Stylish yet ethical, playful yet functional; Oeuf is the go-to label for style-savvy parents everywhere. Danielle Wilkins meets the husband and wife design duo
The name was a compromise, which basically means Michael gave in to my idea,” laughs Oeuf’s co-founder Sophie, when I ask her what the story was behind the brand’s name. “Oeuf – meaning ‘egg’ in French – not only ties in with the idea of birth, but it symbolises a perfect design in nature: clean, simple and functional.” And there’s no question, it’s a name which thoroughly reflects the ethos of this brand.
The story started in 2002, when husband-and-wife team Michael Ryan, born in upstate New York, and Sophie Demenge, from Paris, were expecting their first child together. The pair had trained as furniture designers and were working together for years before they turned their talents to children’s design, starting with a single crib: “At the time there were no modern, appealing cribs on the market, so we made one for ourselves,” says Sophie. “Then we found that other parents were looking for the same sort of thing. That’s where our Classic Crib started and we just continued to develop modern essentials for parents and children from there.”
Since then, the line has grown into several ranges of nursery and junior furniture, décor, kids’ clothing and toys. But what stands out most is Michael and Sophie’s passion to create environmentally friendly and responsibly sourced pieces for the home and our children’s wardrobes. “For us, it’s natural to want to do that, that’s how we strive to live,” says Sophie. “Good materials, quality that lasts – these are our principles as designers and we wouldn’t want to make our products any other way.”
Sophie and Michael now live in Brooklyn and everything is designed from there. The pieces are then made all over the world using materials that are sourced close to where the production takes place: “We have furniture made in Latvia, near to abundant forests; our clothing is made in Bolivia and Peru, where pima cotton and baby alpaca wool are staples. Working locally not only gives us access to high-quality materials, but also the talented people who really know how to work with those materials,” Sophie says.
For over a decade, Oeuf has been working with the Fair Trade Women’s Collective, transforming the lives of Bolivian women and their families who make the brand’s adorable baby knitwear. “We’ve grown with them and are now working with more than 400 knitters,” smiles Sophie. “It allows them to provide healthcare and education for their families, and they do exceptional work, helping us create pieces customers can really cherish.”
Oeuf not only has the green credentials and the quality craftsmanship that keeps customers coming back time and again, but the brand’s kid-friendly designs also somehow blend seamlessly into the modern home. How do they do it? “Michael and I are opposites in so many ways and while that does sometimes bring creative tension, it ultimately results in the best designs,” says Sophie. “Michael is very focused on the functionality of pieces, and minimal, sleek designs, while I like to bring a touch of whimsy and humour.”
And far from resting on the laurels of the brand’s current success, Sophie and Michael are committed to bringing even more new products to its customers all over the world this year, including a clothing collection that will be exclusive to Smallable, Oeuf’s leading UK stockist. The company will also be celebrating the 10-year anniversary of its iconic Sparrow crib, something Sophie is particularly proud of: “For us, even a decade on, it’s still the ultimate in modern crib design” she smiles.
And do the couple’s two children, Maé and Marius, now 14 and 11, inspire the creative process? “Absolutely,” says Sophie. “The brand has really grown with them. We started with cribs, and that has evolved into twin beds, bunk beds, desks and dressers – items that our kids are using and will be able to use for years to come. They’ve grown out of the clothing,” she laughs, “but, of course, now we make other things that appeal to the whole family – that has always been the idea behind Oeuf.”