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Creative Spaces: LUÜNA’s Olivia Cotes-James

The Style Sheet was lucky enough to spend a sunny afternoon at the Lamma home of Olivia Cotes-James, female entrepreneur, founder and CEO of LUÜNA naturals — an award-winning line of feminine hygiene products. Along with organic cotton pads, tampons and liners, all hypoallergenic and free of the toxins found in conventional cotton and non-cotton brands, LUÜNA is also the first brand to stock a period cup in a mainstream retailer in Hong Kong, through Watsons.


The start-up founder has spent the best part of the pandemic so far in her colourful Lamma abode. While paying her a visit, we learnt about her WFH routine, love of nature and support of the women in her creative world.


The Style Sheet: What drew you to Lamma Island, and your flat itself?


Olivia: LUÜNA launched in 2019 when we established our offices in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Before COVID I was travelling between those locations every month. I liked the contrast between the bustling urban nature of Shanghai and the serenity that Lamma afforded during my time in Hong Kong. Honestly, launching a start-up is incredibly challenging, more so than I could ever have prepared for. As such, those quiet moments on Lamma developed very quickly from treasured moments of calm to necessary acts of self-care amid the craziness. Put it this way — working seven days a week is less intense when weekend work can take place on a sunlit balcony to the sounds of birds chirping!

Olivia Cotes-James of LUÜNA naturals relaxes on her balcony
LUÜNA naturals founder & CEO Olivia Cotes-James in her Lamma Island abode

Tell us a little about your WFH routine. What are your key criteria for creating an inspiring space?


I could sit in an empty room on a beanbag and be happy to WFH, as long as it has lots of natural light and access to good coffee. I often grind straight through when I’m in the zone, but I definitely advocate for making sure you take breaks where possible, otherwise burnout looms. This is what I loved so much about living on Lamma during those long WFH periods last year. As I’m not always good about taking a break from work, with nature on my doorstep, even a necessary shopping trip ends up being a relaxing stroll through nature and means some time to recalibrate.

Olivia Cotes-James of LUÜNA naturals sits in front of her artwork collection
Olivia gets comfy on a pre-loved chair. Her artwork collection champions local female creators

Tell us about some of the vintage finds and upcycled pieces in your home.


I’m always looking for ways to reduce my environmental footprint, from reusable period care to shopping for second-hand clothing and upcycling old furniture. Sourcing pre-loved items is something I love doing in my spare time. I painted a lot of the furniture and art myself during COVID — if you look closely, you’ll see I’m not very good at it! However, I created these pieces for myself, so while they aren’t perfect, they’re meaningful to me and I love them for their imperfections.

Olivia Cotes-James of LUÜNA naturals relaxes at home with a selection of curios
Olivia takes a tea break on the balcony of her tranquil home, which is filled with colourful nooks

Your space champions a lot of work from local female artists too.


The walls of my flat are a testament to many of my favourite local artists in Hong Kong and Shanghai, many of whom I’m lucky enough to have discovered, worked with for LUÜNA and now call friends. From Shanghai we have illustrator Patti Ruan, and from Hong Kong you can see the work of Claudia Chanhoi, Charlene Man and Ellie Suh. One of my favourite pieces is an illustration by Ellie that she designed for the launch of our friend Rae Hu’s first feature film. I look at this piece and can feel so proud of the talented creative women in my life.

LUÜNA naturals' colourful packaging complements founder Olivia Cotes-James's taste in decor
Left: LUÜNA’s bold packaging makes a statement. Right: Colourful objects, plants and works by local artists fill Olivia’s home

On the topic of championing women, you lead a team of nine women as founder and CEO of LUÜNA. What’s been your managerial approach?


Proving just how prevalent gender bias is in the start-up world, less than 3% of VC funding was allocated to female-founded start-ups in 2020. At LUÜNA, we tackle gender bias at all levels, from our external work to tackle menstrual stigma in Asia to our internal structure within which women lead at every level. With statistics like this in mind, our very existence and success is proof that long-outdated industries can and will be redefined, with women leading the charge. Too many leaders today still act out of fear, whereas at LUÜNA we’re committed to leading boldly and bravely. This involves having the difficult conversations many are too scared to have in a professional setting, being transparent with one another and empathetic at every turn.


Lastly, LUÜNA also has an impressive impact model. Can you share a little more about how you’re giving back?


Every purchase of our products helps fund period education and products to local communities in need. We’re so excited to be launching The Red Box Project in Hong Kong with The Zubin Foundation to alleviate period poverty. The Zubin Foundation has been working to improve the lives of marginalised ethnic minorities by reducing suffering and providing opportunities. We’ll be providing organic pads and period education to ethnic minority girls living in the city, which forms part of our efforts to eradicate period poverty in Hong Kong and across Asia.

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