"My only tip is to shower them with love and to not make their life about you. It’s about them. It’s their life. Embrace them all and always think of ways to love them better."
It could be an extract taken straight from a modern parenting manifesto. Alas, it’s simply the casual words Sophie Demenge uses when talking about raising her children.
It should come as no surprise that this wise, unassuming confidence comes from the brains behind one of the world’s most beloved children’s brands, Oeuf. With a signature stamp of cool creativity that has been applied to both Oeuf and the parenting of her own children, Sophie Demenge is the type of woman who has us chomping at the bit to see, hear, learn and buy more.
Those unfamiliar with Oeuf simply need to cast their mind to any style-conscious home with a gorgeous bunk bed, and there you will find the brand’s signature style. Elegant and yet exuding childhood playfulness, the brand – started by Sophie and her husband, Michael Ryan – features furniture, clothing and decor that is coveted across the globe.
In a world that is flooded with niche brands and Instagram fads, Oeuf has not only stood the test of time (its inception was back in 2002), but has also perfected its voice and aesthetic. Sustainably sourced, responsibly made and with the founding ethos of “Be Good,” Oeuf has become one of the world’s most respected independent brands. And when we spoke to Sophie, it wasn’t hard to see why.
Chatting to us about how Oeuf has grown (steadily) throughout the years, how she has balanced motherhood while building an unassuming empire and giving us a peek into every corner of her character-filled home, we couldn’t get enough of Sophie and everything Oeuf.
Tell us about the inception of Oeuf.
Michael and I started Oeuf when we were expecting our first child. We had a design studio making furniture, ceramics, all kinds of things and it seemed obvious to us that we would design her crib. Perhaps we didn’t think through what a big project it would be, because we started simply, designing things we wanted for her. Actually, there weren’t many good options at the time, and other parents looking for a more modern, minimal furniture style were interested in the same things that we were. It grew quite organically from there – with a lot of hard work, but always coming from that very simple place.
Oeuf spans childrenswear through to furniture. How has the brand evolved since its inception?
Originally, we only intended to offer just nursery furniture. Then by chance I met a Bolivian lady who was selling some handicraft in a little booth. We really connected. She explained how she was trying to help her country, particularly women and keeping the crafts alive. Being pregnant at the time I imagine a tiny collection for my daughter and within a few weeks I sent it to Bolivia.
Having expanded both the furniture to include juvenile and the clothing to include organic knitted cotton layette, woven pieces, and decorative objects we see Oeuf much more as a lifestyle brand – which we try to reflect in all our imagery.
In a world that is saturated with childrenswear brands, Oeuf stands out among the crowd and is undeniably authentic and unique. What do you think has been key to creating the brand style?
We are not trying to please everyone or follow trends. We do our thing and lucky for us some people connect with what we do. We know what matters to us and what and how we design is a is reflection of what we like and value.
How have you gone about creating - and sustaining - a brand that is so diverse in its product offering?
No business plan! That’s the key!! Haha. It wasn’t a conscious decision to be so diverse. We work with manufacturers who are open minded and as curious as we are. That way we have room to experiment. We have been working with the same companies for 17 years.
While you’re based out of NYC, Oeuf is stocked all over the world. How have you approached this expansion?
We’ve always preferred to take a slow-and-steady approach to expansion. To maintain the level of service and quality we’re very selective when choosing our retail partners, domestically and internationally. For furniture, which has logistics and service challenges, we’ve partnered with distributors who understand those challenges.
Where do you look for inspiration when designing new pieces and new collections?
Inspiration is a sensibility thing. There is no hierarchy in inspiration. I look at everything with the same eye. I’m always looking and thinking and dots connect. I’m always amazed at the process. It has a life of it’s own.
What do you think is key to a timeless, gorgeous nursery or children’s bedroom?
For me what’s key is to live with what you like. What feel right to you. It can change over time and it’s different for everyone.
What’s your approach to dressing your own children?
My approach is to let them choose. Of course when they were little they were choosing from my selection since I was doing the buying but they would make the assortments which could get pretty funky. My daughter had a cape phase when she was 7 or 8 and went to school wearing it every day. I love seeing their personality shine through their choice
Your pieces are not only gorgeous - but often make a subtle cultural or political statement. Is this an important aspect of the brand?
Thank you! Whenever I have a little opportunity for a message I take it. I do hold back though. French humor is an acquired taste. We are not a PC bunch. What’s important to me is that the general theme of any statement is a message of inclusiveness, empowerment, individuality and humor without being judgy or preachy.
How have your own children inspired Oeuf?
They are the source of it. In fact, my daughter kind of thinks it’s her business.
Tell us about working as a husband and wife team.
It’s complicated and always changing but I love it. It can strengthen or break a marriage and or a business. We have been through many stages in our business and marriage but we feel closer and have a deeper connection than ever. The glue is the love and respect and the super glue is the humour. We constently have to stretch and respect rythmn of the other. We are proud of what we have built and the family we created at home and at work.
What does a typical day look like for you?
There are no typical days. I have a loose seasonal schedule with hard deadline but how I get there depends.
What’s on your bedside table?
Right now I have “a life of adventure and delight” by Akhil Sharma.
How do you manage the juggle of life/work/children/etc!? Do you have any top parenting hacks or tips!?
In the juggle between life, work, and children, my children take priority. I’ll drop anything to be there for my kids regardless or place or time. I’m a mama more than anything else.
What’s tricky is evolving with them and readjusting to new needs or needs in the making and moving away from old patterns that are no longer serving them. I sometimes miss the signals but overall they are clear on what they need and feel.
I’m always available with open arms whenever they need an ear, a shoulder, a hug, a song, whatever.
My only tip is to shower them with love and to not make their life about you. It’s about them. It’s their life. Embrace them all and always think of ways to love them better.
Do you make time for self-care?
Self-care is not scheduled but I definitely make time when needed. When I sense that I’m starting to run on empty I unplug right away. I work very intensely for a period and then I crash. I have learned to listen to my body more and catch the burn out signs earlier.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
I love being home with my family. It’s nice being together and having lazy days. Sleep is my cure all. Connecting with my friends is very important. Being in France is a form self-care for me. Music is an important part of my life. We laugh a lot. That’s the core language in the family. All four of us are goofballs in our own way.
What are some of your favourite stores/resources when shopping for your own home?
- It’s fair to say that the Primary Essentials is one of my favorite store in New York. Each piece belongs. The selection is carefully curated. It’s calming. The overall experience is pure delight. And it’s a quick walk from my house.
- Flea markets are always fun and fascinating, no matter where you are in the world. It’s a great place for people watching and to look for the hidden treasure or good deal.
- The rooster of designers is impressive. It definitely inspires. And it’s also in Brooklyn. I love being able to walk or bike to my favorite spots.
- I love BDDW’s esthetics.
What about your wardrobe?
My wardrobe is very limited. I rotate with a few jumpsuits, jeans, a pile of sweaters. I’m very low maintenance. I just finished the SS20 collection and included a few easy woman styles. I’ll try them out this summer and make adjustments if necessary. It was fun to do.
What’s on your little list of loves?
Ted Muehling Jewelry
Trapeze (I use to be in the circus, now I do trapeze with my daughter, she caught the bug)
Rachel Comey’s jumpsuits
Annick Goutal “eau d’Hadrien”
Bioderma micellar water
Black and navy espadrilles (all I wear them all summer long)