Meet WOOLN, the fashion company that hires grandmas to do its knitting
This company strives to put the skills of senior citizens to good use, while creating a beautiful, high-quality product.
A new fashion startup in New York City has hired an unusual workforce to produce its beautiful hand-knitted accessories. WOOLN relies entirely on the skill of nine middle- to elderly-aged women, all retirees and New York residents who are also skilled knitters.
WOOLN was founded by two French moms living in the U.S., Faustine Badrichani and Margaux Rousseau. They have understood shoppers’ desire for a more personal, traceable, and socially ethical shopping experience, and came up with this innovative idea.
It’s the next best thing to having your own grandma or grandpa knit you something cozy for winter, which not all of us are lucky enough to have. Each item comes labeled with the name of the knitter who made it, and you can look her up on the WOOLN website to read a brief bio.
Perhaps your item was made by Hollis, who rides a bike covered in yarn and cares for the chickens, goats, rabbits, and honey bees on Governor’s Island; or Charmaine, who first discovered knitting at four years of age while examining illustrated diagrams in the World Book Encyclopedia; or Inga, who made her first knitted poncho at age seven, which she later transformed into multiple pairs of socks because “yarn should not be wasted.”
From the website:
“Beyond creating luxurious hand-made fashion, we aim at creating a strong community with our knitters, welcoming them back into the active workforce, valuing their amazing talent, and making them proud to be part of this innovative knitting project.”
Faustine and Margaux recruited their staff from a number of places, including a seniors' center and Craigslist. It is really interesting and heartwarming to see a company embracing the skills of an older generation, which are so often overlooked, undervalued, or even forgotten, as soon as these individuals leave the regular workforce. It gives them the opportunity to have their craftsmanship recognized and put to good use.
WOOLN accessories include cute hats for men and women, headbands, and chunky ‘snoods,’ which are a cross between a scarf and hood, a sort of neck-warmer. All are made of pure wool—alpaca, merino, cashmere, or a mix. You can find out more about their sourcing practices here.
Note: If you think the prices are high (which you may at first glance if you're accustomed to shopping at big box stores), then I recommend you purchase your own skeins of pure wool (which aren't cheap) and spend several hours attempting to create a hat, at which point you'll realize the skill, the hours, and the knowledge that goes into such an item. Read "Why bother knitting a scarf?"