This isn’t a post reviewing a particular product – say, an Ankalia woven wrap called Mako – so much as it is a review of the company’s practices and policies.
I’ve been seeing Ankalia Mako wraps – particularly the colorways Siren and Laguna – and admiring them big time. I really love the look of these wraps. (It helps that they look a lot like I imagine Steven Universe fandom wraps.) I decided to go looking for one. A friend let me borrow one to try (see above). My first stop was the Ankalia Facebook page, which had a pinned post that specifically said they would cut custom lengths of wraps, including long cuts of their exclusive releases, just message them. (This post is now gone, and beyond my searching skills if it wasn’t deleted.) I later was told by friends that Ankalia has been called out relatively recently over problematic statements involving longer wrap lengths. I wasn’t around for those and haven’t seen any screenshots of how it went down; my only thought on hearing this info was okay good, because they got called out they’re now going to be sensitive to my needs and offer a product I want to buy.
I contacted them March 12th asking about a 6.5m wrap, and particularly about Mako. Ankalia offered to cut a 9 of a more budget wrap, and additionally teased a Mako-like release upcoming. I remember talking to pals about it and feeling awkwardly frustrated not being sure if they were going to tell me or not about the Mako tease. I checked back a few days later, and they said they could not share the information. Okay. Disappointing but I could sit on my money.
A month later, they announced a new colorway of Mako (Carousel). I contacted them as soon as I saw it on their page; they said longer lengths (I guess 8s and 9s) were claimed by their stalk-free customer group and only 7s would be available in the right to buy draw. Okay, so they knew and teased a “Mako-like” release that I was trying to wait for, but did not have any available. That kinda sucked, but I still really wanted a “premium” wrap once in my life with fancy fiber content and a look I loved in a size I could actually use. They offered me information about two other unreleased wraps and and I ended up pre-purchasing one of those.
About this same time, Ankalia posted a blog about wrap sizing. I was irritated to see they had said “wraps can come in sizes 1 up to 9” immediately after selling me a 10 privately, especially given that their pinned post at the time still talked about inclusion and cutting longer wraps. They also didn’t change anything after I pointed this out – trying to respect their business “secrets” since I was getting something unreleased. You can see someone else stating Ankalia’s advertised size accessibility and that Ankalia responded to me.
Another month later, Mako Confetti was announced. Wow. So now that’s 2 Makos released. I’m officially A Very Frustrated Customer at this point but still was willing to drop several hundred bucks to get one of these damn things and ask if they can cut an 11 of Mako Confetti. I would have bought one if they hadn’t included the note that they would accommodate me, but they didn’t want to advertise that they were doing so. The shift there went from “we’re quietly accommodating you because it’s the right thing to do” to “we don’t actually want to be doing this but are stuck since we started it.”
I asked them to explain, because I always want to try and talk with people openly about an issue before I do something like write a blog about it.
The initial response didn’t actually answer the question and the second response just doesn’t make any sense to me unless you are specifically trying to reserve yardage to make smaller sizes. I’m not a wrap business owner, but spoke to one that I’m friendly with about this reasoning. They stated that in theory if a size 8 wrap is purchased to be chopped into 2 ring slings, the business owner would lose money since 1 wrap can be cheaper than 2 ring slings to buy from a storefront. The problematic statements Ankalia has been called out for recently apparently dealt with this issue – they were concerned about the potential of chopping.
On one hand, as a person who is has been a base 8 and now a base 9, I sympathize with not wanting to see long wraps chopped. It eats me up inside just a little bit because I can imagine some other big-bodied person like me wishing for that particular make and colorway, even if I’m not into it, and think well, there’s another inclusive wrap out of the already small pool. However, disliking making long wraps and trying to prevent a pre-order from filling up with long wraps seems like a really chuckleheaded thing to do in the name of being inclusive. I think it isn’t really about that at all, and is more about profits and latent fatphobia.
A company can organize all the cool, exclusive “love your body” events they want (and don’t get me wrong, I’d totally do one of these myself if I lived nearby and the sponsor carried stuff in my size – but they stop at 22 and advise to buy a size or two larger than your normal size, so really they stop at 20), and they want to treat a superfat wearer (me) like a girlfriend they wanna bone but are too embarrassed of to introduce to their friends, well. That’s not inclusivity for size at all, and even further from body positivity if that’s the mark on the stick they’re aiming for.
To quote Ankalia’s blog article about wrap sizes, “As wrap companies are beginning to understand through the more regular offering of longer wraps, there is no ‘one base size fits all’ when it comes to wrapping.” While it’s true that size accessibility has increased rapidly since I started babywearing 2 years ago, other small wrap production companies are not struggling with size accessibility in the same way as Ankalia seems to be.
The first times I requested an unlisted size of woven wraps, in early 2016, I approached Risaroo Wovens about pre-ordering size 9s and 10s, both of their wovens and of their Girasol exclusives. I remember nothing about the circumstances of those orders besides that they happened, which basically means they said “sure” and fulfilled the orders without any issues. I’ve also been contacting other companies lately about getting wraps that are 9s, 10s, or 11s; companies like Aroha, Baie, Bijou, and Soul* (full disclosure – I’m an ambassador for them right now, though they have no input on this personal blog. *Soul messaged me 05/21 and have stated that they do not actually cut longer wrap lengths and only said they could for me because of being a brand ambassador. I’m disappointed and embarrassed to have to make this update.) all have been happy to help me out when it comes to cutting longer length wraps that aren’t on their regular sale lists. Companies Yaro and Ethos are keeping 9s in stock. Even full buckle carrier makers like ABC are willing to make you big body-friendly custom soft-structured carriers. So this issue is not really something new or something that the “small-batch” side of the babywearing industry is struggling with.
I acknowledge the inherent privilege in complaining about not being able to buy a custom luxury item with ease. I was ready to drop several hundred bucks on something beautiful and functional (and I did). I received some special information that most of Ankalia’s customer base did not have access to and made a purchase based on that information, behind the scenes. It’s absolutely a privilege, but as I’ve thought this whole situation through, I think giving extra information about products is literally the least a company can offer to a customer they have historically not accommodated. I would absolutely reassure and counsel friends of mine that were working with companies on inclusivity to feel okay and not uncomfortable with asking to have that kind of information in the name of fairness over time.
But wait, there’s more! Here’s the backstory to my agitation over Ankalia’s failure in size accessibility.
I’m a very fat person – there is only 1 chain store near me that carries some clothes in my size and my bra size is not available in the United States unless I visit a special boutique store. I have experienced a lifetime of public harassment, personal abuse, and shame related to my body size. While I’ve aggressively crafted a life and personality that leaves most of the active effects behind me, I’m still of course human and that shit can really eat me up inside.
No matter what size body you exist in, I know that sadly, the chances are very good you also have experienced shame and a lot of other fucked up shit related to your body. If you’ve gone through pregnancy, fertility issues, or parenting a child – which are radically-altering life changes – physically, emotionally, and how you live your everyday life – you know how much that can complicate feelings about your body. If you’ve suffered from postpartum depression, there’s a variety of ways in which this major body change can be even more traumatic on a daily basis.
In 2015 I started babywearing my first child. After a few months of using some of the widely available stretchy wraps and carriers, I wanted to branch out into woven wraps. I was nervous that people told me to get a 7 – this is what most companies that I could find at the time (as a newbie) offered as the largest size. I suspected it would not be big enough for me and when my first purchase arrived, I was correct, and devastated.
That experience, and this crap with Ankalia, wasn’t just a single irritating event for me – it was the latest in a long line of events in my life that informed me my body was too big to participate in something, and that me even wanting to was embarrassing to the people involved.
And sure, we’re just talking about babywearing here. I could talk about the bras I can’t find or that I have to make my own panties because even plus sized panties are just scaled up miserably and don’t fit my body correctly. I have this idea that a long piece of fancy cloth should be the least difficult thing to get for my big fat body – it’s literally just a length of really nice, special cloth. But you know, I can hear some of you out there being like “it’s their business and not their fault you’re too fat for average sizes.” Yeah, sure, but they could just say what they’re really about and not play at being accepting of big fat sensitive fattyfats like me. Like if you want to not be inclusive? Go for it. Just don’t tell me you are then treat me like I’m an annoying problem you wish would go away when I try to engage with you and try to throw my money at you.
So, here’s what I’d like see happen from Ankalia:
- They don’t freak out at being called out.
- They make a public statement of intent.
- If their intent is to be legit about size accessibility, they figure out how they can make their exclusive releases friendlier to big people.
I actually wrote an essay a few weeks ago detailing a suggested process. Even though I wrote this piece after seeing a different company flame out after a social media shitshow, the “fatty in the shadows” anecdote at the beginning is about Ankalia.
Did you make it to the end? Are you all fired up, fellow fatties? Here’s what I’m doing personally to help my fellow fatties out: A BIG FAT FATTY FAT GIVEAWAY. (Can you tell I’m getting tired of being diplomatic about this crap?) Mako Confetti 11 would have been about ~$300 USD. I don’t have an 11 or 10 to give away yet sadly, but I’m going to give away TWO wraps that combine to about a $300 value. Go to this picture of me twirling around in my lovely 6.5m Yaro, and post a picture of yourself babywearing to enter. Extra love your way if you’re in joyful movement or wouldn’t normally share the photo publically because you feel it isn’t “flattering.” Then on 05/21, 6pm EST, see if you win a lovely 6m Yaro bamboo/cotton blend, Dandy Spring Sunrise, or a 6.3m Soul Maze 9. The latter is my favorite wrap right now, but you know what? I am that invested in making big wraps available to people.
Yes, you can enter the giveaway if you’re not fat. I’m not going to be setting size guidelines for participation (cuz that’s shitty) or checking up on it if you’re a size 6, but on the honor system you better be a believer of intersectional fat acceptance in your gray matter. Otherwise wtf are you doing here? You don’t want my fat germs on a wrap anyway.
Standard disclaimers: these are my fat opinions. While I’m currently a Soul Mate brand ambassador, they’ve got nothing to do with this blog or the giveaway (I bought Maze before they chose me). Yaro and Facebook have nothing to do with it, either.
EDIT IN: I messaged Ankalia a link to this blog piece and we had a pleasant discussion (yes, really!). They’ll be releasing their new details themselves and I’ll leave that to them, but want to quote them here: “We do really value customer feedback, and are happy to admit when we could have done things better .“
I think we can tentatively chalk this up as a win for everyone!