Contributing Monkie Julia Ocean
Published on January 24, 2010
In my never ending quest to be the hottest darkest green bitch in London, I find myself seeking out the under exposed G/Fashion brands and stores. This is how I came to learn about Ekovaruhuset (House of Organic). After a night of clubbing and one too many organic vodka on ice with a twist of lime, I curled up on my sofa, cracked open my macbook and started to search. My closet was screaming for something new, something fresh. My exact search was, organic fashion for women with balls, but nothing came up. I decided to checkout one of my semi favorite stops online New York Magazine and with my slight buzz I had some difficulty focusing my eyes on the screen. But within a few clicks I had landed on a screen which said, Ekovaruhuset, House of Organic NYC. A gem of a shop, which was not only in New York City but also, had locations in Stockhom and Paris. No London, so popping in for a look is off the table, but from the description this is feeling like a true fashion house. My heart started pounding and my sweaty organic cotton tights were getting uncomfortable from all this excitement.
Un-able to contain my enthusiasm, I shot an email off to G Monkie, to get his darknesses take on this place. I stroked his ego a little, and promised him some banana cake, if he would allow me to cover this designer and her shops. Lucky for all of us, he was in a better mood than usual and sent a series of questions to me and Johanna Hofring, the owner / designer. His questions where the same dull Monkie dribble he is always asking, so I altered them a bit, to fit, what we women really want to know. You know how dull that freaking Monkie can be. “Yes we know you have an electric bike, you told us.”
Before we start with the questions, let me tell you a little about this little gem of a green fashion house/ shop. First, this isn’t your typical web online based green womens store. They actually have three physical locations, which I stated earlier. They almost cover all the fashion capitals, New York, Paris and Stockholm. I know, Stockholm doesn’t count as a fashion capital and no G Monkie, L.A. doesn’t need to be on the list. They do need a london store, which I am sure will be coming soon, (hint). At Ekovaruhuset all the clothes you will find are made the natural way, using all organic materials. This means the fibers that the fabrics are made of have been grown without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides and made into fabric, then dyed in facilities that are environmentally responsible. Johanna likes to say ” It’s all about having fun and looking fabulous while saving the world”. That is something I can totally get down with. Lets do another round of organic shots, and get into this interview.
Julia Ocean: You have chosen to open your stores in very international cities like New York Stockholm, and Paris, why is that?
Johanna: The first one I opened in Stockholm because that is where I was living at the time, the second one in New York because we believed it to be the best place to spread eco-fashion awareness internationally and the third one is opened by a wonderful french woman named Helene Sananikone on a franchise basis. So we chare our concept and collaborate in many ways but it is her store.
Julia Ocean: Your stores are very contemporary. Is that a reflection of your own personal style or do you just think your customers relate to that environment?
Johanna: Both, in Sweden everything eco had a very bad reputation of beeing beige, ugly and very contryside feeling. For me..I love beige and contryside..but I wanted to create stores that surprised people and give those amazing clothes a very worthy presentation.
Julia Ocean: Do you think green fashion has a chance with the main stream drones of the world or do you think Rush Limbaugh will scare people into rejecting organics.
Johanna: Off course. It is the future for us who want a future. It seems very slow, but I feel awareness spreading like fire. Remember just a few years ago it was impossible to find anything organic when it came to fashion.
Julia Ocean: How did you choose to become a designer, how did you start your career?
Johanna: I just always made clothes, ever since I was very young. I worked as a stylist and in the costume department on films and one day a storeowner caught me in the street in NY and asked me to start making things for her store because she liked my outfit and since then I made clothes for a living.
Julia Ocean:It sounds like you are open to other g/monkies opening up stores around the world in co-operation with you. Is that your business model? Are there any green business models you would like to apply to your company?
Johanna: I would like to move on to becoming a Cooperative, where the business is run by many people together who are both owners and employees. I don’t know if any fashion businesses are Coops but many producers are. I belive it is a very important key for us to learn to cooperate again after an era of strong individualism.
Julia Ocean: Who are your favorite designers and why?
Johanna: Katherine Hamnett, Eko-Lab, Susan Cianciolo, Pia Anjou, Anja Hynynen, Veja, Kuyichi and many more.. you can guess why.. Because they fearlessly take organic and Fair Trade to a higher level and together we make it happen.
Julia Ocean: So far, what has been good about taking this path and has anything turned out to be more difficult that you expected?
Johanna: Everything has been amazing exept from maybe the finacial part, wich is still tough
Julia Ocean: What has gone wrong or what would you do differently now that you have been working on this for awhile?
Johanna: Perhaps I should have been slower, for the sake of my economy… Both the Stockholm and the NY store has had VERY slow starts. I think the Paris store is opening at a better time in history when some people actually already are interested and we don’t have to create all the interest.
Julia Ocean: How do you think the state of the economy will effect the green movement and green sales in general?
Johanna: It has a bit of an effect on sales, but most of our customers say they rather skip a few impulse buys in between and come to us and buy something really good in all aspects when they really need something new. This is overall where we need to go anyway with consumption if you ask me.
Julia Ocean: What are other green designers or companies doing wrong?
Johanna: I think it’s great that there are so many companies doing their thing in all diffrent ways. Off course I prefer the ones that are really hardcore in all aspects of their work, but on the other hand someone else is not as picky as me I think the more the merrier when it comes to green business.. as long as they are honest with what they do! Very important!
Julia Ocean: What do you think about green washing or major companies calling almost any effort they make, green?
Johanna: It can drive me mad.. but as I said.. any effort is good even if it’s tiny. And people are intelligent and it is easy to sense what is what if we use our head.. It is a bit of a shame though that the word organic seems a bit overused in the US, it feels like people have heard it too many times and seen to many scetchy products to belive it really is something good, and not just a way to put a big prizetag on something.
Julia Ocean: How important are the fabrics and what types of fabrics or materials are you interested in?
Johanna: The fabrics is close to everything for me.. I love linen, hemp and wool the most, perhaps because they are also materials we could produce up here in the cold north. I work mostly with an amazing linen jersey. And handspun angora yarn.
Julia Ocean: How important is the price point for you?
Johanna: Well, for my own design I spend a lot of time on each garment and the price point is quiet high, so I feel it’s important to also have lower priced things in the store. But as a shopper I so rarely buy something new that I don’t mind if it cost a bit when I do.. I rather spend more on something that will last longer.
Julia Ocean: What type of person is your customer, what are they looking for?
Johanna: All kinds.. really, everything from young anarchists to sober gentlemen. I very often wish I had a whole deparment store, because people are looking for soo much.
Julia Ocean: What are your goals for your company?
Johanna: I would love to see House of Organic stores all over the world filled with exquisit fashion, foods and more, produced in cool local eco-village-communities.
Julia Ocean: How “G” or green is your personal life?
Johanna: Pretty “G” I suppose.. We eat and shop only organic or second hand, no car, we don’t even have running water where we live, this is not really by choice but, we do save a lot of water since we have to carry it from the spring in buckets.. composting, clothdiapers for the baby..the whole package..you could say this is very much of a lifestyle for us.. but I am never the one to say no if I’m offered something not organic or that would try to impose my lifestyle on anyone else. I do fly in airplanes too.
I do what I can and what feels good and works for me. I’m not compleatly fanatic..just close.
Julia Ocean: We recently posted a video by actor Emily Deschanel (Fox Show Bones) and in the video she says you can’t really be green if you don’t change your diet. What are your thoughts about a Vegan diet and living green.
Johanna: I am not vegan, only vegetarian. But I sortof agree with her. The only righteous way to eat animal products would be to have your own cow and chickens and personally make sure they have a great life. I am not a big fan of processed foods so much and I feel better eating organic cheese and eggs from local farms than vegan “ham” from far away. But I think the most important is to eat what feels right for you, so many diffrent and personal aspects in this matter.
Julia Ocean: What makes you laugh, what are your other interest beyond your company?
Johanna: Our daugther Vida four years old!! She and my man Tor are my main interests. I am also very obsessed with gathering forces to create a modern eco-village-community. I love the forest and want to live in the nature, but I am also a very social person and love dancing and other things usually mostly found in cities. I want it combined and to be self sustainable by growing my own food etc. and lowering my cost of living so I can be freer, this is what I think about all the time.
Julia Ocean: Do you have a favorite place? Favorite City?
Johanna: A small lake called Igelsjön where I just was this morning. It’s in Mölnbo, Sweden where we live. We do love Coney Island as well. Especially Vida.
Julia Ocean: Do you like to travel? If yes, where have you been and what are your favorite memories from those travels?
Johanna: I use to travel a lot. Now I just want to be home..an age phenomena perhaps. I LOOOVE Africa, when I was in this one place in the Kalahari desert with the San-people I felt like I never had to leave. I also love Iceland, it has a compleatly diffrent energy than other places I have been. I would really like to one day visit the Hopis in Arizona, they know about “G” living.
Julia Ocean: What is coming up next for House of Organic?
Johanna: I have personally not been interested to sit by the computer on my free time before, but I have now embraced it as a tool for gathering the critical mass we need to make some seroius changes around here so we are building a House of Organic community and a webshop. I know. I’m slow..but catching up finally.. We are also forming a Coop to run the Stockholm store together now. And lots more beautyful dresses offcourse.