Affinity for the arts can begin at a very young age. Aiming to capture young minds, we partnered with New York-based Oeuf to create an exclusive line of clothing and accessories for children and babies, inspired by two beloved artworks in The Met collection – the Unicorn Tapestries on view at The Met Cloisters, and the Portrait of the Elephant ‘Alam Guman attributed to Bichitr from the Museum’s Islamic art collection.
We spoke about the collaboration with Sophie Demenge, who launched the brand in 2002 with her husband Michael Ryan. Shop the full line online by clicking here.
Can you tell me about starting your company, Oeuf?
My husband Michael and I started Oeuf when we were having our first child. We were furniture designers, and somehow it seemed obvious to us that we should design our own crib. Perhaps we didn’t think through what a big project it would be, because we started simply, designing things we wanted. 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.
What drove you to continue designing a line exclusively for children?
It is a cliché, but we were inspired by our children. Before having children I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to find good design, good quality, and good materials for children. Simple essentials that are well made, with style. At the time it was surprisingly hard, and I’m always inspired by seeing a need. I’m happy to say that we’ve developed products for children that adults also love, and often, with things like our Mini Library, they can buy for their children but keep forever.
How do you define your aesthetic?
It is something that constantly evolves. I enjoy the mix of a clean, modern piece of furniture with a quirky, hand-made shaped pillow—a timeless basic mixed with something unique and personal. Details matter to me; I like building in little secret surprises. That’s what I consider modern, building your own individual style, over time.
I’m curious to hear more about the social and environmental impact of what you do. What inspired you to use sustainable materials and to partner with fair-trade laborers?
Again, it was not exactly a well thought out plan, but something we did from instinct. There was never any question of producing in a way that would be harmful for the environment, or for workers. I’m not interested in producing more things for their own sake. The relationships we have built with our craftspeople are very important to me; their skills and creativity keep me inspired. Working with them makes the whole process fun as well as meaningful. I have seen their children grow up, and they’ve really become a family for me. And it so happens that working with natural, sustainable materials and skilled, fair-trade workers actually results in the best products. So everyone benefits.
Can you tell me about the making of one or two pieces in the collection? I’m curious to hear about your design process from start to finish.
Our collaboration with The Met has really been a meeting of the minds. We were able to bring some of our favorite styles, and incorporate elements from artwork and the Museum itself that took them to a new level. I love the unicorn sweater, because the unicorn is something we’ve used in our work before, but here we brought in colors from the medieval Unicorn Tapestries at The Met Cloisters. It adds a whole new layer of richness to the design. In another way, the crown in the collection is so much fun—no Oeuf collection is complete without a crown. Kids absolutely love them. This time we were able to incorporate the iconic Met logo, and it looks so playfully regal. And absolutely adorable on a baby.
How does it feel to have your work offered for sale in our Museum setting?
Honestly I never would have dreamed of having my designs for sale at The Met. It’s pretty overwhelming. Museums as so important to me, as a source of inspiration, a place to learn, and a journey to other times, places, and ideas. And also a place for kids to dream. So it’s very fulfilling to have my designs for children for sale in this setting, and just a little bit hard to believe it’s real!
Can you tell us about your favorite experience visiting The Met?
It’s always a great experience just to walk up those steps and enter The Met, it’s transporting. But my absolute favorite visit was participating in a group scavenger hunt in the Museum along with my kids. I always like to have a little play along with learning, and that was such a fun way to experience the Museum together.