Stephanie Hayman: Today’s pop culture is all about phrases. Charlie Sheen’s “winning” and twitter hash tag phrases have been incorporated into our everyday language. The phrases you use on your pillows are witty, a little unexpected, definitely not contrived…and totally cool! How do you come up with them? What inspires you?
Alexandra Ferguson: I like really simple, direct and honest phrases. And the irony is that the process to get there can be really complicated. 13 letters or less with no individual word longer than 7 letters, common but not cliche, sassy but not dirty, unusual but not obscure. Etc. Etc. Etc. So what actually happens is that I’ll just hear something, or see it (or say it enough times myself) and my gut says, “Yep, that would be awesome on a pillow.”
SH: How did you decide on felt? This material and look sets your pillows apart from others.
Alexandra: I literally woke up in the morning and said I want to make a felt appliqué pillow. Honestly.
SH: Your pillows are made from the plastic water bottles that we throw out. How is this possible?!
Alexandra: I buy the fabric from a huge mill that melts them down, extrudes the plastic into fibers and mattes it together to become felt. It’s been really exciting watching Eco friendly technologies enter the mainstream over the last 3 years since I started. Just 6 months ago we were finally able to source polyfill inserts that are also 100% recycled plastic. A lot of the technology exists already, it’s just hard to find and expensive, but that’s all changing very rapidly now. Working in exclusively Eco friendly materials can be limiting, but it also leads to innovation, so I can’t wait to see what comes out next that I can play with.
SH: Being eco-friendly is so important, but not always easy. Any tips on how to be more environmentally friendly in college?
Alexandra: I think that the idea of being “Eco friendly” is very much still defining itself. It can be something as small as eating organic lettuce, to driving a hybrid car, to up cycling a vintage dress. It can even be about building a product strong enough that it doesn’t get thrown out (add that to the virtues of a honey colored wood platform dorm issued bed).
One of the most exciting things about college is that it is like a 4 year think tank of ideas and creativity. The future of Eco innovation is wide open. So live an Eco friendly life, but even better yet – come up with the next idea that will change the way we live.
SH: Diane Sawyer and the ABC World News team discuss the importance of buying Made In America products for the dorm room. Your pillows are Made In America, but that comes along with a heftier price tag. Why did you decide to have your pillows made in the states?
Alexandra: Because I made them myself for a long time in the beginning, and I live in NY. These days though, I actually like the challenge of trying to keep it domestic. There are limitations to this decision, and unlike Eco friendly materials, the possibilities get narrower over time. But I get to support local communities, and it’s a detail that is really important to my customers. From a business perspective, I can work in smaller quantities and offer a broader product assortment, as well as keep a strict eye on quality, so the cost/benefit analysis is a no brainer.
SH: So you’ve covered eco and #madeinamerica, but let’s talk about your style and eye for design! Your background is in fashion – you’ve worked with designers like the super girly and romantic Rebecca Taylor and the bold and sexy Zac Posen.
When it comes to fashion and home décor – do you think it is easy to express two sides of your style or personality in one outfit or in one room? What are some good tips?
Alexandra: Less than 3 sides of a personality on display would be more concerning to me! Everything has been done before, but “new-ness” in my world is how you piece it all together. Add a super high gloss lacquer to a cheap vintage armchair. Put a cheeky Umbra talk bubble dry erase board next to a super serious fine art poster. Drape a “photo dress” on your moms old mannequin with some straight pins and glossy 4×6 prints of your friends being goofy. Mix touristy souvenir coffee mugs with modern sleek plates.
Whatever you do, be confident in it. Nothing is more beautiful than that.
SH: Describe your NYU freshman dorm room.
Alexandra: I lived on 12th st and Broadway in a one bedroom space shared between 5 girls (1br, ONE BATH mind you). Guests who slept on the floor were woken up every 6 minutes from the rattle of the 6 train underneath us (we never noticed it ourselves). I had a Roy Lichtenstein poster (still one of my fave artists), and my mom made me a duvet cover by sewing two flat sheets together because we didn’t like anything in twin bed size at bed bath and beyond (dormify, where were you back then?).
SH: Post college you started working in the fashion industry. What made you start your own line of pillows? How did you have the courage to start something on your own?
Alexandra: I had some amazing experiences working in fashion, but home accessories and interiors are more of a personal passion (my dress collection being a complete contradiction of that statement). I didn’t really need a lot of courage because in the beginning I didn’t realize I was starting a company. I just made things, and people started buying them. About 6 months in, I had that “a-ha” moment (more like, “omg“) – I think I have a company. After that it’s like a badly trained puppy: it tugs at the leash and takes itself for a walk, and you just chase to keep up with it. (lucky for me, it’s a really cute puppy.)
SH: What are your best sellers?
Alexandra: The pillows that make you go, “did I really just read that on a pillow?”