We're thrilled to share this interview of Lindsay and Chelsea, founders of Olen Organic, with you this week in our SHE Spotlight! You can also hop on over and check out their recent guest blog 5 Reasons Mindfulness Matters for Babies to learn more from them!)
Q. Where did you get your passion for baby products?
A. After having a baby and realizing the choices were extremely limited and didn’t reflect the modern parent or the modern world, we decided to create Olen.
Q. Do you have any tips to help new mothers not be overwhelmed with choosing baby clothes and products?
A. Ask people you trust or find a blog/online community for recommendations or a short/must-have list. We all love the internet, but it can actually be a new mom’s worst nightmare, with too much information and too many options to sort through!
Q. We love the adorable designs! Where do they come from?
A. Chelsea’s husband! He’s spent the past twenty years in the fashion and graphic design world. We were inspired by midcentury modern design for its clean, simple, functional aesthetic and Scandinavian design in honor of our original inspiration: Finnish "welcome home" baby boxes.
Q. Can you explain the standards and choices you’ve made that set your products apart? For example, why is GOTS an important standard for moms to look for?
A. We’ve watched the traditional fashion retail model basically implode over the last several years. The cycle is getting exponentially faster and the product is getting cheaper and more disposable. That is simply not sustainable to the industry or to the planet. We’ve tried to make the least “processed” baby products on the market. So we choose to use GOTS-certified organic cotton that is in its natural state (we don’t use harsh fabric dyes or silicone softeners) and print with the safest, water-based pigments while using snaps that are nickel-free and non-painted. We source within a 20-mile radius in order to reduce our carbon footprint. And we ship our product in 100% recycled mailers with natural tissue to further reduce our impact. Because what’s the point of using virgin materials for packaging that is likely to be discarded as quickly as it was opened?
Q. We have not seen ANYONE who does the full circle of natural sustainability like you do. Talk us through the product life cycle. How did you come up with recycling the clothes?
A. Our biggest concern was sustainability. Once you know the facts about the consumption of clothing in the United States – and that the average American throws away 68 pounds of clothing a year - it makes you think, “there’s got to be a better way”. Baby clothes have an even shorter life cycle. Our little nuggets grow like weeds, so sometimes you’re lucky to get 3-5 uses out of something before it’s too small. Combine that with the fact that 1 in 3 mothers have had to choose between buying food or diapers for their baby, and there is huge opportunity to help in any way we can. We love the idea of "donating when done" as a responsible way of disposing of clothing and helping fellow mothers, families and babies.
Q. You have more than 2 decades of experience in the apparel industry. We want to know more about that history and how it impacts your decisions today?
A. We both grew up – career wise - in big, corporate, fashion machines. Squeezing for every last penny was bred. It was an environment of “yes, I can” instead of asking “why”. We were pumping literally MILLIONS of pieces of clothing into the world but couldn’t reconcile the mass quantity with the limited resources we have on this planet. We saw the “big guys” hesitating on making radical change in the supply change and we wanted to do things differently; in a way we think makes sense to today’s more knowledgeable consumer. Our goal was to create a company that wasn’t about growth at all costs, but about sustainability and community.
Q. What is your philosophy for the clothes a baby needs early in its life? (Simple, limited, quality products)
A. Babies don’t need much: soft, non-restrictive clothes, healthy nourishment, love and interaction. We cringe every time we see a newborn in denim and a stiff, woven shirt. That must feel like straightjacket! We think dressing your baby should be the easiest part of your day, which is why we’ve created soft, simple, unisex styles that can be worn together or mixed with solids.
Q. What are your favorite sustainable, healthy, ethical (SHE) brands for babies and new moms?
Chelsea: For new moms, your beauty routine is going to change…. Big time. I love RMS Beauty because it takes less than 5 minutes to get ready for the day: Un-cover Up under the eyes, a little Lip2Cheek in Demure for some color and Living Luminizer on the inside corners of your eyes. Done. For baby, Olen essentials (of course) and Painted Turtle rattles; beautiful, simple design with a mission.
Lindsay: Chelsea has you covered with the best products out there, so I'm going to suggest signing up for the New York Times' new family and parenting newsletter, Well Family, considering Blue Apron for no-brainer healthy and sustainable meals delivered directly to your door, and subscribing to Garance Dore's new podcast to listen to during late nights feelings. Her delightful accent alone will relax you, while her conversations inspire you.
Q. What is your favorite, healthiest guilty pleasure when the going gets tough?
Chelsea: Zumba followed by a Radiant Skin smoothie and dark chocolate from Stone Grindz!
Lindsay: pouring a glass of Portuguese or Greek organic wine, lighting a candle from Brooklyn Candle Studio (all handmade in small batches), and watching West Wing or Friday Night Lights reruns on Netflix!
We were able to sit across from Chelsea in LA when Olen's products were still in production, and were blown away by the thoughtfulness and care they were putting into every aspect of their products, from their employees to fabric and dye selection, to thinking through what happens to the clothing when our babies grow out of them. Hopefully, by now, you can see why we were so excited about them.
Cheers, SHE Sisters!