We caught up with Leah Remfry-Peploe, Co-Founder of sustainable period brand ohne, to talk all things from the dangers of traditional tampons to normalising periods in mainstream society…
Tell us about ohne
ohne is a sustainable cycles brand, championing hormonal and physical health through informative content, organic period products, and cycle-round care products. We sell 100% organic cotton tampons available on subscription (because it’s not a radical idea to think that periods should be as easy to shop for as clothes!) and a range of cycle-care products including the UK’s first pro-period CBD oils for pain and hormone management.
A huge part of starting ohne was creating an ethical and socially responsible business. Community comes first. We want to create space both online and in real life for people with vaginas to talk freely about periods, menstrual cycles, and their bodies without the shame and stigma that is all too often attached to these topics. Periods are not taboo and treating them as though they are leaves a lot of people who have periods in the dark about how their bodies function.
How did you come up with the idea for ohne?
ohne began pretty much from a point of total frustration! Nikki and I were having a girl’s night at my place when she ran out of the bathroom clutching a pad and ranting about how sexist and infantilising it’s purple, flowery design was. We spent the whole night drinking wine and getting over-excited about how much we hated current period products (especially how plastic and harmful they are!) and by the end of the night we had pretty much come up with the idea for ohne. It seemed so obvious to us that there needed to be a brand that didn’t have overtly gendered, eschewed childlike packaging and ‘period = shame’ style marketing, and chose to be bold and proud of periods. We decided to create a brand that was gender-inclusive, body-safe, and fun.
The ohne community has grown really organically – people like our products, content, and communication style and have shared it with friends who they know will benefit from it as much as they have. One of the most rewarding parts of what we do is getting emails or DMs from people thanking us for helping them grow their understanding of their own bodies or re-think the internalised shame they’ve been conditioned (as we all have) to feel about their bodily functions. A really integral part of ohne is creating boundary-pushing content both on social media and in on our content platform that challenges and calls out stereotypes and educates people about their bodies in a fun, informal way.
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Why are traditional tampons so bad for the environment?
Once we learned what the period products we’d been using for years were made of, and just how much plastic are inside the actual products themselves, we were pretty horrified. There’s the equivalent of four plastic bags worth of plastic in your standard mainstream pad, and the average tampon takes over 500 years to break down.
The ingredients list of a mainstream tampon makes for a pretty disturbing read, and tampons are basically a chemical soup with contaminants linked to hormonal disruption, cancer and birth defects. ohne tampons do not contain synthetic fibres, chemical additives, fragrance, dyes, chlorine bleach, residues of pesticides or herbicides. Unfortunately, there are actually stricter regulations for the labeling of hamster food than there are for tampons in the UK (and Europe).
People who have periods will use up to 11,000 tampons over the course of their lifetime in the most sensitive and absorbent part of their bodies – this is pretty much as serious as a product relationship gets! With the rise of wellness and organic, we want people to know that the choices they make around their menstrual products are important too!
What advice would you give to other women looking to start their own business?
Follow your gut, make sure you’re really bloody passionate about whatever your business is, and know what you’re getting yourself into! I’d always wanted to start my own brand after running a cafe business in Devon, and had been a long-time champion (Nikki would say I was utterly obsessive) of organic products – name a product, I can name an organic alternative to it. And Nikki had experience working with NGOs focused on both women’s initiatives and sustainability development. We were really well positioned to go into this with our eyes open, wearing our passion and determination on our sleeves, but it was still super bloody tough at times. It’s going to be a lot of long nights, you’re going to forget what a weekend looks like, and there are going to be more frustrating, disheartening hurdles and obstacles that you can even imagine – so you need to passionate enough about your idea and believe in it enough to get you through it all (even – especially – when no one else believes in it).
What does the future hold for Ohne?
We have SO much up our sleeve. We’re expanding our product range very soon (watch this space!) and we’re so excited to see our period product and cycle-care product offerings grow and shape what ohne is to our community – a space dedicated to a totally holistic approach to cycle care.
Our future very much looks like continuing to fight further and louder against the period taboos, shame, and embarrassment that are literally preventing people who have periods from getting access to the education and information they need to be able to correctly and safely manage their period with dignity. For us, community comes first. If we can create a space online where talking about periods is completely normalised, then our hope is that this will trickle out into wider society. If every single person in our community takes a little bit of that confident and shame-free attitude towards periods back into their other communities, we’re having a subtle but strong impact on the normalisation of periods!