CLOSE TO THE SKIN
More and more young mothers from all over the world have been spotted wearing luxurious baby wraps by Dutch design house Artipoppe. Vogue Living meets with founder Anna van den Bogert, the queen of babywearing, to talk about confidence, skin contact and diversity.
“Baby wraps create more equality.”
— interview Bartjan Bouman, photography Ellen van Bennekom, production Valerie van der Werff
- The haystack is right next to the house. Anna is wearing a sweater by Dries van Noten and a dress by Vilshenko. The orange velvet booties are by Tibi.
[page 2 – text]
“Babywearing should become more generally accepted”
Somewhere in the province of South Holland, nestled between two polders, is the monumental farm of Anna van den Bogert (36), founder of the luxurious baby wrap brand Artipoppe, and her partner Floris van der Kooij (35), who also works for the company. A gravel path leads up to the farm yard, comprising
the terp farm, a haystack and a cladded barn. Four sheep are grazing under the fruit trees. Inside, the rooms are filled to the brim with cupboards full of fabric. Kids Paco (7), Livvi (6) and Karel (3) are running around and baby Sofia (1) is hungry. Amidst this organised chaos, like an oasis of calm, there’s Anna, the woman who is conquering the world with her colourful baby wraps which are taking America, Russia and Scandinavia by storm. The subtitle of her autobiography could be ‘From dropout to successful businesswoman’. The story begins in 2012 with her severance cheque, as she calls it. “I studied musicology at the University of Amsterdam for a year, but the student life was not for me. After that, I found a job in the business community and eventually became an executive assistant. When I had to leave my last job, they gave me a severance cheque. I used this money as start-up capital for Artipoppe.”
What inspired you to start designing baby wraps?
“My oldest daughter, Livvi. After she was born, she needed a lot of skin contact; it calmed her down. At the same time, I wanted to keep my hands free as I already had a toddler wandering around, Paco. Baby wraps turned out to be the perfect solution, but wraps made of fine fabrics like cashmere were nowhere to be found. That’s when Floris said: why don’t you make them yourself? They were an immediate hit.”
You currently have fifteen employees, but five years ago you still had to discover everything on your own.
“Finding a good weaving mill was the key element, and it wasn’t exactly easy. I finally found a mill in Brabant, and they immediately started asking me all kinds of difficult questions, like what thread count I wanted. This referred to the number of threads per centimetre, which determines the density of the weave. I had no idea. I’ve learned so much in the past several years, I’m really rather proud of it. I’m a late bloomer, but I’m flourishing now. Nowadays I’m still at the weaving mill once a week, and I’m really involved: making samples, testing new yarns, checking out our limited editions, lugging boxes…”
Where do the yarns come from?
“Mostly from Italy and Japan. I travel to Florence twice a year to purchase new yarns. Linen or cashmere, baby camel hair and aloe vera: I’m up for anything. For example, we spin silk with seaweed. It’s cool, soft, hypo-allergenic and feels very pleasant on the naked skin. I use pearls, as well. They’re ground into dust and woven into threads with a beautiful shine with the help of nanotechnology. It looks like silk, but it’s a lot easier to wash. Our most exclusive fabric is wool from vicuñas, a protected species of llama that only lives in the Andes. Their supersoft undercoat is spun into wool only once every three years.”
In Instagram posts of the baby wraps, you often use the #equality hashtag. What do you mean by that?
“I might be stepping on some toes here, but I think modern parents have become spoiled, especially in Western countries. I see people around me changing into completely different creatures after they have given birth. All they talk about is their baby, diapers or different flavours of baby food and they seem interested in very little else. As far as I’m concerned, we focus on children far too much, especially when compared to Africa and Asia.
[page 2 – photos]
- There is an old barn behind the haystack. Anna is hoping to keep ponies and horses there one day.
- The family’s four Ouessant sheep are grazing in the orchard.
- The gravel path alongside the house. Anna is wearing a velvet coat by Zara.
- Anna with Sofia. Sofia is wearing a cardigan by Louise Misha.
- The weathered wall appeared after removing twelve layers of old wallpaper. The cabinet was repaired by Anna’s dad before she was born in order to serve as a wardrobe for her baby clothes.
- The children’s drawings and art projects are everywhere. There are a lot of musical instruments, as
- Floris is a musician.
[page 3 – photos]
- The stable: here you can still see the old troughs and manure gutter for the cows. Anna is wearing trousers by Ronald van der Kemp, shoes by Gucci and a velvet top by Mother of Pearl.
- The hall at the front part of the house, which currently serves as a working area. The family lives in the back of the house. Anna is wearing a dress by Vilshenko and a coat by Racil.
[page 4 – text]
“We spin silk with seaweed: it’s cool, hypo-allergenic and feels very pleasant on the naked skin”
Young mothers often lose a part of their own identity. A baby wrap can prevent that from happening: your child is close by, but you still maintain your freedom of movement and choice. This way, you can do anything you want – including going to work – while keeping your own identity. Babywearing should become more generally accepted. This results in more equality and diversity. When my youngest daughter was eight weeks old, I was carrying her in a nightclub in Moscow. No one even noticed, least of all her. In addition, you can use a baby wrap to make a statement. A simple pair of jeans, a white shirt and a beautiful wrap: that’s all I need to feel great.”
Will a wrap make a baby feel great as well?
“During the first months of a child’s life, proper bonding with their parents is crucial. Babies who are carried generally cry less and have fewer stress hormones in their blood. They learn things more easily: they experience speech and interhuman contact up close and see the world from an adult’s perspective, instead of lying down in their pram. It stimulates their development as well as their confidence.”
In addition to ‘designer, dreamer, woman, mother’ you describe yourself as ‘sceptic’ and ‘animal’. Do tell …
“I truly love philosophy. When I was twenty-five, I read Outlines of Scepticism by Sextus Empiricus, and it changed my life. He says – and I’m paraphrasing – that knowledge is impossible and that you should, therefore, postpone judgement. The book taught me to achieve an imperturbable attitude towards life, which should not be confused with being antisocial. It makes me happy. I refer to myself as an animal based on some principle of equality: we are all animals. I am always aware of that fact, which means I’m not easily impressed by people. In the end, we’re all the same.”
Something completely different: how did you end up living on this lovely farm?
“Well, speaking of organisation. We simply wanted a large home within 15 kilometres of our parents, as they do a lot for us. And then this farm popped up on the real estate website. In addition, I really wanted a house with some history, I was only looking at homes built before 1905. The oldest part even dates back to the middle ages. It’s a national heritage site, which means the renovation is quite a task. For example, original details such as the servant’s bedstead have to be maintained. I love authenticity; I look for it in clothing and accessories as well. I am wearing a golden wedding band crafted in 1823, but Floris and I aren’t married yet. It was found in the soil somewhere and sports the initials of people I don’t know, which stirs my imagination. I also have a vintage Kelly Bag with a handle that has turned completely grey. The bag belonged to many different women and has travelled the world. I really love the idea, I want to add that kind of soul to my baby wraps.”
[page 4 – photos]
- Anna’s office, as seen from the hall.
- The large bed. During the night, Anna and Floris are usually joined by several of their children.