Below is a new article I wrote for BeE Woman magazine.
Before the words “organic” and “sustainable” had entered the mainstream, 32-year-old Joanna Notkin wanted to find a way to bring eco-friendly cushions to living rooms around the world. While studying textiles at the Rhode Island School of Design, Notkin noticed that natural fabrics were not really all that natural—but rather, filled with pesticides and toxic chemicals. “Isn’t there a way to design things so that when you’re done with them, they’re not necessarily garbage?” she wondered. Out of her determination to develop a product that could be both natural and 100 percent biodegradable, the idea for Looolo, a sustainable textile company, was born.
With lofty goals and some money she’d saved from a part-time job as an oyster shucker, Notkin started the company in 2004. Having made many of the products by hand, she offered a mere five pillows and two blankets as inventory in her booth at the Toronto Design Show, her first trade show.
As sustainable materials started to catch on with the public, sales began to climb. “It was not easy starting a company with a big agenda,” Notkin recalls. “My ideas limited me as far as materials, color and expense.” She searched every corner of the globe for the best organic yarns, finding sources in Switzerland, Australia and Vermont. Because Looolo’s pillows, blankets and scarves are made from natural materials and zero-impact dyes, they’re 100 percent biodegradable and can be disposed of in a composter. Even the company logo—a looping, interconnected “100%”—reflects the company’s commitment to sustainability. From the design and manufacturing to the products themselves, everything at Looolo Textiles is achieved through a sustainable process.
Determined to continue to help make the earth a better place, Notkin is now looking to expand on her vision. Recently, she received a prestigious business grant for women entrepreneurs from Eileen Fisher; this year, she plans to launch a new line of products designed from an eco-polyester, including accessories such as place mats and small zippered pouches due to hit stores this summer and double her sales revenue.
“As a designer, I was never settled with the fact that all the things I was making were one day going to end up in a landfill,” Notkin recounts. “Ten or more years ago, the seed was planted that I wanted to design something more meaningful.”
Heather Walpole, is a freelance writer based in Oceanside, Calif.
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