There’s a lot to like about CommonKind blankets. Locally made from 100 percent wool in bold colours or wild geometric shapes, they look good and feel even better. But these throws are more than mere eye candy: for every blanket purchased, the social enterprise, founded by longtime friends Olive Riley and Kelly Olatunji, will gift one to a family in need. Here, Riley tells us more.
How did this all begin?
We met at Massey University in Wellington. Kelly was in her final year of her masters in textile design, and I was in my honours year for my fashion design degree. We built a friendship based on our shared interest in wool as a super fibre. Later, while both working in the wool industry, we started talking more about how we could better utilise this abundant resource – one that the wool growers get a pittance for, yet the average family can’t easily justify buying. In 2017 we had a big brainstorming session and the seeds of CommonKind grew from there.
Who receives the gifted blankets?
We send our Common blankets to community organisations to distribute to families in their networks. So far, we have donated through Wesley Community Action, an organisation in Wellington that helps people create better lives for themselves and their whānau, and The Nest Collective, which distributes packs of baby and children’s essentials to families in need.
Where do you source the fabric from?
We create our designed-for-kids Common blankets using deadstock woollen fabrics from our weaver in Auckland, choosing soft and bold materials to share joy and warmth.
Why is it so important to use wool?
Wool is breathable and naturally insulative with a hollow core that offers superior thermal properties without making the user feel clammy. For children and babies, in particular, wool is a super fibre. It helps regulate temperature, improves sleep outcomes and is flame resistant. It’s also biodegradable!
What does the future look like for CommonKind?
We said at the beginning if we gave away one blanket, we would have done something good; everything else is a bonus. But the truth is, New Zealand has systemic issues contributing to child poverty that simply giving away blankets isn’t going to fix. There’s a lot of work to be done – the latest Statistics New Zealand report says one in seven children in New Zealand is living in material hardship – and that’s what fuels our passion in this space. We’re working towards a sustainable business that can provide other useful wool items for the home and bedroom. Success to us is sharing warmth with those that might otherwise find it hard to access.