Mothers are an enormously powerful segment of consumers. We make large and small decisions each day about the brands we want (or need) in our homes, in our children’s lives, and even on our Instagram feeds. In the chaos that is motherhood, many of our purchases happen without much thought, with the click of a “reorder” button on your phone, or a distracted convenience store visit with a toddler pulling at your leg. We’re all guilty of it. But we can do better. It’s actually possible to make purchases that add some adorableness to your life AND support women, children and families. To make a fashion statement AND a political statement.
The children’s brand Oeuf is a great place to start. The Brooklyn-based company was founded by a woman, is run by women, and actively supports women in developing countries by hiring them to make the clothing and home décor items in the seasonal collections. This month, Oeuf donated 100% of all online sales on International Women’s Day to the New York charity Sanctuary for Families which is dedicated to the safety and healing of victims of domestic violence. And for the rest of March (there’s still a few days!), Oeuf will give 20% of sales of its fair trade certified as well as made of 100% baby alpaca Feminist Crown to the same organization.
Oeuf’s founder Sophie Demenge recently gave us a glimpse into a visit to a Fair Trade collective of women knitters in Bolivia where the company creates some of its magical, handmade baby clothing and decor, and shared why sustainability is so close to her heart.
Why is sustainability so important to you as a brand?
Oeuf started as a furniture brand, and the key to good furniture design is that it is made to last. My husband Michael and I began designing furniture for children in a modern, yet timeless, style that parents and their children would be happy to have in their homes for years to come. It's not meant to be disposable, so the materials have to be high-quality. Sustainability is inherent both in the way we produce, and in how our customers buy: less is more, quality is essential. Every other product we've produced has followed naturally from these same principles.
When did you start sourcing in Bolivia and Peru?
I started working in Bolivia in 2004, and expanded production into Peru shortly afterwards. The natural materials we work with, pima cotton and baby alpaca, are staples in these countries, so we go direct to the source. We're making all our clothing, layette, and home decor such as pillows and rugs there now.
Tell us about your most recent trip to Bolivia.
As I have been working with the same Fair Trade collective of women knitters in Bolivia for many years now, they are really like a family to me. Every time I go it’s a bit of a family reunion, where I see their children, catch up on their news, and just have a lot of fun. At the same time, we work hard and have to pack a lot of creation into the short time I am there. The knitters always astound me with the way they can transform my ideas into reality.
How do you find the woman artisans you work with there?
The women in Bolivia are a self-managed collective. As Oeuf has grown, we've been able to provide more and more work for them, and so the collective has grown as well. My favorite thing always is to see their families, and to see how having this work has allowed them to improve education and health care in their community. These women justifiably take a lot of pride in their work, and in the way they are improving their children's lives. The babies that they had when we started working together are now teenagers like my daughter, and I can never believe how fast they've grown. Some kids are currently going to nursing school and architecture. It’s empowering and moving for all involved especially mothers, to see that this work is bigger than us and has a life of its own.
Oeuf is known for sustainability but also for quality. How does sourcing from Peru and Bolivia help you deliver on that?
For me and for the Oeuf customer, the two things go hand-in-hand. We don't want you to buy a sweater for one season, we want it to be something you can pass down and use for many years to come. It all starts with the natural materials: pima cotton and baby alpaca, it doesn't get better than that! In Bolivia and Peru, they really know how to work with these materials; it is what they've grown up with. The techniques are passed down over generations, and part of our mission is also preserving that.
Why did you choose to work with Sanctuary for Families?
Sanctuary for Families is New York's leading service provider and advocate for survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking and related forms of gender violence. However, I actually learned about them fairly recently: they are quite under-the-radar, which is something that appeals to me. It's really all about the mission, the women and families they are working for. Their stories are deeply troubling, but this organization provides hope, and a real way forward. The authenticity resonates with me, and it fits perfectly with what we do at Oeuf. Now that I've spent time with the people at Sanctuary for Families, I feel a real connection with them, and plan to continue our work with them long-term.
There’s still time to get your Feminist Crown and support a good cause. Check it out.
Photography by Sebastian Omachea.