I met Aude on Instagram. I was about to teach my second photography workshop and wanted to thank you all for the support you always show me by giving away a photography session. She participated and won. We had never spoken to each other before, I didn’t know she had a shop and an amazing story to share. Then I went to Bern to photograph her family and I literally fell in love: with her, her family, her incredible taste in decoration and with Mustik, her ecofriendly online shop.
I’m very excited that she accepted to be interviewed and that she allowed me to show you these pictures. After reading her, I’m sure you’ll be inspired and willing to have a more eco-friendly lifestyle.
Aude, can you introduce yourself, please?
My name is Aude, I’m a mother of two boys born in 2015 and 2018. I come from the Vevey region on the shores of Lake Geneva and studied history of art in Lausanne. After my studies, I worked for a while in culture and then at an auction house in Bern. I moved to Bern in 2012 to live with the man I love – he became my husband a year later. At the end of 2017 I set up the online shop Mustik (www.mustik.ch), which is specialized in organic, eco-friendly and fair-trade products for children. Brands are carefully selected and the items – child wear, interior design objects and toys – have a well-cared design.
Can you tell us more about Mustik and how it started?
Mustik is quite a new shop but an old story for me. I discovered new brands like Oeuf and Lucky Boy Sunday when they were launched in the early 2000’s. I was totally seduced by the materials and the ethic behind the brands but above all by their design. It was really new and had nothing to do with what I had known as a child. At that time, I was still far from having children myself but I always thought that if I did, I would love seeing them grow up in a more “esthetic” environment. Then many other brands appeared on the market and from 2009 on it was clear for me that I would one day bring these designs together. However, this meant a radical change in my professional life and I was both scared and sad to put aside my passion for art.
True awareness hit me when I had difficulties getting pregnant and discovered that this is a very common problem for women of my generation. At the time I was already focusing very much on the environmental crisis and only buying organic food and products, but I changed my lifestyle even more. I grew up with fast fashion and bad habits and wanted to change the way I live and shop. When I finally got pregnant, the need to change something became even more evident and I realized two things:
First, when I was nesting my baby, I already knew the products I wanted for him because I knew the brands. But I noticed that many parents didn’t know so many eco-friendly brands existed or they didn’t have time to read the tags or document themselves on the fabrics and products. Second, when I went shopping for my baby, I could pick items here and there but there wasn’t any platform with carefully selected, trusted brands.
At the same time, my job in an auction house went with irregular working hours and was difficult to combine with a family life. That helped me making the step towards professional independence. For two years I combined family life and professional life, creating my online shop. It was quite a crazy and hard time but now I am pretty proud to have done it. At the end of 2017, my shop went online and when my second child was born at the end of 2018, I quit my first job.
How do you choose the brands and products that you offer?
Let’s be honest, design comes first. I have to like a brand to sell it. I then look for the information I need about the fabric, the material and the production cycle. If a brand doesn’t fulfill my ecological and fair-trade criteria, I don’t select it. If it does, I contact it to know more. I think some brands probably find me quite annoying because I really go into details. Ecology is becoming more and more fashionable. It is a positive thing to make people more aware but also negative, with a lot of green-washing. Now I am more experienced and can read between the lines… Generally, I prefer to focus on small brands because they are more honest. They are not so much under pressure to produce vast quantities and to renew their collections at a fast pace. As I am alone in my shop, I also prefer to support a one-woman/man-business, it’s a much friendlier interaction!
As for the design of the products, I think I like beautiful classics, especially when it comes to clothes. I want them to be passed on to other children or siblings. Compared to trendy styles or prints which you get tiered of after one season, you can never have enough of a classic item and it is a pleasure to still use it years later for a second child. I go for good and comfortable cuts, soft but resistant materials and gender-neutral colors.
How do you manage to keep a balance between business and family life?
It is quite challenging at the moment, I must say. I run the shop on my own and have only 3 full days to work, when my children are with my husband, my mum or at daycare. When I was setting up the shop, I had to put it first and that time was quite a hard time for the family. Now I try to be more present for my family (no more work on week-ends, for example). As I work at home, I really have to find a balance by creating a barrier between family and work. I often work in the evenings so that I can be there for my children during the day, etc… Being my own boss has positive and negative sides. The biggest drawback is that your professional and private lives are never really separated. But I think this will change when my children are older and more independent.
What’s a typical day for you?
Orders and emails are my top priority: happy clients first! An online shop generates quite a lot of unexpected work so I try to react as good as I can. Then I focus on long-term objectives, like communication and searching for new brands. When I spend time with my children, they are my number one priority. If something for the shop can’t wait until the evening, I work while the youngest has a nap or try to find a suitable moment. As my children are growing without any type of screen (this is a personal choice), I don’t want them to see me constantly with my phone or in front of the computer…
How do you see yourself as a mum?
This is a really difficult question! I think I try to be a fair mum. I explain things as they are. I also give my children a lot of freedom but there are rules to be respected and limits not to be crossed. Above all I want my children to enjoy their childhood and their time at home. My eldest will start Kindergarten next year. Time flies! A child’s first years are very important and I hope my kids will experience peaceful, happy and funny moments. I think that’s the best foundation for their future life…
How do you spend time with your family?
As the children are still quite young, we have a pretty simple and quiet life at the moment. They are happy with a playground, a walk in the forest or playing in their grandparents’ garden. On saturday mornings we have our “family moment”. First we go to the market to buy the groceries for the coming week, and then to the Münsterplattform. This is a huge terrace near Bern cathedral with a playground and a beautiful café. We have a drink and play before heading home for brunch. I am looking forward to my boys growing up, to the days we can go hiking together in the mountains or traveling.
Tell us more about your amazing apartment. Did you decorate it yourself? What are your favorite objects?
Our furniture is simply a mix of my husband’s and my own. That also goes for the decoration. Before knowing each other, we both had an apartment on our own. My husband’s flat had a very minimalistic interior with iron and black designer furniture. I love vintage and flea markets and I had a pretty nice mix of new and vintage pieces. When we moved together, we had four tables and everything in double! My husband wants to have his say when it comes to our home. At the beginning he wanted it to stay minimalistic. Now that we have children and the chaos that goes with kids, I can hang up stuff without him noticing J The room where I enjoy total freedom is the children’s room and I love it. I recently restored and painted an old cabinet because my boys will soon share the same room and we needed more space for the crib.
It is difficult to say what my favourite piece is because as they are vintage, they all tell a story. I like the kitchen lamps made by a ceramist friend, I like the Bertoia Diamond Chair because on a flea market an old man gave it to me practically for free as I reminded him of his dead daughter, I like the yellow toad chair in the bedroom because I breastfed both of my children in it, I like the ceramic and wooden plates on the kitchen table because I fill them with vegetables and fruits and it looks like a small market each time I choose what I want to cook… I could go on like this for a while!
I know you are very much concerned about the environment and the planet. Do you have an eco-friendly lifestyle? Could you give us some ideas to be inspired from? Could you recommend us some eco-friendly products?
We are transitioning to an ecological lifestyle. It takes time – and even more with small children – but there are solutions and they are actually quite simple. The most difficult thing is to get rid of your old habits. I think that the best way is to get informed and to analyze the information in a critical way. For example, it is very good to try to develop new fabrics like viscose (made out of wood) or bamboo. But how can something so hard as wood and bamboo be transformed into a soft thread? Through a chemical process. So for me these fabrics are no alternative at all, they replace a problem by another problem!
The question I always ask myself is: how did they do it in the 1900’s? People went to the local market and bought unpacked local products, they washed themselves with solid soap and shampoo, they cleaned the house with vinegar and savon de Marseille, they went on foot or traveled by train, etc. Then I try and adapt this to my actual life. The best way to go ahead is not to change everything from one day to the next but to take a step at the time. I started with the food (organic, unpacked and as much as possible local), then I tackled the bathroom (introducing solid soap and shampoo and natural beauty products in glass containers). I am currently reading the book “Green Washing” which is about making your own cleaning products. Until now I used refillable cleaning products from the drugstore but I would like to produce my own and it is actually very easy.
Clothes are the forgotten topic. The fashion industry is the most polluting industry in the world after the oil industry. Between 2000 and 2014 clothes production has doubled in the world. In 2015 we bought 62 million tons of clothes and if we don’t stop this madness, that figure will reach 102 million tons in 2030!! So let’s buy less, buy better and make it last! There is a large choice of brands producing fair-trade clothes in organic cotton or natural materials like linen and hemp. Even Denim can now be controlled with a closed water system. These products are more expensive but this is actually their true cost, and they last longer. From the farmer to the seamstress, everyone gets a decent salary and benefits from healthy working conditions (By the way, watching the documentary “The true cost” helps to understand the fast fashion industry and get totally disgusted of it.). Our budget for clothes hasn’t actually changed because we buy less and we buy items of better quality that last. We also buy second hand.
The most important thing is to act in life and not be a passive spectator. Studies proved that if the people now living on our planet don’t change their habits, there will be no tomorrow. When you have children, this idea is really scaring and I don’t want my children to ask me: “Why didn’t you act when you knew about it!”
What are your plans for the future? And for Mustik?
My plan for the future is to enjoy watching my children grow up. Being a parent is a hard job but actually such a beautiful and interesting one!
As for Mustik, I plan in a near future to publish a newsletter and a blog. I would write about the products I choose but also about the environment and my own experience living a more and more eco-friendly life. I also wish to open a brick and morter store to meet my clients and speak directly to customers popping in. People really understand the difference if you explain how things are made. I never push someone to buy because I want Mustik to represent values more than anything else.