Innovations: Sensitive style

Organic baby clothes! What will they think of next?

baby clothes 88 (photo credit: )
baby clothes 88
(photo credit: )
'All-natural" and "organic" might be well-known terms for fruits and vegetables, but in recent years the trend has also moved to clothing. Mayalona, a line of organic children's clothing, uses water-based paint and organic fabrics that are good for both the environment and children's sensitive skin. For Ayelet Lev, Mayalona began as a project to encourage artistic creativity in her firstborn daughter, Maya. "I have always been involved with art and artistic projects," says Ayelet. "So when Maya was born seven-and-a-half years ago, I decided to buy some plain white clothes that Maya could decorate herself." Ayelet helped decorate the clothing and sent Maya to preschool wearing her new hand-drawn threads. It was such a hit with the other children and mothers that Ayelet started taking orders for other people, too. Since then, the business - named for her two daughters, Maya and Alona - has grown tremendously. "Once people started really liking the clothes and I saw that people were buying them, I decided to attend a workshop for women who wanted to stay home and make handmade things to sell while they raise their children," Ayelet says. Four years ago, she put up a stall in Dizengoff Center's exclusive weekend designer's market in Tel Aviv and got rave reviews. Slowly, she started manning stalls in other malls across the central area and attending festivals across the country where artistic, handmade items are sold. From plain white T-shirts with hand drawings, Ayelet expanded the collection to multiple colors and clothing styles. "I still do each and every piece of clothing by hand, so they are all different, but now I have many more items to choose from than before." The Mayalona clothing includes bodysuits for newborns and T-shirts in a range of colors, as well as pants and dresses. The decorative drawings of animals and flowers have a naïve, pastoral quality that Ayelet says will never change. "The innocence of these drawings is not like what you see on television today. They are childish, and it's important that they remain that way," says Ayelet. Although the prices are higher than for the children's clothing you find in large stores, the quality of the fabric and the uniqueness of the hand-drawn scenes keep customers returning. "Sometimes when people don't realize that I draw each and every one of the pieces, they tell me it's too expensive. But once they understand that there is only one of each article of clothing and that we use only material made with natural, organic fibers and water-based paint, they see why the clothing is more." Ayelet adds that people often think the color will fade quickly, but she says that despite being water-based paint, it stays on the fabric through many washings and is durable. After Mayalona started to expand two years ago, Ayelet's husband Mickey left his job as a manager of business development at a Tel Aviv-based company to help with the business full-time. "I got my MBA 10 years ago at the City University of New York, and one Saturday afternoon, we decided that I should take over the business development for Mayalona, too," Mickey explains. Now, the couple decides together on seasonal items, colors and designs, but Ayelet still draws the new designs herself. Inspired by both what people ask for - especially children - and her own artistic creativity, Ayelet says she's constantly drawing new animals. "We still don't have any clothing with Bambi or dinosaurs, but a lot of people wanted cows, so we added that to the giraffes, chicks, snails, butterflies and lions that I draw now," she says. "Each new drawing is like giving birth. It comes from somewhere inside me." With the Lev house entirely filled with clothing, Ayelet and Mickey are hoping to find a location for a store in Tel Aviv soon. "Our living room, kitchen and den are all covered up with clothes," says Ayelet. "The business has outgrown our house." For now, customers can find a booth in the Ra'anana shopping mall on Thursdays and Fridays and a stall in Jerusalem's Hutzot Hayotzer festival this August, or they can call and go to the Levs' house in central Tel Aviv. "We're looking for small boutiques in the United States at the moment, too," says Mickey. "We hope to keep growing and creating new, inventive lines of high-quality, hand-decorated children's clothing."