My mother began Didymos in Germany in 1972, 45 years ago. DIDYMOS was born out of one woman’s desire to carry her newborn twins, of which I was one, as much as she wanted. Every solution starts with a problem. For Erika Hoffmann, her problem was having four children, but only two arms. She needed a way to carry her babies, but also have some freedom to function – a problem I am sure many of you understand. My mother never intended to be a groundbreaker but she instinctively understood the benefits of parents wearing their children. Erika’s vision was to see as many babies being worn by their parents as possible to help strengthen the parent-child bond. The result is the company, DIDYMOS.
Having been gifted a shawl, a Rebozo, from friends who had traveled to Mexico that came with no instructions on tying, my mother saw a picture in the 1963 book Die Mutter und ihr Kind by Hanns Reich, of a woman wearing her infant using a shawl, she decided to try to use the Rebozo to wear at least one of her children. Learning to tie her daughters in the shawl herself, she quickly discovered the benefits of babywearing. As others noticed this “strange” new way of holding infants, some were very hostile, but other mothers started recognizing their own desires to wear their infants. Raising startup capital from a bank with no collateral was no small feat. But with that money and a mill came the first DIDYMOS wraps.
When she first sat down to make the original DIDYMOS wrap, my mother’s intention was to make a wrap that she identified with as a German mother, a wrap that she knew would be useful to her and parents like her that wanted to wear their children, a woven wrap that was practical, and that led to parents wearing their babies as much as possible. Erika did not want to copy, but to create something functional, using a design that parents would recognize. The first wraps that Erika made were named after her four children, Tom, Anna, Lisa and, myself, Tina.
DIDYMOS learned that the name of one of our most popular wraps offended a portion of the Meso-American community in North America. As a German-based company, it took us some time to consult with experts to understand what exactly the issue at hand was and how we could correct our mistake. Once we had time to make a well-informed decision, we changed the name of this wrap.
DIDYMOS apologizes for offending anyone for using this name for so many years. As an expert in Mexico City tells us, “…in the 1970s IND*O was synonymous with INDIGENA (Indigenous). The founder’s intention was to honor, not demean.” However, as time changes, so does language and its meaning and DIDYMOS did not take this into consideration. It continues to be OUR responsibility to make sure our products do not offend anyone and we apologize that we did not recognize this earlier.
DIDYMOS has been called awful names in the past year. We are a company that employs people from around the world, a woman-run business that continues to support and grow women-run businesses worldwide as part of the DIDYMOS family, and a company that gives significant contributions to many organizations which care for children and their education worldwide, and other charities, including Doctors without Borders. We are a company that prides ourselves on our ethics and our social and cultural standards. These are not new – my mother put these in place as the company was being built and we continue them after her passing. Slanderously terming us racist goes against the very core of who we are, what we believe in and what we are trying to accomplish.
It has been said that our Ind*o/Prima design was culturally appropriated from Mexico, and because DIDYMOS did not stop making the design immediately, we are racist. As a company that cares deeply about all cultures worldwide, especially those that have kept babywearing alive throughout history, we reached out to anthropologists and other international experts about textiles, designs, verbiage, weaves and any other cultural issues that were being brought to our attention so we could learn how and what we might need to change.
About the Ind*o/Prima, we are assured by experts in these fields that “Individually, some designs are universal, such as the star, flower, lozenge and zigzags.” Continuing, “The fact is that there is an increasing number of … shawls with horizontal bands of geometric patterns inundating markets all over Mexico…. these jacquard-designed and woven shawls being made today in Mexico use geometric designs that become generic and also appear in textiles from Europe and the Americas.”
It is because of expert testimonies and research such as this that we feel confident that the Prima design was not copied, appropriated, nor stolen. And this is why DIDYMOS made the decision to not stop producing the Prima design.
2016 was a year of tremendous growth for us. It was a year of great learning, a year of change, and a year of retrospect. We apologize and take responsibility for our mistakes. To be able to best understand and improve our knowledge of the communities of people who enjoy babywearing as much as we do, we will continue to seek guidance, input and advice from diverse groups from around the globe, including those marginalized within cultures. We are still learning, and will continue to do so, and we will work to be a meaningful and respectful partner to all communities and the people who identify within them. As part of that growth, in 2017, we have consulted with marginalized support networks on product name changes, changed the name of our Orient pattern, and we ceased the patterns Inka and India (initiated and designed by Erin Arnason) immediately. We continue to consult the appropriate communities when developing names and designs, we hire designers from all over the world so our patterns represent the international babywearing community, and we continue to support and expand the global retail market.
I hope this note clears up any misinformation or miscommunication. If you do have any further questions or concerns, I ask that you please reach out to us directly. We are a small company still based in Ludwigsburg, and I can promise you that we will get back to you with all the answers to your questions.
DIDYMOS is indebted to those that have supported us through the last year, and look forward to working with new partners to help see as many babies being worn by their parents as possible to help strengthen the parent-child bond.