babaà Knits Better
The Madrid-based knitwear brand weaves heart and soul into its process, from how it designs to the way things get done.
By Janine Stankus
January 23, 2018
Every garment by Madrid-based knitwear brand babaà is strong, straightforward, and timeless—attributes that stay with its wearer and provide a sense of comfort. Six years ago, its founder, Marta Bahillo, turned down a job designing womenswear for a major fashion house to pursue her passion for natural textiles and bringing good into the world. Now, Bahillo’s universe is full of beautiful things: men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing made from organic wool and cotton, spun by Spanish artisans. She runs babaà with the help of her husband and a carefully selected production team, whom she considers her partners. From sumptuous sweaters to slouchy dresses, the label’s range of all-season staples are meticulously patterned, simply designed, and imbued with a natural vibrance. The pieces are produced in a local workshop or a family-run factory located in the mountains of northern Spain, which Bahillo’s family visits each month. Surface talked to Bahillo about how her ethos shines through in her collections, and about her plans to bring even more good to the babaà community and its customers.
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All babaà knits are finished by hand.
Tell us about your company’s story. What is babaà and what do you do?
We make quality knitwear, but our brand stands for much more. I started the business in 2012, and my first daughter, Matilda, was very integral. I had refused a job as a knitwear designer for a major Spanish fashion company because I knew I wanted to uphold certain ethics, and also be with my daughter. Everything is knitted locally in Barcelona, our wool is from northern Spain, and our cotton is from Andalusia, in the south. We use only natural materials and our cotton is dyed in Galicia at one of the most ecological factories in Europe. Our samples are all donated to CEAR (Comisión Española de Ayuda al Refugiado), a local NGO that works with refugees in Spain. Our next employee will be a refugee who is a highly qualified graphic designer.
What is the driving force behind your work?
Doing things well. I absolutely love what I do, but how we do things is just as important: from respecting the factory prices to getting to the very bottom of where we source our materials. Last September, we went to Andalucia to participate in the cotton harvest, and, two years ago, we were part of the sheep-shearing [at the farm] where we source our wool. This summer, we plan to visit our button-provider in Italy. All our buttons are natural—some are made of recycled cotton fibers, others are certified organic. Yes, doing things well is a real effort—then you get into trying to give back, which is what we’re working toward now. Offering a refugee stable employment is a very important step for us.
Marta Bahillo in front of her studio with her third baby, Francesca, both wearing babaà.
What do good design and quality craftsmanship mean to you?
Good design is creating something that lasts. It is something that stays with you because it’s functional and perfectly made, but also because it reminds you of a feeling of desire—the reason you bought it in the first place. At the moment, I am changing my ideas about what craftsmanship means. Our artisans are amazing in the ways they work the wool and cotton. However, after five years of working with them, I decided I didn’t prefer the way they dyed the cotton, so I did a lot of research and now I’m confident we’re in the best hands. I can’t wait to share this story through our spring collection, which was all dyed on our new premises.
What new products are you working on currently?
We will be going into production in two weeks, and that will mark not the end, but the beginning, of a journey of exploring low-impact dyeing. Next month, I will be in Valencia visiting a factory that makes machinery for many dyeing plants. The future is dyeing with no water involved. Can you imagine? They will be showing me all the possibilities for wool. We’re at the start of a long journey, and I am very excited!
Garments from the winter 2017 collection.
Organic wool and alpaca knits from the winter 2017 collection.