Rebourne’s upcycled and reusable diapers keep
babies’ bums dry and reduce waste
A few times each year, Marni Duffy spends the day digging through bins of old thrift store sweaters at a warehouse outside of New York City. She looks for just the right type of soft, untreated merino wool to haul back to Philadelphia. There, in the tiny basement workshop of her Fishtown rowhome, she’ll give new life to the sweaters by turning them into hand-sewn cloth diaper covers for Rebourne Clothing.
Wool is a great material to use, the mother of three says, because it can absorb up to one-third of its weight in moisture without feeling wet, is naturally antimicrobial and it neutralizes odors. “Some wool is scratchy, but I only use organic fibers that are really nice, and breathable against the skin,” she says.
Changing diapers is often a messy, tedious job that, due to the prevalent usage of disposable diapers, also wreaks havoc on the planet. Disposable diapers account for up to 30 percent of non-biodegradable waste in landfills and can take up to 450 years to break down, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Because of this, there is a growing community of parents and caretakers who are choosing reusable options.
Duffy, 31, is one such parent, who turned her passion for sustainability into a business. In 2009, she launched Rebourne Clothing. She makes and sells wool diaper covers she calls “Woolie Wraps,” wool pants and shorts that double as diaper covers; organic cloth diaper inserts; and other accessories for mama and baby made from new and upcycled materials. Duffy credits her sewing skills and do-it-yourself ethos to her late mother Laura, a seamstress who, “made things meant to last.”
Duffy had previously dabbled in Etsy, the popular online craft-focused marketplace, with some handmade cycling caps (her husband, Tray Duffy works at Trophy Bikes, a bike shop in Northern Liberties), but sales were slow. When she started adding her diapering items, that all changed. The Rebourne Etsy shop now boasts over 3,200 sales, and 1,039 reviews with a five-star rating. Locally, Rebourne diapers are also available at the Nesting House (locations in Mt. Airy and Collingswood, N.J.) and Cloth, on East Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia. The Duffys, who are both avid cycling enthusiasts, also deliver Rebourne products via cargo bike to customers who live within a five-mile radius of their 19122 zip code.
Catherine Starnes, who works at Cloth as a babywearing expert, has been a Rebourne customer for three years. “I bought one Woolie Wrap, and then starting buying more and more, until my entire stash was Rebourne!” Starnes says. She likes Rebourne’s fit, that they are made locally, and that they contain messes better than disposables. “[Duffy’s] really thought through the design and the craftsmanship.”
Deborah Wilkie, a mom in North Carolina, agrees that Duffy’s diapers are effective and easy to use on her one-year-old daughter. Sustainability and value are big motivation for her, as well. “I think of the thousands of diapers we‘ve gone through this year, and all I have to show for it is this little folded stack of wool diapers and cloth wipes.”