We have a soft spot for knitwear and have an ongoing list of knitters or knitting companies we love. When WOOLN connected with us, we were especially intrigued with their story. WOOLN is a fashion-forward knitwear brand, whose knitting is completed by Senior Citizens, an integral part of the WOOLN brand, part of whose mission is to honor and give continued purpose to talented knitting Seniors. One of these days we'll do a recap of the knitters on our list, so if you'd like to be included, or know a company that should be in the list, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or comment us below. In the meantime, hopefully you will enjoy and support the beautiful work of WOOLN!
ML Dreams: Margaux Rousseau + Faustine Badrichani, NY, NY, Co-Founders of WOOLN
MADE LOKAL: I read that you are fairly new to NYC. How long have you lived here?
WOOLN: Faustine: 7 years. Margaux: 3 years. Margaux moved to LA last summer, and our goal is to expand the brand there, have a team of LA knitters, and a more summery collection made of ethical cotton / bamboo! We feel it makes sense for our brand to be Bi-coastal
MADE LOKAL: How did you come up with the idea to help the Senior community?
WOOLN: Being two French transplants has played a great role in starting up WOOLN for many reasons. First of all, we felt seniors could play a bigger role in the community and be more valued than they were in New York City, and as Europeans, honoring elders is a big part of our way of living, so we wanted to incorporate that same feeling into our project. Also, being surrounded by such an amazing community of senior knitters is a way for us to create a new family away from home here in the US. And as much as we have made America our home, creating WOOLN is also a way to give back to what America gave us!
MADE LOKAL: How does WOOLN work?
WOOLN: We design our patterns in-house. Margaux is a knitting wizard, and I am an artist and have always been super creative, so it’s been very natural for us so far to design our hats and snoods. We’ve also worked with our knitters to evaluate and refine each of our designs (what’s doable, what’s a good way to explain, etc.). We want to keep our designs simple and versatile and unisex, it’s also the essence of our brand, so we always keep simplicity in mind.
Once all the patterns are ready, we start meeting our knitters.
We provide then with yarn, needles and our patterns. They knit at their own pace and preference, and whenever they’re ready, we meet up, collect the items and pay them, and give them more yarn!
MADE LOKAL: How do you know each other?
WOOLN: We both went to High School in Bordeaux, France, which means we could have met 15 years ago, but we only met in New York a year and a half ago, through friends of friends. We met in New York in January 2015, and filed WOOLN LLC in March of that same year! After two lunches together, we knew we had brainstormed a great concept. We had such a strong connection and instant trust, and just wanted to get things started and not waste a minute. We find it funny that we met in New York City, and feel it was serendipitous that we met when it was time to create WOOLN; a true testament that everything truly happens for a reason.
MADE LOKAL: Who taught you both to knit?
WOOLN: Margaux taught herself on youtube about 10 years ago, watching videos and tutorials for hours and hours. She is left handed, so it made things even harder.
And then, she taught me when we decided to start WOOLN! And I loved it immediately and was soon very addicted! Now i always have a project going on, sweater, hats, gloves etc!
MADE LOKAL: Do you limit knitters ONLY to seniors?
WOOLN: Yes, we do! Seniors are the reason why we created WOOLN, they are part of our Mission. However, we welcome male knitters! (we had one last year!)
MADE LOKAL: Do your knitters physically knit together, or do they mail in their work?
WOOLN: Our knitters usually knit in the comfort of their home and at their own pace and convenience. We meet them in person whenever they are ready! It’s such a great time together, and it’s really part of what makes WOOLN so special and so human too. We love meeting with our knitters, collecting what they have made and chatting a little bit! We also encourage them to meet each other, for example to discuss one tricky pattern, or different techniques of casting on!
MADE LOKAL: Will a customer know which Senior has knit their product?
WOOLN: Yes! Each hat is labeled with the name of the knitter who made the item! He/She can then go online and check her profile, see what she looks like and read her bio! It makes the act of buying super personal, and it almost feel like the knitter made the hat just for the buyer!
MADE LOKAL: Your Senior Knitters are drawn, not photographed. How come ;)
WOOLN: I (Faustine) am an artist, and I thought it was great to draw them, a nice way for me to incorporate my creativity into WOOLN. And also, the more people age, the less they enjoy seeing pictures of themselves (i myself feel more and more this way as i get older!). We do have pictures of them on social media though!
MADE LOKAL: I loved reading the stories of your knitters on your website; how do you find them?
WOOLN: We found our knitters by going where they are: senior centers! Last year, we’ve trekked the city going to all 40 Senior Centers in different neighborhoods throughout New York City, putting up flyers and talking to knitting teachers in those centers. We started the season with just 4 knitters last year, and as we got the word out about what we were doing, more knitters started naturally gravitating to us. We didn’t have a traditional recruiting process. In fact, the whole idea of WOOLN is not to have interviews and have seniors get tested on their knowledge, they’ve had a whole life of that already! The way we start working with them is very organic, we meet them, talk about our project, what we do and why we do it, try to understand why they are interested in being part of our community (there are many reasons, money, feeling valued, having a new sense of purpose, meeting people, etc.), and we quickly understand if they share the same values as we do. We then get them started on just one pattern, and see how it goes, and then give them more yarn, etc. to get a sense of their skill.
We meet with them often in the first month or so, and then we let them decide when they want to meet next, and how much they would like to knit. We don’t have deadlines, everyone knits at their own pace!
Also when we have press events, we have a few of them join us and talk about their experience with Wooln, and that’s usually a good way for them to meet each other!
MADE LOKAL: Do the Seniors ever use their own knitting patterns, or do they follow patterns you give them?
WOOLN: Only our patterns. And we have a strict quality control to make sure all the hats are the same and have no mistake! Our products are really premium, so we have to ensure that our production is controlled.
MADE LOKAL: How can people buy from WOOLN?
WOOLN: This year, we are almost exclusively online. But we have a pop up store in December with Young and Able in Lower East Side, New-York! And one of our knitters has helped us find a few select retail locations upstate New-York!
MADE LOKAL: From where are your knitters currently?
WOOLN: Our knitters all live in New-York. We have a couple in the Village, one in Harlem, one in Queens, and the rest in Brooklyn! We usually meet them in Washington Square Park! They are all amazingly talented knitters. They’ve all been knitting for 50 years or more! So they do knit very well, and a lot! Actually, they would be knitting anyway, for Wooln or not!
MADE LOKAL: What is your dream for WOOLN?
WOOLN: Our dream is to have more than a hundred knitters knitting in all of the US cities for WOOLN!