When Michelle Kramer, owner and designer of Ohganix intimate apparel, was 10 she saw the Miss America Pageant and knew she wanted to be a fashion designer. She saw the beautiful dresses and knew she wanted to create something beautiful too. This is not necessarily the career you would imagine for small town Wisconsin girl. As soon as Kramer graduated from high school at age 18, she took off on her own to follow her passion in Los Angeles, California.
Michelle spent two years at school and realized she wasn’t getting what she wanted out of her experience. She took a break and moved to Las Vegas to live with her mother and figure things out. While in Vegas, she launched FollowYourFashion.com, a social networking website for up-and-coming fashion designers. She also discovered a new passion – health and wellness. She is a raw food chef and loves recreational fitness. Michelle describes herself as VERY green. Her two passions collided a little over two years ago when she heard Dr. Brian Clement give a lecture in Orange County, California while promoting his new book “Killer Clothes”. He revealed the dangers in wearing conventionally manufactured and dyed clothing. Michelle learned that our skin absorbs over 60% of chemicals and dyes that come into contact with it. Michelle had an “ah ha!” moment and found what she had been looking for – health conscious, eco-conscious fashion. When researching what products were already available, Michelle found that all of the organic underwear was really “hippy” or “granola” – not sexy! She found her niche! In Michelle’s words, “You shouldn’t have to sacrifice fashion for function or health for hip.” Ohganix was born.
When you visit the Ohganix website, you can see that Michelle has kept her design simple. Simple and sexy. When asked how she came up with the name, I heard a giggle, “Well, Oh as in the Big O. And an x at the end for the sexy.” These are not your granny’s panties! Michelle puts a great deal of thought and research into her fabrics and designs. She wants to create the cleanest and purest product. All of the Ohganix designs are tested for fit and comfort. The ultimate goal is for wearers to forget they have Ohganix on at all – to feel so comfortable they want to live in them. One great benefit of using natural fibers like cotton, Tencel (eucalyptus) and Modal (beech tree) is that the fibers actually get softer as you wear and wash them. So, comfortable Ohganix intimate apparel only gets better with wear.
More importantly though are the health benefits you get from keeping fabrics manufactured with harsh chemicals and dyes off your skin. Ohganix offers this chemical-free alternative without sacrificing the beauty of the garment. Ohganix fabrics allow your skin to breath. The garments are purposely designed to allow free lymph and blood flow. The bras are designed to accommodate natural breast movement. Wearing Ohganix is like wearing a second skin.
When asked who or what inspires her in her business, Michelle said without hesitation, “Lulu Lemon. A Canadian yoga and athletic wear company that expanded to every day wear. They stayed true to their quality and their vision as they grew. They give great attention to detail. I want to grow the same way – keeping my company domestic and keeping my employees passionate about what they’re doing.” Michelle sees Ohganix expanding from intimate apparel to lounge wear and then to every day clothing.
Michelle also admires Victoria’s Secret, the way they made intimate apparel a “mainstream commodity”. Michelle hopes to do the same for organic and natural intimates and apparel. She is paving the way for Eco intimate apparel and clothing to be the next mainstream commodity.
She’s onto something! Just as organic food has become more popular and more mainstream with consumers’ growing awareness of the benefits of eating organic, unprocessed foods, I imagine this will extend to what we all put on our bodies too. As Michelle learned a couple of years ago, we absorb a tremendous amount of chemicals from our lotions, soaps, shampoos, and make-up. Chemicals and dyes also enter our bodies through our clothing. So at least for those consumers concerned with what they put in their bodies now, it wouldn’t take much to convince them of the benefits of limiting the toxic chemicals they put on their bodies. When asked how she would convince someone on the fence to make that organic clothing purchase, Michelle said she’d have them feel her fabrics and would urge them to make the investment in their health. What goes on, goes in.
What might hold some consumers back from buying Ohganix and other organic clothing is the price tag. To help you understand the price, consider what goes into the production of Ohganix intimate apparel. Each item is made in the United States with domestic fabrics with Fair Trade American labor pricing. This in itself is special. According to ABC World News’ Bradley Blackburn, “Some 98 percent of clothing bought in the United States is imported from abroad. Just two percent of clothing bought in this country is manufactured on U.S. soil.” (March 10, 2011)
Also, fabrics and manufacturing are painstakingly researched to ensure a pure and healthy end product. The finest details are considered from the embroidery detail to the softness and comfort of each piece right down to the use of environmentally friendly materials for the hang tags. This does not even take into consideration the testing required in a new market and not just the testing of the finished garment. Different natural fabrics take up dye and shrink differently. Since Ohganix™ is still producing goods in small batches, there are challenges in getting the exact fabrics desired. When fabric is ordered in small amounts, it’s more expensive, and there’s no guarantee of getting the exact fabric from order to order.
Michelle has made some great finds however that are moving her closer to her ideal. One recent discovery is a dye company that uses natural ingredients for its dyes: fruit and flower extracts, tea, bark, and even mud. AND the colors have already been fine-tuned for consistency. She’s also working on taking the next step up in production with a company she trusts and that fits with her high standards.
As more consumers vote with their dollars by buying eco apparel, the more costs will go down. Higher demand leads to more production which leads to lower costs for the manufacturer. This translates into good news for us – less costly, healthy clothing. Healthy clothing more accessible to all.