By Emily Fonnesbeck
Photos by Justine
When going out to buy baby clothes, either for your child or someone else’s, you have a dizzying amount of options. A lot of things, while on the outside appearing nice, are cheaply made, ill-fitting, and chemical ridden. Kelly Engel saw this problem and addressed it head-on by creating a line of fashionable, functional, and earth-friendly baby clothing, blankets, and even toys.
Growing up in her hometown of Buffalo, New York, Engel learned to sew from her mother. Although she enjoyed it, at first she shied away from the textile field. After college, she got a teaching job in Colorado where she met her husband. The couple wanted to move to a more permanent location and rightly decided to make Boise their home.
After the birth of her first child, Engel realized that there were very few baby clothes that were eco-friendly, comfortable, and durable. After trying unsuccessfully to find shoes to fit her son’s slender feet, she decided to make her own. The shoes were a success, and many people complimented and inquired about them. After working out the kinks and fulfilling many requests from friends and relatives, she decided to open her Etsy shop. Entitled Growing Up Wild, Engel has been using this online front since January 2011. Since then she has made over two thousand sales in her Etsy shop. Engel also sells her baby items in local Boise shops Bouquet and Indie Made, as well as in numerous locations both nationally and in international markets like Japan and Australia.
Future plans for Growing Up Wild don’t include world domination, but they do include Engel getting her products to people seeking a quality handmade item that leaves a small carbon footprint. Engel spends roughly five hours a day sewing, packaging, and managing her brand, and she takes quality control very seriously. Engel says, “I want to make clothes that are meant to be played in, things that can be handed down.”
Being a mother of two boys, she understands the need for comfortable and functional clothing, and says, “My boys are happiest when they aren’t wearing anything, so I want my clothes to be as close to naked as possible.” This means soft fabrics colored with water-based eco-friendly dyes, seams in the right places, snuggly blankets, and cozy hats. She is conscientious of how fabrics lay on the outside, yet also places just as much emphasis on how an article of clothing lays and feels on the inside.
Owning and operating your own small business is no small job, and Engel knows how hard it can be to work as a mom and run a business at the same time. She supports others like herself by buying small batch fabrics designed by other moms with similar goals. She also employs two other seamstresses who are mothers like herself.
For now, Engel is happy as a work-at-home mother of two, and she continues to enjoy providing others with gifts and items that are comfortable for the body and for the earth. Growing Up Wild baby clothes can be purchased at Bouquet Flower Shop on Apple Street near Albertsons in Southeast Boise.