Using locally-sourced yarns and natural plant dyes, Madrid-based knitwear company babaà is for those who love being out in nature and don’t need too much fuss to feel good. Thick and weighted, the babaà crew neck jumpers are everything you want your knitwear to feel like: ultimately cosy, a little oversized and slightly cropped at the wrists — perfect for when you need to roll your own pasta or get your hands dirty in the garden.
It only made sense, then, to treat our babaà knitwear to a couple of days at the farm. Having owned the land for over twenty years, Bridget and her family now reap the rewards of their established olive, citrus and guava trees, a bustling hot house filled with herbs and tomatoes, a field of cows, and a stunning self-built house made from locally-sourced sun-baked clay bricks. We also managed to align our stay with their annual olive harvest. Yes, we would love to rake an olive tree, thank you. A fine line between encouraging our obsessive-compulsive tendencies and being a therapeutic release of energy, an hour’s worth of olive harvesting also justified a popping of the prosecco…
In celebration of our exclusive collaboration with babaà, I spoke to Marta Bahillo about her admirable processes in creating her knitwear collections, the way in which she balances her family life with work, and the importance of stopping to smell the poppies.
— Where did your penchant for textiles and yarns stem from?
My grandmother used to make lots of our clothes, including crocheted underwear! My mum also took over and even made leather jackets, and all sorts of intrinsicate textiles tops and dresses, her taste is fantastic. She knitted a lot for herself in the ’70s and ’80s, I’ve kept all of her cool jumpers and cardigans. I guess I was always around this even if not noticing. I also remember my favourite time of the year was September. We had a small house in the mountains just outside Madrid, and at the end of the summer, just before returning to the city and to school, my mum would bring me to the nearest town to an amazing shop where you could get 100% wool jumpers in the most fun colours and shapes. I loved that moment for years and years.
— The consideration with your production is extremely admirable. Do you have any stories you could share here about your relationship with some of the family-run factories you are working with?
I have many stories. Santiago is the artisan who provides the wool. We visit him once a year, we just stop by at his studio/workshop and have a nice time with him and his family. It is different to talk business in a small town, where he works with his wife, daughter and father in law. We love hanging out in the big park by a river near his studio and he always gets ice creams for my kids.
The knitwear factory is near Barcelona, we are lucky that it is located in another beautiful town, surrounded by forest and vines. I love when we bring our kids and they play with the factory owners´ kids. It feels so good. There is so much respect but our relationship just gets closer and closer in a very nice way. Now if I go on my own their kids are so disappointed!
— In relation to your imagery, you have an obvious respect for the environment. What is your relationship to the coast? And then to the more desert landscape? What is it about these environments that you are drawn to?
I love the silence and the space that both environments bring, I need that in my life. We live in the city but every weekend I need to escape to the mountains even if just for a little walk with my family. When I see trees and a river my heart goes slower. I can just be. I feel like I am more myself. The ocean and desert allow for a very big horizon. I guess I am totally drawn to that. Possibilities.
— And in terms of family, another value that feels strong throughout babaa, how do you like to spend time with your own family?
I like to spend time with my family in any way. I love bringing my kids for ice cream, I love cycling to school every day together, having lunch together, and watching special movies in bed. I even love working with my husband. Of course, our favourite plans always involve time off, getting in the van and hopefully camping, but our daily routine is very nice and I cherish that every day.
— Where has been the most inspiring place you have visited, and why?
Ushuaia in Tierra de Fuego, Argentina. We drove from Península Valdés all the RN-3 fro 1700 km on a bus through windy Patagonia. When we got to the Magellan Straight after a 36 hour drive I felt like a total explorer, I could not believe I was there. Once we crossed the straight on a boat we had another few hour trip to Ushuaia, it all looked amazing, the vegetation, the landscape… The National Park is jaw dropping and climbing the glaciar was so beautiful. We got caught in a storm and had to spend hours in the coolest mountain hoot. I read Darwin´s field journal the Voyage of the Beagle after that. Wow. I´d love to go back.
— What was something you saw recently that inspired you?
The biggest wild poppies field I have never seen, on my way to the factory last Monday. It was so stunning I wanted to stop and just shout! It was so wild and beautiful.
— What is coming up for babaà this year that you are feeling excited about?
I am very excited about sheering our sheep in the next few weeks, it will be like a party for us. I am also very excited about cashmere dyed with natural dyes. We are visiting our cashmere partners in Italy this summer and they will show us how they dye their cashmere with plants. It is extremely expensive but so worth it for certain projects. I love how nature can provide the most beautiful colours with very little impact on the environment.
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[Images by Greta van der Star + Yasmine Ganley]