the world to form the outline. I then paint in the details as necessary. The design is transposed and enhanced on the computer and ultimately printed on baby rompers, t-shirts, and hats. This entire process is done piece-by-piece–in an authentic fashion–truly handmade.