Meet Louise Vongerichten Ulukaya, the female powerhouse behind Mon Coeur — the first-of-its-kind, 100% sustainable childrenswear brand that has launched a revolution in the children’s clothing space.
For background, Louise is a serial entrepreneur who was inspired by the innovation of her husband, founder of Chobani, and father, Chef Jean Georges, to launch her own environmentally-friendly childrenswear brand.
After her son was born, Louise sought to create Mon Coeur as a way to connect families with high-quality items and impactful solutions for sustaining the health of our planet.
Pulling inspiration and knowledge from her father and husband’s experiences, combined with her rich background in philanthropy and entrepreneurship, Louise shaped Mon Coeur’s mission of creating a holistic, traceable source of children’s fashion for the modern, environmentally-conscious parent.
To fulfill her desire of creating a brand that truly speaks to parents like herself, Louise pulled from her experiences in motherhood, travel, and personal growth.
Having lived in many cities like Paris, New York, Dubai, and Hong Kong, Mon Coeur sources fabrics and materials from France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, to tangibly connect people to other places and showcase the possibilities of upcycling.
We sat down with Louise to discuss her brand’s mission statement, the future of sustainable childrenswear, and her father’s influence on her career path.
How is Mon Coeur shaping the future fabric of fashion?
Mon Coeur is making children’s sustainable fashion accessible, playful and stylish - we blend the most sustainable fabrics, without compromising comfort while being as affordable as possible for parents. Children and young parents are the biggest ambassadors and voices of sustainability. Kids are extremely sensitive to climate changes, mostly thanks to education in school. Younger generations like Gen Z are going to be extremely powerful in making more conscious choices when it comes to their buying decisions.
This is where the big shift is going to happen in my opinion, and I believe that parents making the decision to buy “better” and invest in “slow fashion” versus fast fashion, will dictate how businesses will make their clothes. New, fresh fashion brands such as Mon Coeur, will truly help push bigger and more established companies to revisit their use of fabrics being more eco-friendly. We already have seen this happening with multiple capsule collections- it is a progressive shift that will surely happen in the next few years.
Your brand has two primary missions: to create comfortable, aesthetically pleasing childrenswear, and to create sustainable clothing that is good for the environment. Was it difficult to balance these two objectives harmoniously?
Doing things the right away is not always the easiest nor the fastest path, however, it is my pledge and my vision to make cute clothes, sustainable and comfortable. We are constantly looking at how we can improve the comfort of our clothes, as I did not want to compromise on the style nor the comfort in order to be sustainable. It took me 3 years until I could launch Mon Coeur because I needed to create various samples with various blends and combinations of sustainable materials that would be the best combinations for the kids to wear.
Your label incorporates practices that encompass problem-solving innovations in material science. Can you talk a bit more about the tangible implications of these methods?
In the making of our clothes, we use what we call a circular economy, which means that we prevent virgin material from entering the manufacturing cycle/process. The entire collection is manufactured and produced in Portugal and made from 100% upcycled and recycled fabrics. We use cotton scraps and re-convert them into fiber, sorting according to colors and composition. This means that we transform the fiber into thread then spin them to obtain yarns which we use for our weaving process. The second material used in our blend is polyester from post-consumer plastic bottles - plastic bottles are collected, and shredded into plastic flakes, then melted and spun into polyester fabrics.
All of our accessories -zippers, buttons, hangtag, care labels, embroideries, and packaging are also produced from entirely recycled and upcycled materials. We are always on the lookout for new sustainable technologies to incorporate into our fabrication process. As for me, sustainability starts with asking yourself ‘who makes your clothes?’
In what ways is your brand different from other eco-friendly sustainable brands?
We are a truly sustainable brand- it is not a marketing strategy for us. We are truly making a difference in the way of fabricating clothes for children. Sustainability or being eco-friendly might have very different meanings across different brands and also have multiple degrees. Mon Coeur is a true, sustainable brand to the utmost degree.
Here are a couple of our carbon footprint metrics:
1. 3,485 liters of water are saved for every kilogram produced of sustainable yarns.
2. 6.77 kWh of electric current is stopped for each kilogram produced.
3. The emission of 1.62 kg of CO2 is avoided for every kilogram produced.
How is your brand revolutionizing the children’s wear space?
There is no sustainable brand existing within the childrenswear space at the moment - maybe in accessories, toys, plates, etc., but no company is making children’s clothing using a circular economy like we do. This can be attributed to the fact that it is not an easy process, it is not cheap, and/or it is simply not important to a lot of brands out there.
There is an important philanthropic aspect to your brand. Can you talk a little bit more about this?
Mon Coeur’s sustainable practices expand past recycled product materials and packaging. We pledged to give from the day we launched. 1% of sales revenue goes to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment through our collaboration with 1% For the Planet. We also partnered with 5Gyres to combat plastic pollution while organizing a cleaning day movement on beaches and coasts.
We also host multiple times a year community events such as tree planting in public gardens across the city. This is an amazing way to connect kids with nature while spending quality time with the family and the Mon Coeur community at large. We also just started a new program called “New Again Program,” which allows consumers to send us used baby and children clothes in exchange for 40% off on their next purchase. These clothes are then being upcycled or downcycled, thus closing the loop and making sure we reduce waste and over usage of virgin fabrics.
How have your dad’s experiences impacted your perspective on entrepreneurship and building a personal brand at large?
My father, Jean-Georges, has been a big entrepreneurial figure and role model for me since I was a little girl. I have witnessed him being an esteemed leader that people always look up to with respect and admiration. When I would hang around his kitchen at a very young age, I noticed everybody around him would be inspired by his knowledge and the way he navigated through life. His presence gave everybody he encountered a sense of plenitude and an aura of “everything is going to be ok.” The way he carried himself was always very inspiring to me, and I attribute a lot of my entrepreneurial success to him.
Photography by: Courtesy Mon Coeur