They swept the Slovak babywearing market off its feet in Spring 2015 and they’ve been keeping us happy with their wraps since. Their slings are beautiful to look at and divinely comfortable to be wrapped in. To date, they have introduced more than 50 wraps in five designs (Roosters, Slncia, Folk, Fields of Barley and Herbs) in all colours of the rainbow. They are Sestrice, the first Slovakian babywearing woven wraps brand - but also the sisters who brought them to us - Barborka and Slavka. And who are they? What did they do before the Sestrice era, how did they get into babywearing and how do they work together? If you want to find out, keep on reading…
Sestrice, can tell us your favourite wrapping technique and wraps?
S: My current favourite is the ‘pocket wrap cross carry’. I also often use the ‘double cross’ these days because Vilko is walking now. This has the advantage of me not needing to get out of a jacket when I’m putting him in the car, I just simply take him out of the wrap - this is priceless in the winter cold!
B: I also like the ‘pocket wrap cross carry’ or the ‘ruck tied under the bum’, it depends. The ruck is handy when I need to do something. As for wraps, my current favourites are Herbs.
S: I usually pick heavier wraps now, like Triweave Folk or Herbs as these are now more comfortable because Vilko is over 10kg. It’s a good choice for a heavier toddler.
B: And of course, I always like to wear the newest wraps, they very often become the new favourites!
S: I agree!
We now know what your favourite wrapping habits are but what are your favourite things about each other?
S: I really appreciate that Barborka is responsible and hard-working.
B: I love Slavka’s humour. She is funny and fun. Oh and she is a great cook, she is the company caterer!
Can you tell us something about you that no one would guess?
S: I won the regional ‘Olympics’ in chemistry when I was about 14. Well, I didn’t see it through but you never know, if I had, I could have been the next Marie Curie!
B: When I was 6, I won a city-wide competition in hula-hooping. I actually trained for it! You had to ‘hula hoop’ as long as you could - I stopped only when I had to pee - long after all the others stopped…
S: Barborka also was the Head of the Students’ Assembly in her secondary school.
We know you today as sisters and mothers who brought us the first Slovak babywearing wrap brand. What did you do before you became Sestrice?
S: I studied Marketing at the Faculty of Management UK in Bratislava. During my studies I spent a year in Copenhagen, where I attended a Multimedia Design and Communication course. Scandinavian life really influenced me, it’s so cool! I was there with my then boyfriend, now husband, Maros, who was studying at the Technical University of Denmark. We had a first run at us living together which was amazing - we often regard this as the best year of our lives (before we had kids!) We fell in love with Scandinavian design - my husband’s Dad is an architect so it’s close to his heart as well. My course was focused on website design, corporate identity and communication which really helps me everyday now.
B: After completing the secondary school in my hometown, I went to study Marketing at the Faculty of Management UK in Bratislava. Slavka is three years younger than me so while I was in college, she annexed our room at home and after three years came to Bratislava to share a room with me again..
S: So, the same college, the same course, the same room. I couldn’t really have a wild student life since my older sister was always keeping an eye on me!
B: At least I could enjoy myself while I was on my own…
S: Just kidding, it was fun...and a great advantage to be together.
What about work, did your paths crossed there as well?
B: I started working as an Account Manager in an advertising agency during my student years and stayed with them after graduating. I was responsible for client campaigns and communication. I had various clients ranging from pharmaceuticals, banking sector, construction and industry, for example HP or Coca-Cola. My last client before going on maternity leave was the Slovakian beer brand Corgon. This job taught me a lot of the skills that I use daily in our company.
S: Barborka is the powerhouse in our team, she nags all our suppliers and contractors to get the best results, she is the team manager. Before going on maternity leave, I worked in an IT company that was outsourced by a Slovak bank for processing transactions, issuing payment cards and else. I worked as a Client Support Representative.
B: After a while, I missed creating and crafting. I worked in a creative space but my role was more managing the two sides - creatives and clients - to bring a project to a satisfactory conclusion. The problem was that there was no space for my own artistic tendencies :) I tried to find something where I could relax and create and found pottery. It was a perfect way to unwind and relax for me as I was always crafty (may I brag that I sowed a set of drapes and upholstered a headboard in our apartment?)
S: You also cut my hair!
B: Ha, yes, when we were little, for a while I wanted to be a hairdresser so I cut her hair sometimes. Then once I cut it too short and she stopped asking :) I was always drawn to creating things, to making something visible and my own.
Did you think that you will return to your jobs after the maternity leave or were you already speculating about trying something of your own?
S: No. I might have thought previously that doing something of my own would be great but I had no idea what it could be. You don’t know what it is until the inspiration comes. When I started my maternity leave it was with the intention of going back to the corporate world after. My daughter Hanka was born first and Barborka’s Matej arrived 4 months later- and since we live closeby to each other, we spent a lot of time together.
How did you find out about babywearing? Does it help you in your daily life?
S: I had bought a wrap already during pregnancy, I knew that I wanted to give it a go. I started with babywearing straight after Hanka’s birth as we had trouble with breastfeeding, we had to get help from a lactation consultant as well. In the beginning I used an elastic wrap but it wasn’t perfect and not very comfortable. But once you start and feel your baby’s body on yours, you just can’t stop, it’s an unforgettable feeling. We switched to a baby carrier and then to a woven wrap, then to another woven wrap and then another...I asked why there is no Slovak brand of quality babywearing wraps when there is a long history of textile industry and textile plant agriculture - Slovak linen was famous!
B: I came to babywearing thanks to Slavka. Matej was a happy and sound baby but suddenly stopped sleeping while breastfeeding during the day when he was only 3-4 weeks old. Slavka lent me a wrap to use and he was asleep even before I finished wrapping him :) It was very motivating, he loved being in the wrap, he fell asleep as soon as I put him in and slept 2-3 hours. Meanwhile I was bouncing on fitball, watching TV, reading or just relaxing.
S: Yeah, that was because you only had one child back then!
B: Slavka got into it more, she was buying and swapping wraps with other mums. I was trying out what she bought and using her wraps :) I then switched to a carrier, when Matej was 3-4 months old. It stopped being comfortable though so I went back to woven wraps. One day Slavka suggested ‘why don’t we weave our own wraps, let’s try to make a first Slovak woven wrap!’ So, while Matej was asleep, I sat in front of the screen and researched. I was looking to see if weaving companies still existed and and if so, where. .There might have been even some super-duper spreadsheets created in those days…
S: I’m telling you, she is a powerhouse! That’s why she is the one responsible for supplier communications.
B: Then Slavka is responsible for customer communication and idea generation…
S: ...and Facebook posts. She always says ‘Do up a nice post, just think of something.’
B: I just can put it down so nicely, she is the creative one, I am the responsible one who makes her do it and she’s the one who makes it pretty.
S: Sometimes I come in the morning saying that I didn’t sleep well and I’m not in the mood to to do anything. That’s when she comes in and very quickly changes the tone - nope, we have to do this, this and this. She is the tasklist manager as well. And a very good one at that.
B: That is certainly an advantage to there, being two of us. If there is a day when one had a bad night or is just tired, the other one can motivate and help her.
Do you ever get cabin fever?
S: I don’t think it’s Barborka who causes it when it happens - it has more to do with the fact there are 4 toddlers around!
B: I agree. But we can always get past it. I don’t even mind when Slavka is sometimes in a funny mood.
S: That was my work-related resolution for 2017, that I will complain less so that I am better to work with. That I will be in a funny mood less often :)
Do you have specific tasks, is there something that each of you is assigned to?
S: I write Facebook posts and product texts.
B: I communicate with suppliers. Customer communication is divided between us and it’s usually done by the one who is free to do it.
S: All other tasks are usually divided according to availability, kids’ sleeps and other factors...If one is giving birth, it’s just logical she is not going to pack orders :)
What about the creative process, is this a common task as well?
S: Design ideas you mean? If so, yes.
B: Not only design ideas, colour ideas but also ideas for communication, promotion activities and other things. Sometimes they come out of the blue, like, let’s do ‘Roosters on Holidays’, the following year it was the big testing box and this year we would like to do something to support regional babywearing groups as well. We also have times when we sit down and choose colours, blends, their combinations in designs and patterns. We also have to choose the right density, we decide if we do a design in a higher or lower density, there might be some discussions about that!
S: Especially when one is pregnant and thinks only about wraps for newborns and doesn't want the thicker ones…
B: New design ideas usually come from us, we give our designer the brief and he makes it into a graphic image. But for example Herbs are an exception in this, the draft design came from the designer and the final design was the product of all of our work. We also have to try weaving a design first to see how it looks in reality, if there isn’t something that needs to be moved, shifted, if it looks good from all angles, etc. It took the longest with Herbs, we had to weave them several times until we were happy with the result. It was easier with Roosters, the brief was clear and the designer knew exactly which elements we liked, for example the 19th century tulip embroidery together with the rooster design. By the way, our designer is a graduated architect with an artistic streak, a babywearing father of three and an avid follower of attachment parenting.
When you are talking about attachment parenting, how did you find out about it - was it natural or was it by the way of a book or someone’s recommendation?
S: For me, it was very natural - for example, knowing that breastfeeding is great and that letting the baby cry his heart out is not. I didn’t need to read a book about that.
B: I didn’t study anything about it either, I was just doing what I thought was natural and only after I found out it’s called ‘attachment parenting’. I did read about it later on and also attended a course called ‘To respect and be respected’, to make life easier for all my loved ones…
On almost all Sestrice photographs we can see you with a baby in a wrap. Does babywearing help you in your professional life?
S: Definitely. When Vilko was very little, I often worked with him wrapped in, I was responding to emails and he was happily sleeping. Even now, when we don’t get to pack all the orders while the kiddies are asleep, we will wrap the baby in the ruck carry and work like that. The baby is part of my life now and sometimes, he is the one that has to be flexible. He is not put away, he is with me but first we have to do something and then we can play. So he is learning as well to be a part of our lives.
B: I am the same, I often solve working issues with Tomasko being wrapped. Or before him, with Matej - I often carried him on my back (I was already pregnant with Tomasko) when I was cutting the fabric or measuring the dimensions as he would only fall asleep in the wrap.
We mentioned your kiddies about five times already but would you tell us something about your husbands?
S: My husband is a babywearer, it was him who knew we would carry Hanka in a wrap. He has technical education and works as a Marketing Director in a ventilation systems company. He is also a supporter of attachment parenting, he accepted this philosophy, like Barborka’s husband did. It is great that both of them support us fully since we started with the business.
B: My hubby really helps and supports me, so if sometimes I don’t get to cook dinner, he is ok with it - he sees it as me having a full-time job, being a working mother. We met in an advertising agency, he was part of the creative team - an ideas man. He reads a lot and creates ideas for living. He is also behind the name ‘Sestrice’. We were thinking hard how to best describe what we wanted and then Matus came up with the name ‘Sestrice’ which we instantly loved. Slavka’s husband Maros is a technical type, he invents various hacks on how to simplify the cutting or manufacturing process.
S: Maros is the spreadsheet type :) With regard to our name, we had various ideas. But ‘Sestrice’ spoke to us - it’s archaic, poetic and we think it describes us very well - it’s about coming back to our roots - babywearing was a significant part of Slovak history.
B: Matus is also responsible for our budgeting and communication with our web-developer and Maros behind most of the product photography. Almost all preparations for bringing out a new product we do ourselves and both husbands are very much involved. Sometimes we like to work with other talented people though - the photoshoots for Fields of Barley in Cvernovka, Herbs in local vineyards or Slncia Levander were the work of external photographers.
Since you're talking about your designs, do you intend to keep with the traditional motifs?
S: Not necessarily, for example Herbs are not exclusively traditional already. We have ideas about other shapes and patterns, so we are not limited and will try new things if we like them.
Which tasks do you like the least in your work?
S: I don’t like checking the sown wraps. All wraps, once sown by our seamstress, have to be physically checked and folded - I’m not too mad about that.
B: I actually liked this when we didn’t have to check so many of them - I liked to have them nicely folded, checked and made into a ‘chimney’. I am an organised type. Well, I say so, but you should see my worktop- a ‘creative chaos’ I call it.
S: Post-it management...She uses scraps of paper to take notes on! We also have one sheet of paper, totally tattered, with notes of the lengths we need to cut the wraps in so that they are the correct size after washing. I’m tempted to get it framed, it’s three years old and very precious!
B: I don’t like when we are behind, when the supply chain links are delayed, in the dye house or at the weavers. These are things beyond our control and it’s sometimes frustrating.
S: Yeah, they tell us that something takes 6 weeks as a rule and it might happen that it takes 3 months. We then can’t bring out summer wraps in the Summer because they are only ready in September.
B: Yes, that is what I don’t like, the best would be to have a loom at home so if needed, we could make it ourselves, it would be right there and we could try it out and wouldn’t have to wait for the supplier. But I guess that’s not very feasible so we just have to rely on them.
S: I sometimes regret, especially when the weather is nice outside, that we have to be indoors working because something needs to be done or finished, we can’t just go out with the kids. Sometimes, I’d like to be ‘only’ on maternity leave.
What do you like the most and how do you see the future?
S: I am excited when mums like our wraps, when they are content and I can see babies sleeping in the wraps. They often write to us saying that they bought one of our wraps and it’s amazing and what we do is great. These messages can definitely get me in a good mood!
B: I really like when both the mum and the baby are content, when we get feedback that the wrap helps them and the baby is calmer. It’s a feeling of appreciation and a sign that our work is meaningful. We do it to create happier kids.
S: We’d love to continue in our efforts and I believe we’ll find a way to progress further. We might need the help of more people but I am looking forward to that! I also hope babywearing becomes more popular and a norm...
B: We would like to help creating awareness of babywearing, to make it more natural. We are starting to see many more mums-to-be getting ready to wrap and a sling is becoming a normal part of the ‘new-baby-rig’, so I hope we will become a part of a big babywearing community :)
Author: Lucia Hudáčková