Margaux Rousseau was born in Bordeaux, France (1983). In the past 10 years, she has lived in Italy, the UK, New Zealand, Australia and Paris and landed in Brooklyn in 2013. A former consultant in HR, Management and Employment Policies, she gave up her job in 2010 to dedicate herself to her passion: knitting. She spent a few months meeting yarn producers, knitters, entrepreneurs and even a sheep shearer and ended up working for the main woolen mill in Europe, Bergère de France, as Marketing & Web PR consultant. When settling in New York, Margaux started working for one of the largest yarn retailer in New York, Lion Brand, as a Marketing Analyst. WOOLN is the outcome of combined skills and expertise Margaux called on in her different jobs and through her passion for knitting.
Faustine Badrichani (born 1984) grew up in France in a family of entrepreneurs. She graduated from a top business school in Paris (ESSEC), and started working in finance in London in 2008. In 2010, she moves to New York and soon decides to leave the finance industry behind and give her artistic talent a chance. She settles as an artist for a few years and has a couple of successful shows exhibiting her drawings and paintings. Faustine’s idea of life is to be able to pursue multiple vocations, and WOOLN gives her a great occasion to combine all the skills she’s developed so far and all the vocations she cares for.
Margaux and I 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, that we had such a strong connection and instant trust, and just wanted to get things started and not waste a minute. Being both french transplants in New York City has played a great role in the creation of WOOLN. The drive and motivation to work with seniors came from the assessment that we did not see nearly as many seniors out and about in the city, as compared to France, and that they were not part of the city life as much as it is the case in Europe. We want to change this. We really want to bring their talent to the forefront, share their talents, and encourage the value of their talents by including them into the economy, having them be part of something, and building intergenerational relationships.
The first step was to source a great yarn that we wanted to work with, and that made sense with our story and values: it had to be amazingly soft, and sourced ethically! Once that was done (we work with ethically sourced Alpaca from Peru and Bolivia) we worked hard on our patterns and started looking for our team of knitters by visiting every single senior center in the metropolitan area. Our first collection was put together very quickly and in October, just 10 months after we had met, we had our launching party were we sold our entire inventory!
From Velma, one of WOOLN's knitters...
Years ago when I started knitting I did want to start my own line, just like you ladies [Wooln]. However, several things came about – I was the crafter, I knew how to create the product. But I also needed someone to sell the product because I wasn’t a marketer. I could never find my marketer. And the other thing is that we didn’t have the internet. The internet is one of the best things to ever happen because you don’t need to have a big building, you don’t have to have a large inventory, you can sell your products online and then supply as you need them, which didn’t exist when I was coming along.
I was at my Doctor’s office – Dr. Lau, she was my internist. She had an article in some paper and tore it out and gave it to me and ordered me to contact WOOLN. She didn’t ask me to; she ordered me because she knew how important knitting was to me. So she said you need to contact them. So I did, and then I went back and told her I followed her instructions. She was so happy and so proud of me.
People say “Be careful of people who take advantage of you.” But at this particular point in my life, I need to pass on my information on to someone else. I was given an opportunity, I came back to the United States, I had no degree, no career opportunities, I had some work experience. I walked into this place, Coats and Cloaks. I had seen the ad in the New York Times. I went to them, they told me to write a pattern. I know I had gotten that pattern from another book and I could have just copied that pattern but that’s not what they were asking. They were asking me to write directions. So I took the garment and I sat there and I wrote directions. They gave me a week to turn it in. I didn’t know how they compared to the original ones and I didn’t care, because I had done it the right way. They hired me. I was so happy to have that job, here I was at 230 Park Avenue, getting off the train in a business suit and walking into this company and knitting and crocheting the whole day. It was a studio, we had a finisher who sat behind us all day. She would tell me what she knew about finishing garments. I found out that I was knitting the wrong way after two years. But I was still knitting, and I then knew that there were two ways of doing it. It was marvelous. I would run around to the store and buy magazines. I loved that job. I did that for two years until they moved out of New York state. And then I moved on to somewhere else until they moved out of New York state as well. My daughter doesn’t knit. But the thing is, I know I need to pass it on to someone else, because it’s not taught in schools. I got this skill from professionals. It went from the garment to the direction writers to the samples and then to finishers to get sewn together to be photographed. You don’t get that type of studio experience easily. Whatever I know, I want to pass on. I need someone to know it. I need to pass it on so it doesn’t die out.
Knowing that I hadn’t done anything but keep house for the last six years and then to see this and to go there and do it; I was in heaven. It was a dream come true. I loved the jobs. It was the dream job.
From Hollis, one of WOOLN's knitters...
I have been knitting since I was six or eight years old. My grandmother taught me how to knit. I’m not going to tell you how old I am now but let’s just say I’ve been knitting for a really long time.
I have taught many people to knit. I’ve taught children as young as eight years old up to 78 years old. I believe anybody can knit and it’s a skill but if you learn the basics which are very easy to learn at first you have immediate gratification. You have something to show for your efforts and your skill. You can build your skills and techniques after that and work your way up to some really complicated products. But at first it’s an easy thing for most people to learn how to do. If you get the basics down, the creative world is open to you after that.
I was working before working with WOOLN. I’m retired now but I spent a very large part of my career in the cosmetic and fragrance industry. I was the International Vice President of Training for a French cosmetic company. I had a global network of trainers and my job was to go around the world and make sure they were delivering training correctly. It was all for cosmetic and fragrance and skin care training. I had to design training programs for them and teach retail associates how to sell products; what to say about the products, how store managers should manage their stores, anything that had to do with a retail operation, I was responsible for creating the training network for that.
When I was initially approached about WOOLN, after seeing an ad at the Greenwich House Senior Center that said you were looking for knitters, I was so excited. I thought what an amazing an opportunity it was and how lucky I was that we found each other because I love to knit and I knit all the time anyway and now here is somebody telling me that I can continue to sit on the couch and knit every night and have something to show for it and we’re going to pay you to do it too. I was really excited also to be involved in the project itself, the WOOLN project, because I think it is an astonishing endeavor for two young girls. I was so impressed by that type of initiative. I was so impressed that you had the creativity to think it up, that you had the ambition and the ability and the skill to put it into practice. A lot of people have ideas and they never get passed the talking stages. But you two actually did it. And that to me was really impressive. So I appreciate being involved with that type of creativity and that type of thinking process. The WOOLN mindset and philosophy is great. A lot of times older people are marginalized and your working career is over, you’re not so important anymore and you’re not so interesting anymore; you’re kind of left out. So someone saying your skills and knowledge are valuable, that’s like way cool. It’s really flattering.
I have a lot of passions in live – yoga is one of mine. I love to do yoga. I go to the yoga studio 3, 4 times a week. I’m getting really good at yoga. I’m working on handstands and I’ve mastered the headstand. I can stretch in any direction a rubber band can stretch in. It’s great – it keeps me flexible and young and gives me strong balance. I love to work on Governor’s Island at the compost center as well. I work with groups of children from schools. They come out to the compost learning center to learn about the composting process and recycling. I take care of the animals out there – we have goats, chickens, bees. I just did a honey extraction the other day. We teach the children how chickens are involved in the composting process and how important composting is. It’s an educational thing and the kids are really excited to be out there. Another passion of mine is bicycle-riding, and knitting of course.
My advice for people trying to monetize their passions – they can and they should do it. They can do it. The opportunities for women nowadays compared to when I was growing up are so much broader and so much more available to them. If they have an interest in something, research it, network. These are all things that 40+ years ago were not around. When I was growing up, if you weren’t a stewardess you could maybe get a job in an office and work your way up in that office. I ended up being a woman executive, which was one of the best things you could achieve then. But now women can achieve anything. If they want to start their own business now, if they have a skill or a hobby they want to turn into a business, they can totally do that. The opportunity is there; it exists for you. Do it. Try it. Figure it out. Women are smart. They have the ability to do anything.