In the idyllic Byron Bay hinterland, sisters with soul Mia and Hana Taninaka are the embodiment of their pure and natural surrounds. So much so, the earth mothers’ passion for a sustainable and ethical lifestyle has lead to the creation of their homewares label and namesake, Taninaka … which represents all of their philosophies in the production of dreamy, organic bedlinen. The Delivery speaks to the sister act about their approach to parenting, health, wellness and balance in this crazy old world of ours.
How and why was Taninaka born?
Hana: Mia was pregnant with her first child and after much searching for baby products that were organic, ethical and sustainable we decided it would be a great idea to create our own. We wanted to create a product that could be used by the whole family. Something beautiful that you didn’t feel the desire to throw away once your baby had outgrown its use.
Why is it so important to you for your product to be organic and ethical?
Hana: Because of everything really. There are so many harsh chemicals, pesticides, sprays and toxins used in the process of growing conventional cotton, treating clothes and blankets and dyeing we wanted to make something we could use that not only is safe for the babies but also isn’t having a negative impact on the earth.
A lot of the cotton used now is a GM seed, these seeds need much more water to grow, They also loose their vigour quickly meaning each year farmers need to buy more seed and then spend even more on new pesticides for the modified crops. This is having a devastating impact on the farmers and their families. By using chain certified organic cotton it means we are supporting the farmers too, they can farm the same seed, nourish their land and are given a fair price for their cotton.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that up to 77 million non-organic cotton workers suffer poisoning from pesticides each year, all of these pesticides end up in the soils, the water and later on to our skin. I think that we need to remember that we are all apart of the earth, everything we do has an impact on the earth and each other. We need to support practices that nourish the earth and in turn nourish ourselves.
How and where do you source such pure quality materials?
Mia: Up until now we have used an organic vegan fully sustainable dye house in Indonesia. They have their own farm where they grow all the dyes, the run off is filtered through a range of plants that filter out any toxic by-products. then the leaves are used as compost on the farm.
With the growth of the brand we have now moved our operation to India where we have access to a larger range of certified organic fabrics, amazing natural dye techniques and manufacturing styles. We’re going over to India early next year to visit the factory and see how it all works, meet the dyers/makers and work on some new ideas. We’re excited to be working with a factory that sources all chain certified GOTS organic materials and is passionate about plant dyes and traditional, sustainable production processes.
What inspires your designs?
Mia: I would say that currently, our biggest muse is this big, beautiful Mother Earth. There is nothing quite like the colour palettes and patterns we see in nature all around us on a day to day basis. The colours you can get from roots, nuts, flowers and fruits are so amazing and have so much depth and feeling that is hard to emulate with chemical dyes. We go on lots of bush walks and immerse ourselves (and the kids) in nature regularly. This not only clears the mind but inspires and motivates us to create products that are harmonious with our environment.
In India, under the umbrella of Ayurveda (science of life) there is a technique called ‘Vastu’ which involves using medicinal plants and specific colours to offset ailments and create balance in the body. We love this philosophy and try to incorporate as much of this into our thought and design process.
Are there any potential dangers mothers should be aware of surrounding the use of non-organic materials for our families?
Hana: Diet and the food we take into our bodies is an area that receives a lot of thought and care, however, when it comes to our clothing and the things we wrap our bodies in, there seems to be a big disconnect. Skin is our largest organ and we should treat it with the same love and care we treat the insides of our bodies. Synthetic materials are produced with a myriad of toxic chemicals, and while they may not induce immediate reactions, the long term effects on our skin, in our air, water and food can cause plenty of health issues.
We are made of billions of tiny micro-organisms that feel the pain in some away or another.
It is common practice, especially with clothes manufactured in third world countries, for garments to be treated with toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde, carcinogenic flame retardants (in pyjamas and bedlinen), endocrine disrupters (which kill marine and wild life), VOCs and dioxin-producing bleach (the active ingredient in Agent Orange). This isn’t meant to scare you, but its important to be aware of what you’re buying. Try to avoid any synthetic materials and opt for 100% cotton, linen, hemp etc (organic when possible!). Always wash new baby clothes a couple of times in a gentle eco detergent, or none at all, to remove any nasties that might be hanging on there.
Marketing is very misleading these days, what tips do you have for women who want to make more eco conscious choices and purchases for themselves and families?
Mia: Marketing is so misleading. Words like natural and organic get thrown around so easily- these have become tools to sell products. With food you can read the ingredients and know immediately whether something is actually natural. With clothing, it’s a little harder and requires a bit more research into the brand. Thankfully being ‘organic, ethical, sustainable, hand made etc’ is quite on trend so it is pushing a lot of big and small businesses in that direction, even if only for economic gains. Most brands that are truly passionate about being organic won’t hesitate to respond to your questions about their garments. So ask questions, do your research, find out who makes your clothes and how.
What’s your vision for the business?
Hana: Our vision is to grow the brand and expand our range to include organic, plant dyed products for the whole family. We want our brand to play a role in spreading awareness about health & wellbeing in an a toxic industry and help create a shift in the minds of consumers and business owners to seek ethical, organic, plant dyed products.
“Your children are your biggest teachers. Whatever lessons and challenges are brought forward are the exact challenges I need to face as a parent to grow.”
Describe your parenting style…
Mia: Intuitive. Every day has its own set of challenges so as long as I can remain calm, supportive and patient then life is pretty good.
Hana: Lots of laughing haha. I wouldn’t say I have a style, more like figuring it out moment to moment! I kind of just go with what feels right. I guess I just always try to remember to listen to the boys, respect them and encourage their adventurous spirit.
What does an average day look like for you?
Mia: It usually starts sometime around 5:30am when the kids are super perky (me not so much), we have breaky, hit the beach/park, grab some lunch, kids nap while I try to get on top of emails etc, then usually back out for the arvo to tire the kids out before early dinner, bath and bed. Once both kids are asleep, Jas and I are able to focus on whatever we’re working on. The evening is usually the time I get any solid work done. It sounds exhausting (because it is!), but I hold onto the fact that this won’t be forever and I only have to roll with no sleep for just a little longer.
Hana: It always starts very sleepy eyed, cooking breakfast, making coffee and then out the door before the mayhem sets in. Mama catch ups somewhere the kids can run wild, I try and get a salt water swim involved somewhere when I can and I generally try and do any home stuff while Zephy chases the chickens or plays around the house in the arvos. Days are usually finished eating dinner on the deck or packing a picnic dinner and heading down to the river. Oh and theres always almost a croissant enjoyed somewhere in my day. It’s a pretty sweet life- writing this makes me appreciate so much where we live and the life we have.
What has been your greatest challenge as a mother?
Hana: Today I was struggling with the boys, and it definitely was because I had pretty much no sleep last night. I think my biggest challenge is just the lack of sleep I get. It still blows me away how we just continue on with pretty much zero sleep. Any time I am having a super frustrating day, or finding things especially challenging is generally when I am most tired. It’s like all the things I find most challenging would be so much less if I just wasn’t tired, but you just keep going. It’s a crazy ride.
What’s the greatest lesson motherhood has taught you?
Mia: Patience, compromise and letting go of preferences.
Hana: I think its a constant lesson. I think motherhood really makes you know yourself and become aware of who you really are and whats important to you. I think I’ve learnt to just trust in myself and know that I’ve got this. No matter what you read or what people tell you, the person that knows whats best in that moment for you and your kids is you.
Do you have any rituals?
Mia: I make it a priority to meditate everyday, eat well, laugh lots and get plenty of sunshine. This keeps me sane and happy, and in turn keeps my family sane & happy.
Hana: Dinner, we always eat dinner together. Phones get put away when Jem gets home, we hang out, we cook dinner and then we all sit down together and enjoy it. Food is love and sitting down and sharing it is a beautiful daily ritual.
How do you perform the great balancing act between parenting and running a business?
Hana: With lots and lots of support haha. I think the only way I am able to do this is the fact I’m not doing it solo. Mia and I catch up pretty much every day and somewhere between kid wrangling, we always end up talking ideas, figuring out plans, reminding each other to get back to emails and talking TANINAKA. The balance changes day to day, I think you just kind of feel it out… If I’ve had a couple of busy days getting work done then I’ll make sure the next couple of days I am just with the boys. Or if the universe answers and both the boys are asleep at the same time I’ll quickly get some emails done. Jeremy and I both work for ourselves so we are both so supportive of each other and our work, If stuff needs getting done we work around it. I think if you are doing something you are really in to then it kind of just fits and flows in to your life.
“Diet and the food we take into our bodies is an area that receives a lot of thought and care, however, when it comes to our clothing and the things we wrap our bodies in, there seems to be a big disconnect.”
Is there a golden piece of advice you received on the parenting journey that has resonated and stuck with you?
Mia: Don’t read parenting books! They have a tendency to over generalise, and what works for one child definitely does not work for another. It can be stressful when you have no idea what you’re doing and a book is telling you your brand new baby is meant to be sleeping or not sleeping etc. Use your intuition. Listen to your baby, talk to your friends, your mother, your partner. Listen to your heart.
Hana: Your children are your biggest teachers. Whatever lessons and challenges are brought forward are the exact challenges I need to face as a parent to grow. Everyones journey is different and everyone finds different challenges. Knowing that the boys chose us means I’ve just got to listen to what they’re trying to tell me.
Have you identified values or character traits you want to instil in your children?
Mia: I hope they grow up kind, creative, patient, generous, adventurous but most importantly true to themselves. We can only really lead by example. We live the life we want to live and only hope they take it all in along the way.
Hana: Our kids see everything, they are constantly learning from us. I think the best way to instil anything in to them is just by living our lives consciously and creating the life we really want. We both work doing what we enjoy, putting our energy in to our own businesses, energy in to our lives, making time for travel, time for each other. Working hard for a life we believe in. Sometimes we’re killing it and sometimes we’re not, as long as were moving in the direction that feels right for us then its all sweet.
Best beauty secret for busy mums?
Mia: I’ve never been into beauty rituals, but I make sure I drink plenty of fresh, clean water, use eco-sunscreen when I remember to put it on, only use organic non-toxic products on my skin, and eat an organic plant based diet. My favourite products are anything by Shemana Crystalline Elixirs (their range of mists are great for the kids too), deodorant by Mukti Organics (it actually works), Ayu perfumes and Church Farm Dream Cream (everything they make is amazing).
Hana: I definitely don’t have a beauty regime but I do make sure what I am putting on my skin is filled with only the good stuff. I am totally in love with Rasasara, a completely organic plant based Ayurvedic skin care range. Their face nourishing oils and hydrating sprays are my few seconds of bliss each day. I also end each day with Church farm generals dream cream, it feels like you’re feeding your skin all the goodies, Jeremy loves it just as much as me.
Mia: Anything by Isabel Allende, her works are magical realism at its finest.
Hana: The red tent – Anita Diamant
TED Talk/Podcast recommendation?
Mia: Vedic World View by Thom Knoles