Most children don’t care whether their clothing is intended for boys or girls, Hansen says – it’s the adults who have baggage. She explains that twirling, playing dress-ups and feeling fancy are activities which can be available to anyone, and for the very young, tunics or pinafores with a nappy underneath are a practical choice for toilet training.
“Some kids just love wearing dresses regardless of whether they’re a girl or a boy.”
The demand certainly seems to be there. Of the five dresses sold on Freedom Kids’ first day in business, two went to little boys.
The site grew out of Hansen’s work as a gender and body educator. In her sexuality workshops for parents, she heard how difficult it was for families to buy childrens’ clothing that wasn’t prescriptive in terms of gender roles. This dynamic also played out at home.
“As a parent, if I go to buy my daughter some togs, there’s one colour and it’s pink,” Hansen says. “At Freedom Kids we’re not anti-pink – we’re not anti any colour – we’re anti-limitation.”
Hansen feels it’s unreasonable to limit childrens’ clothing choices at a young age when their bodies are nearly identical. She also has concerns about the “toxic” cultural messages that heavily-gendered clothing may be passing on to the children wearing them.
“I’d spoken to friends about this business idea saying, ‘Someone needs to do this,’” Hansen says. “Last December I decided that someone was me.”
Freedom Kids stocks everything from undies to overalls, representing 11 labels with five more to come on board from next month. Hansen has been thrilled with how focused and passionate her suppliers have been, even if managing their diverse supply chains is a challenge.
“The selfish side benefit of [stocking ethically-made clothing] is that everyone I’m working with is just so wonderful and lovely.”
It would be easier and less time-consuming if she had simply imported a container load of clothing made by companies not adhering to her ethical standards, Hansen says, but she’s not interested in this approach at all.
Hansen believes it would be hypocritical to seek out gender-neutral clothing for her children while exploiting those involved in manufacturing that clothing.
“Some of the clothing [on the market] is made by children in unethical companies, and by parents who haven’t been able to access education.”
She also has a strong focus on quality. Hansen says she grew up in the 1970’s and 80’s, when there was an expectation that clothing would be passed down from older siblings to several younger ones before finally wearing out. She feels that today’s fast fashion items degrade the environment by heading to the landfill too quickly.
Hansen’s ultimate goal is to open a bricks-and-mortar store. She loves the idea of a child being able to walk in and having 100 percent of clothing in the store being available to them.
“I want to make the world a better place and if I can do that through business, then that’s great.”