Gwendolyn Gardner Wanted To Keep Her Daughter Safe, So She Started Simply Chickie, An Organic Baby Clothing Collection

Simply Chickie

How did Simply Chickie come to be?

On a hot August weekend in 2004, I decided to break-up and move out on my boyfriend, but I wasn’t feeling well, so I went to the doctor on Monday. I found out I was pregnant on Tuesday and that I had breast cancer on Wednesday. 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: I 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 does it differ from other clothing in the same market?

The clothing is 100% GOTS certified cotton and Made in the USA. It’s super soft, and the women’s t-shirts additionally include bamboo which is anti-microbial. And, it’s funny clothing!!

How has being the great great great granddaughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne (which I think is SOOO cool!) affected your life?

I’ve grown up with a real sense of connection to American History. Many people have studied Hawthorne and his work, so there is so much information. So many family members through the generations have been very creative people—from writers, to poets, to artists. And, the women have been very strong, solid and resourceful women. In fact, Sophia Peabody (Nathaniel’s husband) was a very accomplished painter.

How has being a mom affected the way that you do your business?

As a single mom, I wear many hats, but that has also prompted me to build a village to help me out when I need to attend a trade show or handle other Simply Chickie business. I have several people who have helped me in the raising of Elizabeth.

What are some of your plans for Simply Chickie for the future?

I would like to increase our retail and wholesale presence. We will also expand our clothing and product line offerings the more popular Simply Chickie becomes.

What should parents know about buying organic clothing and the importance of it?

Organic cotton is very different from conventional cotton. Seven of the fifteen most carcinogenic pesticides are used on conventional cotton. Those pesticides can remain in the product, but additionally those chemicals get into our water. Babies’ skins are more porous than adults, so it’s important to use organic products. Organic clothing is not grown using pesticides, so children and adults won’t be exposed to toxic chemicals.

Simply Chickie
What are your personal plans for the future?

I would like to grow Simply Chickie to a global brand because I feel we all need to pay attention to what we put on our body. I feel people need to be aware of not only what they put in their bodies, but also on their bodies. Where we source the fabric for our clothing is very important to the planet as a whole.

What are some of your best-selling items?

The Inside Me I’ve Got continues to be the over the top seller. People laugh, cry, and reflect when reading it. It’s so popular that adults asked me to create an adult version. So, I did! The nautical designs are also very popular especially the Nauti-girl and the baby—I’m the result of a shore thing. Night Owl has become popular since I added it to the line very recently. One of my favorite stories is when a mom called me about the Local Chick shirt. Her daughter wore it all of the time—she called it her buck, buck shirt. The child grew, so mom needed a bigger size. She was so happy to find that I was still in business, so she could get the larger size.

What is your design process for the line?

I think of a lot of my designs when driving while looking at road signs—and thinking about the funny things my daughter says. I also wake up in the middle of the night with some fun ideas as well. I keep pen and paper next to my bed. I sketch on my computer and play with the fonts until I figure out exactly what I want—I then share them with my daughter who is very critical! Once I get it passed her I share the design with friends and family. Then, I send it to my printer who fixes issues; and, then prints the clothes!

How do you balance work and your personal life?

I don’t a lot of the time! Though, I do know that I need to maintain my health, so I fit in ice skating, running, rowing, and tennis when possible. I also make sure I maintain connections with my family and friends. And, I manage some of the meal planning with fresh delivery services like Hello Fresh and Munroe Dairy—and I make going to the farmer’s market a regular fun trip with my daughter. I watch a lot less TV than the average American, and the laundry is in the kitchen, so I can multi-task. Really! It saves a lot of time!

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