Sit Down With Nimi Kelloway
“We spend on average one-third of our lives, the equivalent of roughly 26 years in bed. It is during this time when our mind, skin and body are rejuvenating the most,” says Nimi Kelloway, the Founder of HauteCoton, a mission-driven luxury home textile company. Inspired by nature, HauteCoton provides a beautiful variety of organic luxury sheets, pillows, duvets, crib sheets and pillow cases.
Nimi started HauteCoton with the goal of bringing the safest and purest bedding line to the market. “I did not want to be sleeping in synthetic materials such as polyester (which are made from petroleum products) that are then absorbed into my skin during my rest and recovery time,” she says. “There are many toxic and poisonous chemicals lurking in our bedding such as formaldehyde which causes harm to our endocrine and nervous system,” added Nimi.
In addition, when we sleep in conventionally grown materials such as non-organic natural materials, they are heavily sprayed with pesticides which are chemically dyed and then absorbed into our skin.
When asked about debunking a common myth around bedding, she replies, “Thread count is actually not an indicator of quality. It refers to the number of horizontal and vertical threads per square inch. The higher the thread count, the more artificially inflated the weave. Softer, durable, breathable linens are made from a quality single-ply thread. In higher thread count sheets, thinner, weaker, cheaper multi-ply thread is used or ‘picks’ which are extra, thinner, low quality threads that are woven into the horizontal threads to increase the thread count.”
Nimi explains that thread count makes for a great marketing message but once people understand how thread count works, we can see that thread count + quality do not go hand-in-hand.
Most weavers state a desirable number of horizontal and vertical threads that should be woven, per square inch, to get the highest quality weave. Once above that, you actually get a less breathable finished product, using lower quality thread and yarn.
HauteCoton’s bedding is perfectly loomed to a 300-thread count using cotton that meets the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS). This is the highest global certification a company can attain for organically produced textiles and boy is it soft and breathable. Not only that, it is made with the highest quality allowing one’s body to be cool on hot summer nights and adjusts to your body temperature keeping you warm on cooler nights. Nimi adds, “In the end, you receive the perfect balance keeping you comfortable during sleep and allowing you to wake up less frequently.” She also highlights that you won’t find yourself waking up in a pool of sweat or shivering during the night.
The best sleeps will always be in breathable, natural, and organic fibres when our skin and body are doing the most rejuvenating at night. “You need to sleep in our bedding to believe it!” exclaims Nimi.
Years ago, Nimi discovered that only 1% of the world's cotton is grown using organic methods. So, she started questioning where clothes and sheets came from and how they are made. Sweatshops and poor working conditions exist all over the world, not just in developing countries. In developing countries, an estimated 168 million children ages 5 to 14 are forced to work (International Labor Organization. "Global Estimates on Child Labour.").
America has stronger lab laws than most undeveloped countries, but it is not free of sweatshop conditions. Many labor violations slip under the radar of the US Department of Labor (Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers: Violations of Employment and Labor Laws in America’s Cities).
“Don’t fool yourself, if you don’t think it exists in Canada either,” says Nimi. “These sweatshops exist in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. Canadian laws are being broken at a number of plants. Reporter Frédéric Zalac went undercover and infiltrated two sweatshops to expose the labour behind the label. A great documentary to watch pertaining to poor working conditions is ‘The True Cost documentary’ or just search, ‘Rana Plaza collapse’ and you will begin to understand and see for yourself,” adds Nimi.
For these reasons, it was paramount for HauteCoton to visit their manufacturer in person to see the working conditions themselves. So, Nimi toured around Europe and India before deciding who to partner with.
“There are a few major reasons why we decided on India but the top one being the transparency we received when we visited our manufacturer,” she says. “India is one of the largest producers of cotton as they have the perfect climate and growing conditions. Plus, they are well known for their textiles.”
Having travelled around India when Nimi was younger, she has many fond family memories. “Textiles and hospitality are what stood out to me and made a lasting impression on me, even back then,” she says. “When I visited again as an adult, I immediately fell in love and it was a no brainer.”
“We especially loved that the factory owner himself met with us, gave us a tour, answered all our hard questions and even provided us with a list of all the small family run farms they work with. In addition, they had third party audits and the Fair Trade and GOTS Certification in place.
“We are so happy to be working with a family run company that treats their employees exactly like that...family!” says Nimi. “The owner goes above and beyond for their employees. All workers are paid well above the minimum wage stipulated by the Government of India. In addition to wages, workers receive many allowances and premiums such as a house rent allowance (5%), provident fund (12%), yearly bonus (14% of total wages), canteen allowances providing a full well-balanced meal served daily, transport to and from the factory for those employees’ living further away, medical insurance benefits for employees’ and their families as well as supporting education for over 160 of their employees’ children,” she says. “This program has been running since 2009.”
HauteCoton’s manufacturer takes all things seriously when it comes to sustainability, farmers, textile workers and the environment. Nimi points out it was plain and simple that transparency + social responsibility + environmental responsibility equals a WIN, WIN, WIN.
During her time in India, Nimi also observed workers incorporating hand-sewed upcycled coconut buttons onto duvet covers. When asked what the difference between ‘upcycled’ and recycled is, she explains, “Upcycling involves taking an item that would otherwise be waste and improving it in some way to make it useful again whereas recycling would be taking the object or material and completely breaking it down in order to create something new.”
She adds, “In upcycling an item, you can actually see what the original product has been and what it has also become. Our buttons on all our duvet covers are the outside shell of a coconut. Each button is unique, as it will have different details from the outer shell of the coconut. Upcycling allows you to be creative, is more environmentally friendly than recycling, and allows you to re-create and reuse without creating new waste. We’re very excited that we can make such a simple and effective choice for our planet and our homes.”
When reflecting on how COVID-19 has affected HauteCoton, Nimi says, “I couldn’t be more grateful for the impact it has had on our business. We received a contract from a property management firm which wanted to use only sustainable home products in all their rental properties so I feel like now, more than ever, we have people’s attention.” She adds, “Since we’ve been spending more time indoors lately, people are starting to look at their spaces differently and especially the bedroom. It should be our sanctuary and people are realizing the impact their decisions have on their health and how HauteCoton can help with that. This circles back to why our brand started in the first place, for health reasons. Now, combine that with quality and you have true luxury.”
Nimi continues by adding, “Since the beginning, we have been talking about sustainable practices and what it does for our health and the health of our collective home, our planet. Once the pandemic hit and there were strict lockdowns globally, people all over the world started to notice a shift. Mother Nature began healing. The skies started to clear as smog and pollution started to lift. Rivers and lakes started to clear and change colour.
“The fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters on our planet,” highlights Nimi. Check out this short article titled: UN launches drive to highlight environmental cost of staying fashionable which compliments this point.
On a personal side, COVID taught Nimi to SLOW down. “That is what life is all about and to be quite honest it’s what our brand is also about,” she says. “Slow, intentional living. When you live this way, everything you do, own and purchase has meaning and brings an increased amount of happiness and peace of mind I find.” Nimi really enjoyed spending more time with family, cooking and trying out new recipes, and most importantly, connecting with herself and looking inwards. “Selfcare means you are able to give more of yourself where it matters the most,” she adds.
Speaking of care and intention, these two attributes were definitely considered when selecting HauteCoton’s manufacturer and when Nimi was asked about her future dreams she answers with, “I dream of a sustainable future where one does not have to shop organically, socially, ethically and look for certifications or labels. That is just the norm and one can walk into a store and not have to question where, who or how it was made.”
Nimi adds, “Sustainability is great not just for our health, but for the health of our planet as well and intuitively, we know that when something is better for our planet, it is also simply better for us as end consumers.”
Nimi would love to one day own a commercial space that encapsulates these factors. “In my mind, when you enter this building, you can leave your worries behind because from food, textiles, to services we’re keeping everyone’s health including our workers and our planet in mind,” she says.
When discussing current inspiration, Nimi is loving home decor and design, feng shui, colours and the impact they can have on people and the type of energy it brings to a bedroom or living space. “There is a reason why we chose whites and neutrals for our bedrooms,” exclaims Nimi. “These colours are calming to the central nervous system. Your mind computes it as instant calm, tranquil, fresh, and clean leaving you feeling relaxed.” She adds, “According to feng shui, colours that are closest to our skin tone and/or nature are the most relaxing.”
Nimi first met Heather, Meadow’s founder, during a floral dyeing workshop and the two instantly hit it off. “We connected over our love for fabrics, textiles, and sustainability,” says Nimi. “When I learned that Heather was going to be opening up Meadow, I knew it was going to be something fantastic.”
“The timing was perfect,” she says. “More people are starting to question where and how their clothes are made and what impact it has on our planet. Our city needs a place where people can shop fashion and home more sustainably and ethically.”
Creating a lifestyle boutique where you can shop home + fashion together is a collaboration that Nimi would love to collaborate with Meadow on. “It would be amazing to provide a boutique shopping experience where people know where and how the items are made and produced while they shop. Come to think of it, this might even be a fun idea for HauteCoton to create...our own home + fashion line,” Nimi chuckles with excitement. “Yes!”
Looking into the future, Nimi sees big things happening for HauteCoton. Over the next five years, they want to move in the direction of creating sustainable international growth by expanding into vacation rentals. “This way, more people can have a true experience in being connected to nature and what it can really do for us on a physical and mental level. We are not just a bedding and linens company,” explains Nimi. “We are so much more by keeping the health of our planet and people in mind.”
In reflecting on the earlier days of being an entrepreneur, Nimi mentions that when seeking advice on your business, seek objective advice from people outside your close circle of family and friends. “You will receive honest feedback whereas your ‘inner circle’ will tell you things you want to hear and will likely be subjective advice,” she says.
For the next generation of entrepreneurs, Nimi advises to believe in what makes you excited and follow that. “Pay attention to how you feel when presented with a business decision,” she says. “Does it get you excited? Is it a big fat YES? That ‘feeling’ will look different for everyone. It might show up as goosebumps, a tingly feeling in your stomach or might make the little hairs on the back of your neck stand up.” She goes on by adding, “Those little quiet ‘pings’ your body feels are your bread crumbs to the next great thing and is a way of leading you into the right direction of where you’re supposed to go.”
“Of course, this doesn’t mean it will be perfect when you get there but you’ll start to see the connections on how it’s meant to lead you to the next thing and next and so on. This will lead you down your ‘path’, if you will.” she says. “This is exactly how our brand started and even how we added new products to our online store.”
Nimi urges young entrepreneurs to trust their intuition. “It will never let you down. Your body knows the answers before your mind does. It will never lie to you. So get really quiet and pay attention to what your body is telling you the next time you are presented with an idea or a decision,” says Nimi.
Story written by Dean Douglas (Douglas Marketing Inc) in collaboration with Nimi & Heather
Photography by Heather of Meadow & grave danger photography
Connect with Nimi:
- Rachel Pally / Phoebe Dress / made in USA.
- The Sept Label / Ruby Top / made in Portugal.
- Faithfull The Brand / Gillian Top & Duda Pants / made in Indonesia.
- Faithfull The Brand / linen Shaloom Dress / made in Indonesia.
- Faithfull The Brand / Brielle Pant / made in Indonesia.
- Mercurial / Sassy Moon Necklace / made in USA.
- Army of Rokosz / solid 14K gold snake rings / made in Vancouver.
- Janessa Leone / Antoine Hat / made in USA.
Additional 'Fun Facts' About The Textile Industry:
- Only 0.5% of the revenue generated by the textile industry is considered ‘fair trade’
- It takes 20,000 litres of water to produce only 2.2 pounds of conventional cotton
- After only one week, your pillow may contain 17,000+ more bacteria than your toilet seat...so clean them weekly
- 43 million tons of pesticide-laden dust is blown into the air every year by the cotton industry
- Textiles and fabrics, including your bedding and mattress are off-gassing. Even though you cannot see or smell it, it does not mean it is not there. This is called volatile organic compounds (VOC’s)