As options for sustainable practices go, new ideas for periods seems to be lost in the mix. Until now. With their vision to provide women of all colour and creed with a sustainable product to effectively manage their periods, whilst aiming to reduce period poverty with every purchase, I Am Eva is leading the way with how we live with periods. Charlotte spoke to Michele Wilson, one of I Am Eva's co-founders, to gain some insight into this homegrown brand.
Being New Zealand's first period underwear company, how was the process to get it all up and running?
Honestly, Kylie and I both thrive in challenging situations so the whole process was just super exciting for us. Both previously having our own businesses meant we knew all the vital things, like how to get the word out there through good social media and PR as well as the kind of margins we needed at a minimum to be able to fulfil our goal of giving 5% of all period underwear away. However, we don't have clothing lines so finding a good ethical manufacturer and learning about fabrics, lead times, sizing and what the most popular/least popular sizes will be.
The most challenging part was working on creating the innovative layers that were going to absorb our period having zero science background. Thankfully we were good at finding the right experts who were also enthusiastic about helping us with our vision.
What's it like being self-employed females?
Bloody phenomenal! We are 100% in control of our lives and finances. Where we work and how we work is not dictated by anyone else and that suits us down to the ground.
Tell us about what made you passionate about women's health and period poverty?
We have 4 daughters between us so creating a better future for them is 100% what drives us. The KidsCan survey around period poverty was also a massive driving force for wanting to make a change in Aotearoa. We are not interested in just having a business but making a social impact is probably our biggest priority.
On My 2nd, we travel to Wellington to discuss period poverty with the Minister of Women and Associate Minister of Health. We want the government to make menstrual products free for all students.
This is a gender equality issue and talking periods is a political act that is necessary in breaking the taboos around periods and eventually helping to end period poverty.
What differences would you like to see take place in women's health nationally?
Education programmes in school around menstruation for both boys and girls as well as free menstrual products for students and women who need it.
On a more personal note, where'd you both grow up?
I am Tainui/Ngati Paoa so I come from the Waikato region but I'm born and bred in Manurewa, South Auckland. Kylie was born in England but grew up in Westmere.
Founding I Am Eva, how important is having Maori identity be at the forefront of the brand?
Being Maori is at the forefront of everything I do. So weaving Te ao Maori into every aspect of the business from social content to blogs and images comes naturally to me.
The most important thing I want wahine to know is that being on your period, for our Tupuna (ancestors) was not whakama (shameful) like it seems to be now. It was a time to be celebrated. Being on your period is tapu (sacred) and a time to take care of yourself, to rest, to read and to learn. How awesome would it be if all women lived by these ideas every month?
Where did you learn the pre-colonial practices around menstruation as you are so well versed?
I did formal study in Rongoa Maori and have read and learnt from many beautiful wahine such as Ngahuia Murphy (her book Waiwhero is an incredible resource. We believe all should own and it's available on our website.)
I Am Eva takes the lessons and values from Maori Tupuna and puts them into reinventing the future as to how women menstruate as well as keeping the environment at the centre: Tu meke.
To gain more insight into the cultural significance of periods to Maori, check out their blog post on the ceremonial return of waiwhero.