Over the past few months Louna has been busy exhibiting at some fantastic markets and it has brought us so much joy to engage directly with you all. The feedback has been amazing, and we just love watching each of you fall in love with the softness of our bamboo fabrics! We constantly rave about bamboo’s impressive qualities, but it turns out there is another valuable quality even we didn’t know about!
Recently we had a customer feel some of the clothing (no one can resist!) and comment on how soft it was. When we told her it was made from bamboo, she said ‘ah, of course! My neurodivergent daughter would probably be able to wear this - bamboo is one of the fabrics that is particularly sensory-friendly.’
We were amazed - we thought we knew everything about bamboo there was to know! We immediately started doing some research. To our surprise, we found there are numerous online communities dedicated to assisting those, or families of those, with sensory-sensitivities and choosing fabrics. How had we never heard of this before?!
For those who may not be aware, the term “neurodivergent” describes people whose brain differences affect how their brain works, so they have different strengths and challenges from people whose brains do not have those differences – also known as the neurotypical. Neurodiversity typically includes those with ADHD, dyslexia and autism-spectrum disorders, but there are many others that it covers as well.
It is likely we have all had a moment where we have shuddered at the feeling of certain clothing or a type of fabric on our body. Feeling comfort from the clothing you wear is something that we all enjoy, however for some this feeling is of the utmost importance. Many neurodivergent individuals experience sensory processing difficulties, in which their brains may react negatively to certain sensory stimuli, including sound, touch, taste, and of course, feel. It has been described as a ‘traffic jam in your head’ with overwhelming and conflicting signals all at once.
Sensory issues with clothing can extend beyond the fabric itself, to seams and tags, colours and patterns. To both neurodivergent and neurotypical, the decision to purchase clothing can begin with the touch and feel of the fabric. Tips of the finger are enough to feel the softness, temperature (does it feel hot or cool to the touch), thickness, smoothness, transparency, elasticity, wrinkle behaviour, and bending rigidity. We can attest to this - nearly every single person who stopped by our market stall were drawn in to grab a handful of our display clothing.
There are a few sensorial discomforts with fabric that can be vividly identified, like whether the fabric feels scratchy or synthetic. Rough textures can be overstimulating, while soft, smooth textures can be comforting. Natural fibers are one of the most reliable sources of sensory-friendly fabrics due to their tendency to be softer.
Bamboo in particular is one of the softest, smoothest, fabrics available. It is also extremely breathable, with better ventilation and moisture absorption than cotton and is well known for its temperature regulation – it keeps wearers warmer in the cold and cooler in the heat.
Sensory difficulties are unique to everyone, but more attention is being given in the community to creating spaces and products that are aimed at preventing neurodivergent individuals from becoming overwhelmed. In our research we came across other businesses that created products with bamboo fabric specifically for their loved ones experiencing sensory difficulties. There are also websites dedicated to designing workspaces that support neurodivergent employees to feel comfortable, or how businesses can make small adjustments to existing workplaces. These changes include lighting choices and position, the fabric on chairs cushions, and ensuring quiet areas away from bathrooms or bins. When spaces and products are designed inclusively, everyone can benefit, no matter their neurotype.
We are incredibly proud of our products here at Louna, especially that they are made with bamboo. Its softness, breathability and temperature regulating properties were just a few of the reasons we wanted to use it. We admit, being aware of sensory difficulties around clothing is a new area for us and we are pleased that the use of bamboo as our primary fabric could bring additional comfort to those who struggle to find it in other materials. Our learning is just beginning in this space, but we invite anyone to start a conversation with us – we’d love to hear from you! Send us an email at: email@example.com
How did Zephyr start?
Zephyr was established in April 2013 by two Brisbane couples after its President, Isabella Bevan, read a newspaper article about the plight of children who have to change schools because of domestic violence. These children frequently arrive at their new schools without the right uniform and without the same textbooks, stationery and other school essentials as their new classmates.
What attracted you to this particular cause?
These children comprise one of the most vulnerable groups in the community. Their lives and education have been disrupted by domestic violence and, if they don’t have the correct uniform, they have a higher risk of being bullied because they stand out. Also, if they don’t have the same books and other school essentials as the other children, they have a high risk of falling behind in their education at a critical time in their young lives.
Our inquiries showed that no government agency or not-for-profit was addressing this issue.
What are Zephyr’s functions and what do they involve?
Zephyr Education Inc sole purpose is to help these children get back to school as quickly as possible by supplying:
• school uniforms and shoes
• textbooks and stationery specific to the year and school they will be attending
• laptops and iPads
• school bags, lunch boxes, water bottles, headphones, and all other school items.
Zephyr also supplies swimming gear and pays resource levies (e.g. for eLearning), camp fees and sports fees to make sure the children don’t miss out on these important activities.
What motivates you to stay involved? What motivates Zephyr?
Everyone who works for Zephyr, including its Management Committee, is an unpaid volunteer committed to supporting Zephyr’s mission. All of them believe in the critical role education can play in changing lives and breaking cycles of violence and disadvantage.
Although we don’t meet the families we help, we frequently receive emails from DV case workers and shelter managers confirming the impact of work. We share some of these with our volunteers.
In your opinion, what is the most important work that Zephyr does?
Zephyr’s most important work is its core business of supplying these children with everything they need to get back to school.
In doing so, we also remove a major burden from the children’s mothers who are inevitably dealing with a range of financial and emotional issues. Importantly, if the children make a successful transition to their new school, their mother is less likely to return to an abusive partner.
Our work also reduces the workload of busy staff at DV shelters. As mentioned, these organisations are not funded to provide the educational support that Zephyr provides.
What contribution or achievement are you most proud of?
We have managed to expand our operations from supporting the school-related needs of children in two Brisbane DV shelters in 2013 to 106 Queensland DV shelters and family support organisations in 2021. We also currently support all 7 DV shelters operating in Tasmania and 16 shelters in WA.
We are proud of the fact that, despite our rapid growth, we have never had to refuse a request through lack of funds.
What are your future plans for Zephyr?
We will continue to expand our operations by registering and supporting new shelters and family support organisations in the States in which we currently operate.
We would like to meet like-minded people in other States and Territories to carry out similar work in those jurisdictions. We would be happy to share the Zephyr model and our knowledge and experiences with them.
How do donations made to Zephyr impact the charity?
Zephyr receives no government funding and relies entirely on donations and community grants to fund its work. Because we are all volunteers and Zephyr operates rent-free from private premises, Zephyr’s administration costs are negligible and almost every dollar donated to Zephyr is spent on school-related items for the children.
Do you have a story from Zephyr that has really moved you?
As mentioned, we frequently receive emails from DV case workers and shelter managers recounting the positive effect our support has had on individual children. Here is an example:
"I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank you and your amazing volunteers at Zephyr Education for your continued support to our clients and more importantly to their children. To see the smiles on the faces of the children when they receive their school packs warms my heart and gives me hope that these children (living in crisis accommodation) feel valued. Having school packs and new uniforms is taken for granted by so many of us who can afford to provide these basic yet valuable items to our own children to enable them to “fit in” not stand out. I take pride and joy in watching our clients’ children walk into the school yard with their heads held high looking sharp.
I often wonder what alternative options our families would have if it was not for Zephyr Education as there is very limited support available. As a service that works with the most vulnerable families, we are extremely grateful to be in a position where we can advocate (not have to beg) on behalf of our clients.
Zephyr provided the child with new shoes, uniforms and books. Her mother reported that for the first time her daughter could blend in with everybody else.
The young person felt confident starting senior school ready with all his necessary school items. When he put on his formal uniform he was smiling which he hadn’t done for some time.
For (the child) to start school with brand new uniforms like the majority of the other kids in her class, was such a huge moment. Being able to pick them out herself and try them on meant that she felt comfortable going to the school and knowing that she was just like all the other kids starting this year. She has taken so much pride in her uniforms, hanging them up and keeping them tidy, she has even learnt a new word, skort, which she thinks is hilarious. She has been given an opportunity to have something new when previously all she has ever been given is second-hand clothes that are too big or too small, and never comfortable. Please pass on a huge thankyou to Zephyr because what they do makes such a big difference to children and their sense of confidence."
Are there any other organisations or causes you support?
All of the DV shelters and family support organisations Zephyr supports are run by NFPs. Each of them has registered with Zephyr for assistance. Although some of them are run by large NFPs, they are not funded to provide the support Zephyr provides.
Because Zephyr’s focus is on the educational needs of families impacted by domestic violence, Zephyr also supports the educational needs of young adults in refuge as well as mothers seeking to further their education through Tafe courses or otherwise
What has Zephyr taught you?
All of Zephyr’s four founders are still actively involved in its activities. Zephyr has taught us that, with the right will, ordinary members of the community can take direct action to meet the critical needs of a vulnerable group in our society that were being overlooked by government and non-government organisations.
What do you think is Zephyr’s message to the rest of the world?
Zephyr’s message is that the key to changing the lives of disadvantaged children in our community is education and providing the children with the tools they need to succeed.
We all know a good nights sleep is important for our health, but sometimes a solid 8 hours can be frustratingly elusive. Routine can be key and identifying something that helps calm you before bed, being a cup of tea, reading a book, gentle yoga or a relaxing bath, can greatly assist. Below are a few recommendations that may assist in getting that quality sleep.
1. FOOD & CAFFEINE
Don’t eat too close to bedtime and avoid alcohol and caffeine for a few hours before you go to bed. Caffeine can be found in coffee, tea, colas, and chocolates. Caffeine has a half-life of 4-6 hours, meaning its stimulating properties can last longer than typically expected. If you are experiencing difficulty with getting to sleep, it could be worth limiting your caffeine intake, particularly later in the day.
We’ve all heard the story that drinking a glass of warm milk before bed can help you drift off to sleep. And as it turns out, it’s true. The calcium found in milk can help your body make use of the tryptophan found in dairy, which can trigger melatonin production to promote sleep. These brain chemicals combined make you drowsy and assist in helping you fall asleep easily.
Bedtime stories are usually reserved for kids but there is no reason why grownups can’t read something calming before bed to induce a good night’s sleep. It’s the routine of reading something relaxing before you turn off the light that will have you drifting off in no time.
4. “EARLY TO BED AND EARLY TO RISE”
It’s an old adage but seems there is some science behind it. It works with the body’s circadian rhythm of going to bed early and waking early which gets us into our optimal state of a good sleep and enjoying our peak energy in the morning. Getting a full eight hours can help your body repair and recharge itself.
5. TURN DOWN THE LIGHT
The darker your bedroom the better. Blue wavelengths from devices and fluorescent bulbs suppresses melatonin which is essential to falling asleep. Candles, as long as they are away from bed and curtains, can create a mellow atmosphere to help with falling asleep. Just ensure you blow the candle out before falling asleep!
6. WHITE NOISE
Apartment living can be noisy or even living on a busy street can create background noise that your senses become alert to. White noise can help mask disrupting noises. Turning a fan on for instance can blur the background and foreground noises into one.
Regular exercise helps us sleep better, and it’s great for general physical and mental health. However, make sure you are not exercising too late in the evening- any exercise less than 4 hours before bed is not recommended.
8. LESS NAPS?!
The longer we are awake, the more ‘sleep pressure’ we build up. Napping can reduce sleep pressure, resulting in difficulty falling asleep at bedtime. Whenever possible, it is best to avoid naps. If naps are required (e.g., for safety), try to limit the nap to 30 minutes and keep to before 3 pm.
MEDITATION. Meditation and breathing can help if falling asleep or constant waking occurs. Slowing down your breathing and listening to your breathes can be calming and relaxing. Try it, in our experience it does actually work.
So drink a glass of warm milk, turn off your lights, and climb into bed at the same time each night. You’ll sleep better, and ultimately feel better, as a result.
The world is increasingly becoming more aware of the damage mass-produced textiles have on our environment. We are all starting to ask more of the right questions about where our products come from, who made them, what they are made of, and how our purchases may have a direct impact on the environment around us.
The reality is most clothing is made from unsustainable synthetic fabrics. It is estimated 10% of global carbon emissions come from the clothing industry. To put that into perspective, according to the World Resources Institute 2016 data, the oil and natural gas sector is responsible for 3.9% of global emissions, making the fashion industry more damaging to the environment.
"Every 10 minutes, an estimated 6000 kilos of textiles and clothing are dumped in landfill in Australia."
Most of these are made from materials that will struggle to breakdown over lengthy periods of time, if at all. In addition to this there are reports a well-known popular fast fashion retailer disposed of approximately $4.3 billion in unsold clothes in 2018 and burns approximately 12 tonnes of unsold products each year, and that is just one major retailer alone.
Participating in the fast fashion market is something almost all of us have been guilty of at some point or another. In fact, even the eco-conscious of us can’t avoid it at times. The garments are low in cost (tick), can be at our front door in a day or two (tick, tick) and it’s no secret we get a great amount of enjoyment sitting on the couch and flicking through thousands of products at our fingertips. So, the fact that Australia is right up there in leading the fast fashion trend is really no surprise.
Thankfully, with increasing consciousness around fashion’s negative impact, alternative materials are being developed and sophisticated for mass production. One of the most eco-friendly materials available is bamboo.
The bamboo plant is remarkable. It is one of the fastest growing plants in the world (essentially a grass) and it doesn’t need chemicals or fertilizers to help it grow. Bamboo is very easily organically grown as it is particularly drought tolerant, so it does not use large amounts of water for irrigation. It also has natural defences against pests, bacteria, and fungus unlike other types of wood - so doesn’t need any harmful pesticides to protect it. It grows quickly, easily, and with very minimal environmental impact.
It also makes a wonderful clothing material. Its texture softer than cotton, similar to cashmere or silk and due to its hollow fibre, it has unusual breathing capabilities. The fibres have a natural cross-section and as such it is filled with micro gaps and micro holes which allow for better moisture absorption (double that of cotton) and more ventilation than other fibres. It is also naturally resistant to odour, mould, mildew, and bacteria, even after numerous cycles through the wash3. Its durability puts it up there as one of the strongest, most resilient textiles - so you can keep wearing it over and over again without it losing its shape and strength.
Clothes are essential item; they keep us warm and protect us – and are also an important way of expressing ourselves. Billions of people around the world make decisions around clothing every single day. At Louna our hope is to provide a product that is not only great quality but has a reduced impact on the environment through conscious fabric selection and production and a sustainably focused supply-chain model. Through making the decision to invest in one high-quality, sustainable, eco-friendly shirt, you are significantly reducing the environmental impact than that of 4 synthetic, $20 shirts.
These small and seemingly insignificant changes in our daily habits can significantly reduce the excessive waste and pollution the clothing industry has on our planet. Your clothes will last considerably longer so you get way more bang for your buck, and (for bonus points) you will know your purchase was helping take care of our planet.
1 United Nations . (2018, September 16). UN Helps Fashion Industry Shift to Low Carbon. Retrieved from United Nations: Climate Change.
2 Monash Sustainable Development Institute . (2019, November 14). Pathways to transition to a circular textile economy in Australia.
3 SubrataDas. (2010). Fibres and fabrics used in home textiles. Performance of Home Textiles.