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Inside Steven Alan

A Visit with Oeuf

  • October 11th, 2013 | In Stock, New Arrivals

    Tags: , , , ,

    We recently stopped by for the Park Slope home of Sophie Demenge and Michael Ryan, co-founders of Oeuf. The American and French husband-and-wife duo have collaborated on their children’s furniture collection and clothing line for the past ten years, winning over fans with a distinctive design sensibility that manages to be both minimal and warm.  Sophie sat down to speak with us during a rare quiet moment.

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    We’re intrigued by your background, which has taken you from studying philosophy at the Sorbonne, to trapeze classes in San Francisco, to eventually finding your way to New York, where you studied industrial design at Pratt and started Oeuf.
    I have always had an organic approach to life, whether about studying, parenting, running my business, traveling . . . I love surprises! As long as you have an open heart and an open mind, you’re good. I was always encouraged, even expected to try, explore, jump in . . . it runs in the family.

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    A friend’s 3-D portrait of the family, in cardboard

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    A trapeze hangs in the living room, hearkening back to Sophie’s days in San Francisco

    As a pioneer in eco-friendly children’s products, Oeuf has successfully merged environmentally conscious design, high quality, and great style, which hasn’t always been easy to find in the kid’s market. What were some of your early challenges, and do you remember a specific breakthrough moment?
    The challenge is to stay focused and to not go in all directions. It’s an ongoing battle! The biggest breakthrough is finding out that there is no such thing as a balanced life. For me, anyway. Our family motto is, “bless the mess!”

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    The house is teeming with tchotchkes acquired at flea markets, yard sales, and estate auctions near their cabin upstate.

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    A friend made this portrait of Michael and Sophie in the style of a Bollywood film advertisement

    Your knits are produced in cooperation with indigenous knitters in Bolivia, helping to provide them with a sustainable source of income. How did this partnership come about, and how has it evolved since you began?
    It’s always about the people I meet and mutually wanting to embark on a new adventure! Eleven years ago, I couldn’t find any clothes for my daughter that were in a natural material, affordable, with a nice simple shape, and muted colors all combined into one. I met this Bolivian lady who was trying to sell some alpaca touristy things to help her community. I wanted to be part of it and design a mini line for my daughter. We started with four knitters and one manager in La Paz. The quality control was a disaster. Little by little, we all learned to do better and now there are 500 knitters and counting.

    The original five spent a week at my house last spring. It was really cool.

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    How often do you make it to Bolivia, and what’s on your itinerary while there?
    At least once a year. I spend practically all my time with the knitters working, laughing, developing new products. Some of them I have known for ten years and have seen their kids grow up. I love going there. I always come home so inspired, happy, filled up, empowered. They are my role models.

    When I have a little time I try to get to the jungle where there is this extraordinary sanctuary for rescued animals.

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    You have a “less is more” philosophy when it comes to children’s products, which is refreshing considering the overwhelming abundance of kid products on the market. What are your essentials for new or expecting parents?
    That approach really applies to everything. Quality over quantity is a big one, too. I have a guilt free approach. Basically you don’t really “need” anything, but it’s okay to indulge. Expecting parents should relax.

    Your own kids have contributed their opinions on your products. How has their feedback influenced your work?
    Yes, all the time. Mae actually gives business advice and writes notes on my phone with alarms. They love to come to the office and “reorganize.”

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    Son Marius’ bedroom

    What does your ideal weekend look like?
    In the spring, summer, and early fall, we spend practically all our weekends in the woods upstate where we have a cabin on a lake. When we are in Brooklyn I love watching my son and his team play soccer. They are so funny and you can learn a lot about personalities by watching a game! My daughter does ceramics and sewing in studios in the neighborhood on Saturdays. Family movie night is super fun. Brunch with friends and a bunch of kids, reading in bed with the kids. A nice, long debriefing of the week and just being together doing our things.

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    What are your favorite things about living in Brooklyn, and what do you miss about France?
    Brooklyn reminds me of growing up in Paris. I walk everywhere; to the kids school, the office, the food coop, friends, restaurants, the orthodontist, the knife sharpening guy, Prospect Park, even Steven Alan! I love going to the Atlantic Avenue store, where it feels like catching up with a neighbor . . . I love the sense of community. Having a glass of champagne on the stoop at the end of the day, now that’s life!

    I miss Paris a lot — the city itself and of course the people I love. I make sure to go to Paris at least once a year by myself and not telling anyone for the first couple of days so I have the city to myself. In the summer it’s the South of France that I crave.

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    Daughter Mae’s room
    The Oeuf team also shared photos from their trips to Bolivia:

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    Sophie and Michael with the original five knitters during their visit from Bolivia

    Many thanks to Sophie! You can find Oeuf clothing in our stores and in our web shop.

    This entry was posted on Friday, October 11th, 2013 at 5:55 pm and is filed under In Stock, New Arrivals. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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