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Welcome to The Quality Makers, an interview series highlighting pioneers in the direct-to-consumer space. Join us as we get an inside look at the world of digital shopping through the eyes of the individuals shaping it…
When a friend recently introduced me to Mon Coeur, I was immediately intrigued by the brand’s playful aesthetic and planet-loving promise. Its motto: “kids clothing that lasts, so the planet does too” is so refreshing, especially in a consumer-focused world where we are constantly buying more stuff (or is it just me?!).
Mon Coeur’s products are not only produced and sourced to limit emissions, but each piece of clothing highlights earth-friendly innovation in recycling and upcycling. The brand has also partnered with the 5Gyres Institute – an organization focused on ending plastic waste – and is working with 1% for the Planet to support ocean and beach cleanups, tree manting, and community support. And of course, each style is absolutely adorable. I’m particularly fond of this sweet smocked bathing suit (with matching style for baby!), the ultra-soft baby onesies, and this cozy sweatshirt.
Feeling inspired by the brand’s vision and commitments, I had the chance to chat with founder Louise Ulukaya, who offers an inside look at what makes Mon Coeur different, her plans to educate the world about sustainability, and how she defines what makes a quality product.
Let’s kick off by hearing a little bit about you. What’s your story?
LU: My career started in the hospitality industry in Dubai and Hong Kong developing hotels for Starwood Company and then in New York where I opened two awarded restaurants: Chef’s Club in New York and Aspen. That all changed when I had my first son, Miran.
As a new mom, I could not find any true sustainable kids brands. I could find plenty of organic brands but nothing that would really resonate with my desire to put a sustainable piece of clothing on my child (made in a country that treats their workers ethically, too). That's what led me to launch Mon Coeur – to make beautiful kids’ clothing in a better way, so as not to harm the planet or compromise on style and comfort. Sustainability, philanthropy, and education have been life-long passions for me (and even led me to establish the Food Dreams Foundation with my family to foster an environment of development, growth and opportunity for underprivileged youth from across the globe).
To make beautiful kids’ clothing in a better way, so as not to harm the planet or compromise on style and comfort.
There are a lot of choices when it comes to kids' fashion. What makes Mon Coeur different?
LU: Mon Coeur is super fun and stylish in the first place. I like to play with fun colors and prints, adding cute little details like patches and embroideries that make each piece stand out. Our clothes are super comfortable and made 100% from recycled and upcycled materials down to the care label, which is also made from recycled plastic bottles. Our cotton pieces come from cotton scraps, while our swimwear comes from recycled fishing nets. Not one element of our clothes is made from a virgin fiber – we give a second life to all the pieces that ultimately make our fabrics and clothes.
We also just started a new program called “New Again Program,” that allows consumers to send us used baby and children clothes in exchange for a discount on their next Mon Coeur purchase. These clothes are then being upcycled or downcycled, thus closing the loop and making sure we reduce waste and over usage of virgin fabrics.
What was it like to launch a brand, especially in the saturated market of baby & kids products?
LU: It took me 3 years until I could launch Mon Coeur because I needed to create various samples with various blends and combinations of sustainable materials that would be the best combinations for the kids to wear. When I launched Mon Coeur, a year ago, I had a vision to offer parents a truly sustainable brand without compromising on the look and comfort for their kids and that's what we’ve done.
It has been the most amazing journey over the past 13 months, bringing Mon Coeur to life and seeing kids wearing Mon Coeur in New York, across America, in Korea, Middle East and Europe. What makes me especially happy is seeing kids in my son Miran’s class wearing Mon Coeur (and Miran screaming, “my mom made that!”). Best feeling ever!
One thing we love about DTC companies is the sense of community they're able to build. How would you describe the Mon Coeur community? How do you engage with your customers?
LU: Children and young parents are the biggest ambassadors and voices of sustainability. Kids are extremely sensitive to climate change, mostly thanks to education in school. Younger generations like Gen Z are going to be extremely powerful in making more conscious choices when it comes to their buying decisions. This is where the big shift is going to happen in my opinion, and I believe that Mon Coeur’s community of parents making the decision to buy “better” and invest in “slow fashion” versus fast fashion is helping to drive and build our brand into what it is today.
We host community events such as tree planting in public gardens across the city multiple times a year. This is an amazing way to connect kids with nature, while spending quality time with family and the Mon Coeur community at large.
What dreams do you have for Mon Coeur? What's next?
LU: I started Mon Coeur to become a leader as a sustainable lifestyle brand for children, so I would like to expand to more categories like bathroom products, shoes and toys while really being accessible for all kids and parents who believe that buying ‘better’ is the way to go!
I also want to create a community around Mon Coeur that would educate kids and families around sustainability so they truly understand how we’re making a difference for our planet. I realized in the process of launching Mon Coeur that working with recycled plastic bottles and cotton scraps is not as straightforward and easy as I thought it was. I remember a little kid once asking me, “so, do you use used cotton to make your t-shirt?” and I got so excited about the opportunity to speak about reusing cotton scraps that would have otherwise gone to a landfill. Kids are so eager to learn, so curious and really the biggest ambassadors for change.
What does the word "quality” mean to you?
LU: Quality starts with asking yourself, “who makes this product” or “where does this product come from?”.
At Mon Coeur we are dedicated to care for our workers and we only work with suppliers, manufacturing companies and countries where employees are treated with care, respect and professionalism – where there is a minimum wage, where no child is allowed to work or allowed near a factory. Apparel workers are among the lowest paid in the world, and we committed from the very beginning to work with factories in Italy, Spain, France and Portugal where we can be sure laws are respected and reinforced. Being part of creating quality products is not only about the material, but how the clothes are made and by whom they are made.
We’re dying to know – what are your five most-used products right now?
LU: I dress all my kids in Mon Coeur, every single day – they love it and tell their friends they have a t-shirt made from plastic bottles! Next, my kitchen composter – great to do with kids and teach them about minimizing food waste. I also love Coterie diapers – I use them for my 4 month old baby girl, and these have a smaller environmental impact and are great quality. For me, my computer – we’re gearing up for Mon Coeur’s Spring/Summer ‘22 collection launch this month. And lastly, my kettle….I live on herbal teas!
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