When Louise Nicholson started noticing and hearing of friends’ menopausal symptoms ever more frequently, rather than just sitting on the problem, she decided to act. Online research for clothing companies targeting menopausal women showed that the offer was limited, to say the least: “a series of polyester nightdresses at exorbitant prices seemed like the only options available. Let’s see if there is a gap in the market and if that gap wants to be filled”, Louise thought. She joined forces with Barbara Warren and Fifty One Apparel was born.
Cool Clothes for Hot Women
As throughout her life, Louise wanted to make a visible difference for her peers. The mission of Fifty One Apparel is to provide “a real solution for women suffering from night sweats and hot flushes, thus also reducing the stigma associated with menopause“. With a degree in textile marketing and decades-long career in the textile business, Louise and her business partner also wanted to build a concept which respects customers and the environment alike. Their garments are made with natural fibre sources (cellulosic fibres) and the ‘Outlast’ technology which was developed with NASA to help regulate astronauts’ temperatures: the fabric interprets the body’s heat, stores it and releases it back when the body begins to cool. “Our clothes are not a medical remedy and we stress they do not cure, but rather alleviate the symptoms. The best endorsements are the customers who are coming back 2,3 and 4 times and I think that is the best indicator of how well our range has been received.”
Starting a business even with the strongest of expertise in the field always has its challenges. For Louise, it was setting up an online venture. Social media is the main means of promotion for Fifty One Apparel and she admits being a complete rookie. “It was a baptism of fire, but at the same time it has been great to learn new skills and gain an understanding of the vast growth opportunities and the excitement that is out there”, she affirms.
Strong ethical principles as the North star
“Fifty One Apparel is committed to strong ethical principles – she said-. The manufacturing of the garments happens in the UK or elsewhere in Europe with mills that are known and can be trusted. Another crucial principle is being environmentally friendly“. Louise believes that people are acutely aware of the damage caused to the environment by the fashion industry. High water usage, pollution caused by chemical treatment in the dyeing process and the disposal of clothes to the landfill are but a few of the negative impacts of ‘fast fashion’. “From day one there has been an understanding of sustainability in our business, working with factories commended for their work done on environmental principles. As a small business, we also do all we can to minimise waste. All our packaging is biodegradable or recyclable and our garments are designed to be multi-functional: nightwear, daywear, loungewear all in classic colours with fabrics looking good after wash. All these features aim to encourage longevity and the decrease in the number of clothes needed in our wardrobes”, Louise explains.
Renaissance of menopause
Louise is happy to notice that the perception of menopause has changed significantly over the decades. Where before women just suffered in silence and were at times the subject of ridicule, attitudes are changing. Louise thinks this is both thanks to national campaigns as well as to more and more women, including celebrities, publicly talking of their experiences. The fact that menopausal women are the fastest-growing demographic in today’s workforce means they are not hiding away. Louise herself has hardly had the time to notice the passage from young adulthood to midlife. “I’ve had the good fortune to get fantastic support from my family and friends who have laughed with and at me. That has helped me get to this point in life without major issues. I feel that a positive outlook on life with health and happiness is only to be celebrated.”
Staying playful in midlife
Louise sees midlife as the perfect time to reflect on where we are and what we have achieved. Having children who are busy building their own lives allows more time to follow our own passions. “I have always been very active and despite working full time and having 2 children, I’ve made the most of my free time with friends and family”, Louise admits. The new liberty of midlife urges her to travel more and experience the huge array of cultures the world has to offer. “I have travelled a lot for work, but I think you never truly understand a country or its customs until you step off the tourist track and get your hands dirty!”
Middle age also brings with it new boost confidence and self-awareness, along with the ability to focus clearly on life’s priorities. In Louise’s opinion, our focus in life should be in appreciating the special relationships we share with those we love and treasure and making the most of what life has to offer. And naturally, staying playful and having fun along the way. Louise intends to enjoy every minute of developing Fifty One Apparel into a recognised and respected brand in the menopausal market. On the side, she’d like to learn to ski backwards for more than 200 meters, doing it on purpose.