Alumni Profiles: Elizabeth Olsen, Olsenhaus
I enjoyed on-site visits to factories and guest lecturers from the industry. Real experience away from the school environment is really practical when you graduate and I can remember these trips. Also at that time, Ellen Goldstein taught a class focused on anatomy that was very interesting when considering footwear.
What types of extracurricular activities were you a part of at SUNY and how did those experiences prepare you for the future?
I was enrolled in the 1 year accelerated accessories program because I already had a degree from another university. There was no time for extracurricular activities…I was either in class, working, or in a lab finishing assignments.
What made Olsenhaus want to use alternative, renewable materials?
I have been very aware all my life of how animals are treated on this planet, since I was 15 I have been a vegetarian, and went vegan ( wearing no leather) 4 years ago.
Having the knowledge of how leather is made, the torturous conditions the animals live in, the toxic chemical used in the process of turning a skin into a hide, the pollution it causes and the diseases created in workers that work in tanneries, there really isn’t much to think about as to whether this is an option.
We have one planet, and polluting it physically isn’t sustainable, let alone the damage to the collective consciousness.
For Olsenhaus collections, I combine natural materials, linen, cotton, cork, wood, with high performance, technically materials- such as a micro-fiber made from recycled Tv screens, and a resin coated cotton from Italy. I design and source all the collections as well as act as the CEO- which isn’t something, that you learn in school.
What was your most memorable experience at SUNY?
Memorable good, would be the friends I made and over the years watching each of us grow into our careers either working for a brand, or our own companies, so it would be the bonding experience, memorable bad- getting no sleep!
If you had the chance, what are some things you would have done differently while at SUNY?
If I had to do it over again, I would have taken the regular 2 years and taken my time, maybe interned at a design house, just for the experience. After graduating in 1 year, I went straight away to work, and got the very first job I interviewed for. I also would have liked more practical business classes, because yes, you need to know construction in order to design and school is where you can display your imagination/creativity,but a practical application of this is what you really do, so some lessons in that would have beenhelpful.
Also how to handle business matters would have made a huge difference. Perhaps I should teach this class.
Olsenhaus is sold worldwide in 13 countries in select retailers including Nordstrom, Barneys, Ron Herman and on-line with Amazon (endless.com) The line has appeared in domestic and international fashion from Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire, Instyle, to lifestyle publications Yoga Journal, Womens Health and Whole Living to name a few…. Olsenhaus and Elizabeth have also appeared on network television from Bravo ,TV Guide, E! to OWN and international networks. She is interviewed frequently as a knowledgeable source on truly sustainable materials, design and consciousness.