oluna: pants on a mission to help period poverty
words BY KIANA MORIDI
photos by molly dickson
When Emmy Hancock graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2018, she wasn’t like most college grads—she knew exactly what she wanted. Quickly after graduating, Hancock created an LLC for what would later become Oluna—an ethical clothing company that donates a year’s worth of period products for each pair of pants sold. A socially conscious clothing company on a serious mission.
Working in real estate private equity in New York, Hancock’s career path drastically shifted when the pandemic hit, causing her to move back home with her parents in Dallas. “Quarantine provided me with the time and resources to build the business,” she says. “There are not many silver linings of quarantine, but the added time to devote to Oluna is one of them.”
With a purpose in mind and more time to create, Oluna was born, supplying about 375 women in the Dallas area with period products in 2020. To date, Hancock has partnered with ten Dallas homeless shelters to receive period items. And she did so all while keeping style and comfort in mind.
It’s rare to see a thoughtful concept matched with an equally stylish design, but Hancock and crew delivered, all while making a real change. “I wanted to open up the conversation around period poverty in a fun manner where everyone feels comfortable asking questions,” says Hancock. “I’ve set out to design a piece of apparel that all women will not only feel comfortable in, but also feel whimsical and groovy. The open-legged, soft style with colorful prints fits all body types, and can be worn to either go out on the town, or lounge around the house.”
And although Hancock’s mission is crystal clear now, it wasn’t until what she calls the “year of the period” in 2015 that the then college student really began to ponder on period poverty. “Menstrual hygiene issues didn’t dawn on me until the past few years,” says Hancock. “In fact, I hardly thought about periods at all. I would have one and I would hide it—that was the extent of my thought.” An unfortunate commonality amongst most women, still today.
Photography by Sarah Eliza
Pictured: Emmy Hancock pulling fabrics for Oluna pants at DFW Fabric Mart.
After the media attention on menstruation issues began to dwindle, Hancock saw the perfect opportunity to continue the conversation by creating a brand. “By utilizing brand identity, I could reframe the ways in which we view and talk about periods, as well as make meaningful impact, to keep the conversation going,” she says. Cue the comfy pants with groovy patterns and a whimsical silhouette—a wonderful combination of purpose and style coming awaken awareness and change.
“Oluna also goes beyond the traditional ‘One-for-One Model.’ We recognize that while it’s helpful to those in need, the year’s supply of products only goes so far,” says Hancock. “For this reason, we have also dedicated half of the merchandise proceeds to fund menstrual health and policy initiatives so that we can begin to create a foundation for long term, meaningful change.”
But Hancock’s plans don’t stop there. “Oluna will also use our platform to inform and enable our consumer base on how to create ground-up impact within their own communities,” she says. “With period poverty, one person really can make a difference. Whether that’s writing to their local representative, disputing the additive sales tax on feminine care items, or asking their employer to include menstrual products in the bathroom. Oluna aims to arm the consumer with the information and data to push for menstrual equality.”
When we asked her how people can contribute to creating change within period poverty, her answer is simple: find your comfort zone. “We encourage people to do whatever falls in their comfort zone, because it all matters. Whether it’s writing a tweet, signing a petition, calling your state legislator, or posting on Instagram—it’s all activism. It’s all good.”
Speaking with Hancock, it’s wildly evident that she’s an intentional and thoughtful business owner—the type of person that the fashion industry could certainly use more of. The type of person you’re always learning from, hoping to soak in just an ounce of the intentionality and thoughtfulness she so effortlessly exudes. And still, a seemingly uncomfortable topic for most, being brought to light by a stretchy, relaxed pant. A metaphor for stepping out of the discomfort and into making period talk a familiar, relaxing place to be. Bringing menstrual taboo and period poverty to light, Hancock is breaking down barriers one conversation and pant legging at a time.
“I designed these pants for every woman. Even though it isn’t talked about, period poverty is experienced by all women at some point in their lives,” she says. “Every woman has the shared panicked experience when their period has arrived unexpectedly, and they are in need of a menstrual items, yet none are provided. I hope these pants will make every woman feel good about themselves and confident enough to ask for what they deserve—menstrual equity.”
Follow Oluna's blog and Instagram to learn more about period poverty. You can also learn more about period poverty through books, online platforms, and movies. Here are some of Hancock’s favorites:
Books: “Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement” by Nadya Okamoto, “The Curse: Confronting the Last Mentionable Taboo: Menstruation” by Karen Houppert, and “Periods Gone Public: Taking A Stand for Menstrual Equity” by Jennifer Weiss-Wolf
Online Platforms: https://www.periodequity.org/, https://www.freethetampons.org/
Movies: “Period. End of Sentence,” “Pandora’s Box”