Why Art & Eden's Founder Left Multimillion-Dollar Brands to Make Conscious Kids Clothes
Susan Correa knows a thing or two about running successful fashion companies. As the co-founder of women's label cooper & ella, the entrepreneur introduced a globally-conscious element to the brand that provided hot and healthy meals to children in need. The program's success and two game-changing books led her to refine her mission in fashion — and thus, art & eden was born.
"I exited two multimillion-dollar businesses as the sole bread winner of the family to build art & eden because it was the right thing to do," Correa tells us. "In my quest to find 'the better way,' I embarked on a two-year process of mapping out the journey of fashion from farmer, to fabric, to factory workers to finished product and its impact at every touch point."
"I was appalled to find out that I [had been] part and party to a huge systemic problem and guilty by default of the pursuit of fast fashion at the cheapest price," she continues. "The true cost of the apathy and its aftermath on the planet as a result of our actions, propelled me to first plead guilty and then start a process of reformation. Sustainability was the only choice."
Launched earlier this year, the kids clothing brand teams with independent artists from around the globe to create charming prints for its girls, boys, and infant apparel ($20 to $48). The company uses organic cotton and recycled or upcycled polyester for its fabrics and works with sustainable, fair factories to produce its clothing. Through its nonprofit partner, Hope Worldwide, the brand provides medication, multivitamins, and mentoring to underprivileged children in both local and global communities.
Read on below to learn more about Correa's story along with her top business advice, tips on how to go green beyond recycling, and more; then shop art & eden online here.
What's your professional background, and how did your experience co-founding Cooper & Ella influence your decision to start Art & Eden?
I have built my entire career in the fashion industry and have led multimillion-dollar operations around the world, co-founded the successful fashion brand cooper & ella, and managed a global sourcing company. And yet, despite these rich and fulfilling years, something was missing. Inspired by the purpose-driven lives of family and friends, I felt called to do more than simply "achieve." In an attempt to weave together my passion for fashion with a journey of impact, I created the program Empower for cooper & ella — an initiative that provides hot, nutritious meals to children in need.
To launch Empower, I had scheduled a trip to the Hope Foundation School in Bangalore, India. For the long journey, I packed two books: Seth Godin’s Linchpin and Jim Collins’ Good to Great. The authors’ powerful messages, the inspiring children, the poverty, the whisper of possibility — it was a recipe for transformation. Nothing could stay the same.
The books changed my course. The kids changed my heart. The journey changed me forever. I realized that Jim Collins’ ideas on “how to be best in the world” clicked with Seth Godin’s “how to be best for the world." I connected the need I witnessed at the Hope Foundation School with the opportunity for business to rise up and meet that need. I saw how the fashion industry had an incredible power to generate a better world by embracing its moral responsibility to self-reform.
When I returned, it was with a mission to find the better way forward. After several months of seeking out reformative processes, countless conversations, and some crucial game-changing encounters,what was once a dream became a reality and art & eden was born.
In a nutshell, how did you come up with the idea to create Art & Eden?
art & eden was born from the desire, to build first, what was best for the world, while striving to be the best in the world. It was the answer to the pursuit of finding what was, "the better way."
Why was it important to you to incorporate sustainability and social consciousness into the brand?
When I launched Empower [at cooper & ella] and touched the lives of 400 kids, my life was transformed because I recognized I could harness the incredible power of business to greater social good. I dreamed that night of what scale and impact would look like and the dream of touching the lives of 4 million kids landed on my heart. It fired me up of every moment of every day, there forward to build something of scale that could see this dream become a reality.
Who are the artists behind the designs and how do you find them?
art & eden is a collaboration of artists from around the world. We work with artists from Sweden to Switzerland, Brooklyn to Belgium. I used all the online tools to sieve through portfolios of artists to arrive at the community we currently work with.
Where do you hope to see art & eden in five years?
We are less than six months in business and are already selling art & eden in seven countries. It will most certainly be a global lifestyle brand for all sustainable choices for children’s products in five years.
Besides recycling and reusing, what are some of the easiest ways that parents can go green?
art & eden content editor Nandita Batheja wrote a blog post on easy ways to go green, which you can read here. Below [are just a few of] the ideas:
Replace paper towels with cloth napkins. Cut up old t-shirts make great rags, and washable cloth napkins make a prettier dinner table.
Go meatless once a week, or once day. It reduces greenhouse gas emissions and lowers the demand for mass meat production!
Start composting. Not sure what to compost? This beginner’s guide will help you out! And if you’re a NYC resident, here’s where you can drop it off. North Carolina even hascompost pick-up! A quick Google search should tell you where your nearest center is.
- Keep learning! Educate yourself and educate your family. Spreading awareness, taking these small steps with a friend, teaching your kids how to value the earth and care for it—this is the real impetus of change. Grist is an awesome news source, as isTreehugger and sites like Sustainable Baby Steps.
- BYO water bottle. They’re light, they’ll save you money and they will greatly help our earth!
[You can also] check out Michele Borboa’s list of 52 easy ways to go green without going broke. You got this, environmental-buddy!
What's your advice to women who are just beginning their journey into entrepreneurship?
Go build your dream. Don’t let the noise of someone else’s opinion drown out your own inner voice. Believe and have the courage of conviction to follow your heart, your passion & your intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Go build something that matters. Make the world a better place because you came.