Emma Dhanak on ‘My Little Barfi’ & Eco-Friendly Fashion

In an interview with DESIblitz, Emma Dhanak shares the inspiration behind ‘My Little Barfi’ and its commitment to representation.

Emma Dhanak on ‘My Little Barfi’ & Eco-Friendly Fashion - F

"Sustainable, culturally rich products can be affordable."

In the ever-evolving world of children’s fashion, where trends come and go, there emerges a brand that goes beyond mere clothing.

My Little Barfi is not just a children’s clothing brand.

It’s a cultural celebration, a movement that blends tradition with contemporary style.

In this exclusive interview, Emma shares the inspiration behind My Little Barfi, its commitment to representation, and the unique balance between affordability, organic materials, and ethical production.

Join us as we delve into the heart of a brand that aims to fill a void in the market and leave a lasting mark on the landscape of children’s lifestyle brands.

What inspired you to create My Little Barfi, and how did your personal experiences influence the brand’s mission and vision?

Emma Dhanak on ‘My Little Barfi’ & Eco-Friendly Fashion - 1Initially, the idea for the brand came to me back in early 2020 before most of us even knew the word ‘Covid’.

As I was changing my then 7-month-old son who had just learned to roll, I panicked about putting him in traditional Indian clothes that weren’t very baby-friendly.

We had four weddings to attend that summer (or so we thought).

Often, they have scratchy fabrics, hooks, strings, and lots of pieces, which can be quite stressful for a first-time mum.

So, the idea was born when I said to my husband, “Someone needs to make an Asian-style baby onesie so we can change him easily at weddings.”

From that point on, I stopped and started many times and had a second baby who inspired me to continue.

While sorting my daughter’s pyjamas one afternoon, I noticed that none of the ballerinas or fairies were South Asian.

From convenience to representation, the brand mission evolved.

It was important to us that all South Asian children felt represented and seen in their everyday clothes.

While progress has been made in the media and even toys, daily clothing still lacks representation.

How do you ensure that My Little Barfi reflects the cultural richness of the South Asian heritage in its designs and overall ethos?

Emma Dhanak on ‘My Little Barfi’ & Eco-Friendly Fashion - 9At My Little Barfi, being a South Asian-owned brand is not just about ownership; it’s the heartbeat of our identity.

We ensure that the cultural richness of South Asian heritage is woven into every aspect of our designs and ethos.

We’re committed to showcasing the diversity of South Asian cultures.

From vibrant prints inspired by traditional motifs to contemporary designs that resonate with today’s kids, our pieces tell a story.

Each aspect of the prints has been thoughtfully designed.

For example, with our girls’ dancer print, we have been intentional about making sure each dancer represents a different South Asian skin tone, hair colour and culture.

In fact, with one of our blanket prints which is coming out soon, we spoke to a few Tamil women to get their honest opinion on whether or not the skin tones of the girls were inclusive.

The feedback we received was so valuable and they told us they felt some of the girls could be darker and if they were young girls they would have appreciated seeing darker-toned Asian girls.

So, we went back and changed the skin tones to truly reflect South Indian women too.

We want to break cultural barriers within our communities and get all girls to embrace their skin and identity.

We engage in a continuous dialogue with our community, valuing their insights and feedback.

This collaborative approach ensures that our designs aren’t just clothing; we want to create a movement.

Ultimately, My Little Barfi is more than a brand; it’s a cultural celebration.

We infuse love, heritage, and a touch of magic into every stitch, creating pieces that resonate with South Asian families and beyond.

How do you blend traditional South Asian elements with contemporary children’s fashion trends?

Emma Dhanak on ‘My Little Barfi’ & Eco-Friendly Fashion - 2The first thing for us was to get clear on the fact that we are not trying to replace beautiful traditional South Asian clothing.

That is not our aim at all. We want to be an option available to parents when they need to change their baby for a nap at a wedding and don’t want to put them in a random Winnie the Pooh onesie whilst everybody else in the family is so beautifully dressed.

Most families we know do matching Christmas pyjamas every year, so why not create such traditions for our festivals and celebrations?

With that in mind, the blending of traditional elements with contemporary clothing becomes simple and so fun to do!

For the prints, it all starts with creating a mood board.

We do some research to see what prints are available from mainstream brands and what is trending.

For example, unicorns seem to be everywhere in little girls’ prints.

So we came up with the idea of having flying Indian elephants – they are just as dreamy!

When writing the design brief for our graphic designer, Emma gets extremely specific about all the details from the eye shape of each fairy to the hairstyle and the individual colours.

A lot of time is spent making sure the designs are inclusive and serve a greater purpose.

The creative process takes an extremely long time but it’s always worth the time spent in our opinion.

Hearing little girls say, “I wear clothes like that!”, “She looks like me!”, “I have brown skin too” makes it all worth it.

Given your background in teaching, how did that experience shape your approach to creating sustainable children’s fashion?

Emma Dhanak on ‘My Little Barfi’ & Eco-Friendly Fashion - 8Working with kids in a teaching capacity showed me first-hand the importance of inclusion.

Witnessing the impact of diverse representation in the classroom highlighted the need for children to see themselves reflected in the world around them.

This insight became a cornerstone in my approach to creating children’s fashion that goes beyond mere clothing—it’s a form of empowerment.

Transitioning from education to the fashion production industry presented a unique set of challenges.

With zero technical experience in fashion, the journey was and continues to be, a learning process.

The initial years were marked by numerous setbacks and lots of giving up.

However, because of my background in teaching, I’ve always known the value of asking questions – it’s something we always encourage our kids to do in the classroom!

It’s all been a bit of a trial-and-error process. Even today, I approach each day with a learner’s mindset.

The fashion industry is ever-evolving, and I recognise that there’s always more to discover and understand.

Why did you choose bamboo/cotton blend muslin swaddles for your upcoming product line?

Emma Dhanak on ‘My Little Barfi’ & Eco-Friendly Fashion - 3Selecting the bamboo/cotton blend muslin swaddles for our upcoming product line was a thoughtful decision driven by several key considerations.

We were already using GOTS-certified organic cotton for all of the clothing but as the muslin swaddles are for newborns we wanted to take extra care with the fabric choice.

Bamboo fabric brings with it some incredible qualities ideal for delicate newborn skin.

It’s hypoallergenic, naturally anti-bacterial, extremely soft and renowned for its breathability.

The blend of the two fabrics provides a luxurious softness, making it ideal for delicate and sensitive skin.

As someone who suffers from eczema myself, I’m aware it’s becoming more and more common in South Asian communities.

Fabrics like bamboo and cotton are extremely soothing for such conditions and help prevent them from getting worse through irritation. The second reason is that sustainability is at the forefront of our values.

Bamboo and organic cotton are known for their eco-friendly properties and this aligns with our commitment to responsible practices.

Bamboo is a fast-growing, renewable resource that requires minimal water and no pesticides and it is also biodegradable.

Can you share the significance of launching your brand during Diwali and the response you received from the community?

Emma Dhanak on ‘My Little Barfi’ & Eco-Friendly Fashion - 4Launching our brand during Diwali was a deliberate and exciting choice for us.

Diwali, known for its celebration of family, traditions, and the creation of lasting memories, perfectly aligns with our brand ethos.

We want to become synonymous with these cherished family traditions and the joy of making memories.

Diwali, being a time when families come together, share moments, and create new traditions, provided us with the ideal backdrop to introduce My Little Barfi to the world.

The response from the community was nothing short of amazing.

We received heartfelt messages from mums who said their little ones were saying things like “this is so cool!” and some mums even shared that they wished they had these pyjamas when they were younger.

All the feedback confirmed our belief that we were filling a void and resonating with the values of the community.

How does the collaboration between you and your husband contribute to the brand’s success and unique identity?

Emma Dhanak on ‘My Little Barfi’ & Eco-Friendly Fashion - 6The collaboration between my husband and me has been pivotal in shaping the brand’s success and unique identity.

I handle the creative side, overseeing all design processes, managing production, and taking charge of social media and marketing.

From conceptualising culturally rich designs to ensuring the final product reflects our vision, my role is to infuse creativity and passion into every aspect of the brand.

On the other hand, my husband brings a logical and strategic perspective to the table.

He takes care of the numbers, managing the business side of things with a keen eye on the financial health and overall strategy of the brand.

Our collaboration is a perfect balance of creativity and logic.

We complement each other’s strengths, we soundboard ideas from the perspective of parents and he calms me down when my creative energy gets out of hand!

In a market saturated with children’s fashion brands, what do you believe sets My Little Barfi apart?

Emma Dhanak on ‘My Little Barfi’ & Eco-Friendly Fashion - 5My Little Barfi stands apart with a clear purpose and a mission that goes beyond just clothing.

Our distinctiveness lies in our commitment to representation.

In the UK market, where diversity is a reality, we recognised a gap — the absence of representation for South Asian kids in everyday clothing.

My Little Barfi fills this void. We’re not just selling clothes; we’re weaving stories, celebrating diversity, and fostering a sense of identity in the younger generation.

Looking into the future, we envision My Little Barfi expanding beyond apparel.

The world of bedding, toys, affirmation cards, and more is on our horizon. Our goal is to infuse cultural magic into every aspect of a child’s world.

We want to create an immersive experience where children are not only wearing their culture but surrounded by it, making their environment reflective of the rich tapestry of South Asian heritage.

We’re excited to explore new avenues, tell more cultural stories, and leave a mark on the landscape of children’s lifestyle brands.

How do you balance affordability with the use of organic materials and ethical production?

Emma Dhanak on ‘My Little Barfi’ & Eco-Friendly Fashion - 7Our commitment to making our products accessible while incorporating organic materials and ethical production is rooted in a belief that sustainability and quality should not come at an excessive cost.

Balancing affordability with organic materials involves meticulous sourcing and strategic decision-making.

Our pricing strategy aims to send a clear message to parents: that sustainable, culturally rich products can be affordable.

Through our pricing strategy, we invite parents to join us in creating a world where sustainability and cultural celebration are accessible to all, fostering a sense of pride and responsibility in the choices they make for their families and the planet.

As we conclude our journey into the world of My Little Barfi, it’s clear that this brand is more than a business venture.

It’s a passion project driven by a mission to celebrate diversity and weave cultural magic into the fabric of everyday life for South Asian families.

Emma Dhanak’s dedication to creating a brand that resonates with children and parents alike is evident in every stitch and design choice.

My Little Barfi stands as a testament to the power of representation, sustainability, and the unique blend of tradition and modernity.

As the brand looks to the future, we can only anticipate more cultural stories, immersive experiences, and a continued commitment to making sustainable, culturally rich products accessible to all.

To discover more, you can visit the My Little Barfi website here.

Ravinder is a Journalism BA graduate. She has a strong passion for all things fashion, beauty, and lifestyle. She also likes to watch films, read books and travel.

Images courtesy of My Little Barfi.

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