Life and Style’s Ellie Watts interviews Affi Parvizi-Wayne, the founder of Freda, an eco-friendly feminine hygiene company which simultaneously aims to tackle period poverty
Redbrick’s Life & Style team had the opportunity to interview Affi Parvizi-Wayne, the founder of Freda, a company set up to aid women by providing them with completely organic (free from chemicals and synthetic fibers) and eco-friendly feminine products. These feminine products can be purchased online as a one-off or bought online as a monthly subscription to correlate with your period. Not only is their goal to provide women with a high-quality period product, but they also want to raise awareness surrounding the stigma behind women’s periods and create an environment of normalisation. Not to mention, a portion of the money from the subscription goes towards helping those in need of feminine products both here, and internationally, by working with worldwide initiatives to tackle period poverty. Freda’s mission for transparency on women’s products has led them to join Fashion Revolution, a global movement that advocates greater transparency, sustainability and ethics in the fashion industry supply chain. They now join big brand names such as ASOS, Nike and Adidas, in an effort to apply these values to the feminine products industry, and thereby improve the way that feminine products are sourced, created, and bought.
So, not only do you have the benefit of using a health-conscious, eco-friendly, sustainable and ethical period product, but you are also contributing to tackling period poverty worldwide. What’s not to like?
Freda very generously sent me some free samples, so I could fully understand their products, and I was overwhelmed by the presentation and thought that had gone into the set that I was sent. The box was able to fit easily through my letterbox, the products were wrapped in tissue paper and came with two different sized ‘Freda’ bags for storage of the products. I thought instantly that if I received one of these each month, I would be very pleased. The set of products were comprised of towels of varying sizes, and tampons. Whilst looking at the products, I noticed immediately that there was no distinguishable fragrance, and that they were far softer than other period products. This made me realise just how much typical period products are altered and filled with unnecessary fragrances and chemicals. The idea that I was putting these into my body was immediately alarming, and through speaking with friends, I realised I wasn’t alone in overlooking the negative aspects of period products, that Freda has targeted and drastically improved upon.
Ultimately, the combined ideology and product that Freda has created, represents a move towards a consumer market that is increasingly aware of both the underlying social problems concerning periods, in this country and elsewhere, and of the impact that they are making on the environment, and their own bodies. Freda takes advantage of this and creates a product that successfully meets these market demands.
To find out more about Freda, and to delve deeper into the ideas behind the company, below is an interview with the founder, Affi Parvizi-Wayne.
Why was it important for you to ensure that your products were eco-friendly?
Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of their purchases. Period care products are a non-negotiable and essential part of a woman’s life for about 30 years each. Due to their disposable nature, it made sense to me to try and limit its impact on the environment.
Freda has the added benefit of being able to track when the subscriber’s period is due, even for those that are irregular, but just how accurate is the prediction it makes for women that have irregular periods?
The accuracy of the algorithm depends on the amount of information that our customer inputs. We ask women for the length of their cycle, the length of their period, and the start date of their last period. We can then form a clearer picture of what their period is like over time.
We formulated our Period Calculator with the insight of my husband, a gynaecologist, and his colleagues. We use similar technology to that of fertility apps to measure a woman’s cycle, but we use it to deliver their products when they need them.
Using the Freda subscription, the customer receives an organic and eco-friendly product, whilst part of the money from the subscription goes towards helping those in need of the same products. For you, which is more important, the helping of those in need or the creation of new, good quality products for women in general?
These two elements are at the core of what Freda stands for, and both are extremely important to me personally. It was social responsibility that initially inspired Freda, but on looking into the period space I was struck by the need for improved, simplified products and very early on this became another priority for me. Our subscribers really value both.
Do you believe that businesses like yours, that make money whilst giving back to those in need, are the way forward and will be becoming more popular?
I think that companies like Tom’s have really paved the way for Freda and other brands to do business in a more ethical way, and for consumers to rethink where they’re spending their money. It’s a viable business model, so why not?
How did you find the process of building your own business? Did you encounter any difficulties at any point?
Building Freda is a really inspiring, collaborative process and we’re learning lots every day. We’ve had teething problems as any new startup does but no major difficulties.
Freda states that your products are created by women for women, do you think there are enough women in this industry, or is it male-dominated? And if so, do you see this changing to include more women?
Surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly given the state of the period space, this industry is dominated by men. To me, those at the top are quite out of touch with what women actually want in their period products, and that’s evident from the over-engineering of the products, the garish packaging, the patronising advertising.
I’m hopeful that as women stop buying their period products on auto-pilot and begin to demand more, women will become more prominent within the industry.
Normalisation of periods is another mission that Freda has, and there has been a move towards this. For example, Bodyform changing the blue dye used on adverts to blood or a blood-like substance. Is enough being done to normalise periods? What do you think could be done to help normalisation of periods?
It’s encouraging that progress is being made in destigmatising periods, but there’s a lot of work still to be done. At Freda, we want society to regard menstruation as what it is, as a natural and healthy process, rather than a shameful embarrassment. We need to ditch the euphemisms.
We also need pads and tampons to be recognised as an essential rather than as a luxury. The inclusion of period products in public spaces would go a long way towards addressing this, and at Freda we’re directly approaching workplaces, gyms, hotels, and encouraging them to stock them just as they would toilet paper and soap.
Freda is currently available online, and there are plans to have these products available on the high street, but how will the move from online to retail purchasing affect the price of your products?
Our business model is based on a subscription model, and in the medium term, we don’t aim to be in traditional retail spaces like supermarkets and chemists where we’ll will be fighting for shelf space with the big brands. For now, we’re stocked in niche spaces like yoga studios, gyms, and specialist lifestyle stores.
Further to this, are there any plans/or would you like to, expand the range to more organic and eco-friendly products for women? Make-up wipes, for example.
We’re focused on perfecting our period care. We want to do what we do really well, and provide the best product and service for our customer.