March-April 2020

Shop talk

How a Kensington mom co-founded a baby sling company. Plus, colorful straps for your handbags.

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Skye Amundsen (left), who lives in Kensington and is pictured with daughter Madelynn, started a company to sell ring sling baby carriers with her friend Mallory Mascoli (right). Photographed while pregnant with her second child, Mascoli had the baby in December. Photo by Allison Wolf

That’s a wrap

Kensington resident Skye Amundsen, 31, met friend and business partner Mallory Mascoli, 30, through an online group of women when the two were struggling to conceive their first children. Both women now have two children—all are under the age of 4—and Amundsen says their shared approach to parenting was one of the things that helped cement their friendship. “We’re both kind of crunchy,” Amundsen says. “We both love cloth diapering and babywearing.”

So in 2018 they launched Hope & Plum, an online ring sling company that shares their older children’s middle names. Amundsen says she tried a dozen soft-structured baby carriers before discovering a ring sling, a scarflike wrap that can be adjusted by pulling the fabric through a double ring at the shoulder. Mascoli, who is plus size, had a hard time finding slings that fit her—and both moms objected to the way the advertising and social media for baby carrier brands tended to overlook both the physical and emotional challenges of postpartum life.

The pair created Hope & Plum to make a product, but also to create a community that would be inclusive to women and caregivers of all colors, shapes and sizes. “We noticed that the moms didn’t look like us, and we were looking to show motherhood in its raw form,” Amundsen says. “Motherhood can be very isolating and lonely, and babywearing is an intimate experience that can help counterbalance that.” She adds that in addition to being an outfit-making accessory, ring slings are easy to use. “I’ve been known to take a sling off my body and go up to a struggling mom and say, here, this will help you.”

Mascoli, who lives in Minnesota, is certified as a babywearing instructor by the Center for Babywearing Studies. She left a career in banking to run Hope & Plum full time, and she oversees production and individually inspects and hand-rolls each sling they sell, all of which are handmade in Minnesota. Amundsen, a corporate lawyer in D.C., handles the legal aspects of the business. And both partners manage a Facebook community of more than 4,000 sling-wearers and caregivers.

“We do a lot on social media to address mental health and body positivity,” Amundsen says. “When we do model calls, we’re really sensitive to size, race, gender and culture. We work with independent artists who help design our fabrics. We reduce waste by collaborating with other companies who use our scraps to make other products, and [we] donate a portion of our proceeds to the [American Civil Liberties Union]. We could just sell slings, but we’re really trying to build so much more.”

Hope & Plum slings start at $74.95 and are sold at