Carve out time for yourself each day. Mine is a morning cup of coffee that is part meditation and part planning for the day ahead…Get a little exercise every day, even if it’s taking the stairs or walking an extra block. It’s a great way to feel well and keep a positive outlook…Establish a night-time routine that supports a healthy night’s sleep. Put away the devices at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime, and if you’re prone to insomnia, night-time yoga really helps to promote sleep.
Asa part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Eileen Mockus. Eileen is the CEO of Coyuchi, where luxury linens and apparel are crafted using only the finest organic, sustainably made fibers. Mockus learned about entrepreneurship first-hand while developing new products for The North Face and Patagonia, and honed her business development and branding skills at Pottery Barn Kids and PB Teen. She represents Coyuchi on the Fiber Council for the Organic Trade Organization and is an active member of the Textile Exchange. She is also the board chair of the Chetna Coalition — an ethical textile and fashion value chain community — which works to organize and align the demand of buyers and manufacturers to support the growth and development of Chetna’s Organic farming community.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Eileen! What is your “backstory”?
Having grown up in a household where my mother and five sisters all sewed, I’ve been passionate about textiles for as long as I can remember. I pursued this interest at the University of California, Davis, where I earned a bachelor of science in textile and clothing, and then went on to receive my masters of science in business administration — with an emphasis on small business and entrepreneurship — from San Francisco State University. My years spent at companies like The North Face, Pottery Barn, and Patagonia helped build my portfolio in business development and branding, and solidified my calling to the technical side of the textile business, working in fabric development, materials testing, product development, and sourcing. My visits to manufacturing facilities in Europe and Asia piqued my interest in organic cotton, and inspired my pursuit for better, cleaner textile-processing methods. The challenge of making high-quality products in a way that is respectful to the people who make them, and the Earth we all share, drew me to Coyuchi, and continues to guide my vision for the company as we grow.
Can you share your top three “lifestyle tweaks” that will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing?
Carve out time for yourself each day. Mine is a morning cup of coffee that is part meditation and part planning for the day ahead.
Get a little exercise every day, even if it’s taking the stairs or walking an extra block. It’s a great way to feel well and keep a positive outlook.
Establish a night-time routine that supports a healthy night’s sleep. Put away the devices at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime, and if you’re prone to insomnia, night-time yoga really helps to promote sleep.
Can you share the interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
One series of events that really opened my eyes to the impact that textiles can have on people and our environment happened during my time in Fabric Development at Patagonia. I was learning how to incorporate new fabrics and finishes into performance outdoor clothing, when stockroom employees began complaining of itchy skin and eyes after receiving a shipment of shorts. I did a little research, and along with our testing lab, we discovered that formaldehyde can be used to finish cotton fabric, and if there’s a residue on the fabric, it’s a skin irritant. Patagonia soon initiated their first environmental assessment of their materials during my time at the company. The surprising result was the significant impact of natural fibers, cotton in particular, on the environment. Patagonia’s subsequent commitment to organic cotton was a memorable moment for me because it was a positive response to a negative situation.
When it comes to health and wellness, how are you helping people making a bigger impact in the world?
We give people a sustainable option for their homes, and help consumers voice their support for brands like ours that go the extra mile to create transparency on what is inside the fabrics they sell — and not stop at the fiber level. All of Coyuchi’s cotton fiber is organic, and always has been. Recently, we’ve added organic linen (which is hard to come by) into our product line. All organic fiber is grown according to USDA organic standards (the National Organic Program or NOP) and follows the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) for processing. For textiles, a product that is marketed as organic has to follow the GOTS standard or it should not be considered organic. GOTS ensures the product is made organically and that the processing is non-toxic and low impact on the environment.
As an added verification of health and safety, we’ve recently adopted the Made Safe standard for a portion of our assortment. We want to avoid harmful chemicals such as flame retardants, formaldehyde finishes, and heavy metals in dyestuffs. Natural fibers are the best performance fibers for sleep, for bathing, and for the home. Using organic fiber and clean processing is our way of ensuring we have the safest product for our customers. When you build your bed with organic options, you are bettering the health of yourself and your family, as well as farmers, factory workers, and the soil underneath all of our feet.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I agree, no one achieves success on their own. For me, there are a number of people to whom I am grateful, not just one. At Patagonia, there was a group of women who were an inspiration given their successful careers, active lifestyle, and desire to live with intention. They were all doing work and living a life that had meaning to them. Right out of college, that gave me direction that was not quite so present at the other places I moved on to afterwards.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Changing your sheets really can change the world. We truly believe that purchasing with intention can have a domino effect on the health of our families, our workers, and our soil. Our sheets have always been made with zero water waste and low-impact dyes, but we wanted to do even more. That’s why we are proud to be the first bedding company in North America to use a unique finishing process called miDori bioSoft for all of our new sheets, which involves zero toxic chemicals and is 100% plant-based. We chose to work with Beyond Surface Technologies for this softener because, while we had already been following an incredibly strict standard, we always aim to stay on the cutting-edge of sustainable production standards to create the safest sheets possible for you, your family, and the planet. Our new softener is highly biodegradable, doesn’t leave an impact on the ozone layer, and is ZDHC, GOTS, and USDA certified. MiDori bioSoft is based on renewable raw materials rather than finite ones like crude oil. We use an industrial plant seed oil so that it’s not in competition with the food system. By doing so, we can achieve a positive impact in terms of CO2 footprint and greenhouse gas emissions when compared to conventional oil-based softeners, and it doesn’t drive food prices up globally. Because our softener is biodegradable, it also won’t interfere with recycling and upcycling processes.
The upcycling process is where a fashion designer from Brooklyn comes in. Daniel, Founder of Zero Waste Daniel (ZWD), is an innovative designer who uses fabric scraps to create beautiful clothing that helps to keep linens out of the landfill. Struggling to find a donation center for our small fabric scraps, we connected with ZWD to repurpose them into garments that are both stylish and sustainable. We’ve also introduced our Coyuchi for Life subscription service and 2nd Home program to take aim at waste, offering circular solutions for linens that have reached the end of their life-cycles.This closed-loop movement allows consumers to send back their well-loved linens to be refreshed, upcycled, or recycled into new products — and ensure that they avoid the landfill entirely.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Our distinctly human commitment propels us to seek out vendor partners who have expertise in the production of home textiles, who use sustainable manufacturing practices, and who actively engage in their communities. Many of our partners are small- to medium-sized, family-run companies with whom we have established long-term relationships. We feel that these connections lead to increased transparency and collaboration across our supply chain. They hand-knot each tassel on our Mediterranean towels, hand-stitch the design on our Pebbled Quilt, and hand-weave the fabric for our Tassel Pillow. They take great care in creating our beautiful products, and we feel it’s important that we take great care in providing them with safe working conditions, living wages, and opportunities to better their communities. For over ten years, Coyuchi has sourced Fair Trade cotton, and since 2014 we’ve partnered with Fair Trade USA and their network of certified suppliers. Fair Trade USA works with farms and factories around the world to improve wages, benefits, and working conditions. We pay a bit more for Fair Trade Certified items, and that premium goes into a farmer- and worker-controlled account that they are free to manage as they choose. This premium is intended to close the gap between their wage and what is calculated to be the living wage in their area. By choosing Fair Trade Certified products from Coyuchi, you’ll help to reduce poverty, increase opportunity, and improve the quality of life for these farmers, workers, and their families.
What is your “I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.
It is never necessary to sacrifice ethics for quality. The best thing about Coyuchi linens is that they look and feel luxurious, yes, but it’s the story of organic farming and sustainable production behind each product that truly brings warmth and comfort to the home.
Do you have any “girl-crush” in this industry? If you could take one person to brunch, who would they be? (Let another “woman in wellness” know that you respect her as a teacher and guide! )
As a female-founded company that was the first of its kind nearly three decades ago, Coyuchi is a testament to the power of strong women with strongly-held beliefs. Today our office is filled with wonderful, inspiring women (and men, too) who continue to amaze me every day.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Ten million tons of textile waste end up in landfills each year, and Coyuchi for Life (CFL) and 2nd Home are two ways we are aiming to reduce waste. CFL is a circular subscription service that allows customers to trade in their used Coyuchi linens for a new set every 1–2 years at a low monthly cost. The returned sheets and towels are then renewed, recycled, or upcycled by us. It’s a great way to afford fresh, high-end organic sheets and towels, while taking responsibility for what we consume and never risking those products ending up in a landfill.
We only get one planet, so I feel like it is every person’s duty as an inhabitant of Earth to do what we can to nurture and preserve our home.
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