"We moved to Peru to shake our lives up a bit..."
For most of us, shaking things up tends to be a little less radical than upping sticks and moving to a different hemisphere... But that's Emily Orlik for you. She's one half of the brand NINA, which she cofounded with her husband, Oli.
NINA started as a baby clothes company that champions longevity, sustainability and promoting of Peru's female artisans. Due to Covid-19 disrupting supply chain issues, Emily and Oli have commissioned a beautiful series called The Motherhood Prints (some of my favourites below).
Emily walks us through her challenges, the biggest lessons and her female icons.
Emily learning about cotton with a farmer in Peru.
How do you usually start your day?
My mischievous puppy Bo is my alarm clock – he wants attention all the time so sometimes I’ll be up at 6am. I drink far too much earl grey tea so I’m training myself to have a hot honey & lemon instead as my first drink of the day. And then for some porridge (I have in the past been known as the porridge queen!). I work much better in the mornings - my thoughts are more free-flowing and the laser focus that eludes my foggy mind most afternoons is very welcome.
The best thing about my work is...
I love the creative freedom that comes with running your own business. I’ve realised recently that I really enjoy writing and telling stories. Then you realise that even just an Instagram post can be an opportunity to tell a story. Before launching NINA I worked in business consulting and then at a girls’ rights charity… my work was often very factual and about presenting an argument. Completely different to the creative writing you’re used to doing at school. We forget how important stories are, for both the reader and the writer.
(L-R) by Cordelia Cembrovicz; Kirsty Fenton; Seraphina Neville
The most difficult aspect of my work is...
It’s a rollercoaster, the one with the corkscrew twists and turns! I’ve got back into hot yoga lately which I love but also just really need to keep my mental health in check. Working with suppliers can be difficult, especially working across different countries and time zones and languages too. Patience and resilience are in high demand! To give you an example - we’re launching our first baby clothes & accessories collection soon. We’ve spent a laborious three weeks finding a better zip for our baby onesies. And then for the baskets we’re launching - a flooded dam has caused havoc for our suppliers, as have the cows who have eaten a lot of the straw nearby meaning an 8-hour trip to source other straw!
Are you a carry-all tote or mini handbag kind of girl?
Carry-all tote. Or my Patagonia backpack that I’ve had for years. It may not be especially sexy but it’s very practical. I cycle a lot too, so a handbag is not going to cut it. I know I own a handbag somewhere, but I would have to rummage for it.
The NINA dream team: Emily, her husband Oli and their full ball Bo.
What are you most excited about for the future?
I’m excited to launch our first baby clothes & accessories collection. I’ve loved working with all the brilliant and inspiring artists for The Motherhood Prints, so I’m excited to continue these sorts of collaborations for other projects. I also dream about doing up an old, crumbling building overlooking the sea. And I would like to write a children’s book too!
On a much bigger scale, I’m excited about the power of business to do good in the world and have a real impact for people and planet. There are so many exciting companies out there doing exactly that.
Biggest life lesson?
Not sure if it’s a lesson as such but I try to live for today as much as possible. Out of the blue my Nan was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year, it was very sudden and painful and she sadly died just a few months later. It was a big shock and a reminder of how short life is. So I try to make the most of everything and remind myself of how lucky I am in many ways!
Another lesson is realising that we’re all in control of our own lives, even when they are spiralling a bit. One of my favourite podcasts is Elizabeth Day’s ‘How To Fail’ - for one of the episodes she talks with Mo Gawdat about his equation for happiness. One aspect of it that’s always stuck with me is the fact that we all have a choice. And how it’s up to us to choose our responses to things. We can literally choose to be happy. It was very empowering to realise this.
My favourite place to escape is...
I’ve just come back from a campervan trip around Cornwall with my husband Oli and our puppy Bo. We saw the most beautiful beaches, coves, views, coastlines - I’m still reeling from how beautiful it was. I would like to escape here again!
What was your first handbag purchase?
I really couldn’t tell you!
I am happiest when...
Eating good food in the sunshine. I really love winter sunshine. Oli lived in Madrid for 3 months the other year so I would pop out and stay there a fair bit. We had so many bright and crisp days. It would be November and we would be sat in a square, eating tapas, drinking wine with the sun on our faces. Dreamy.
Who is the woman that has most inspired you?
Nina Simone - for her relentless fight for civil rights and her powerful lyrics.
Huma Abedin – I admit I hadn’t come across her until I saw her in the documentary ‘Weiner’ about her then husband’s presidential campaign. She was really captivating, lovely, down-to-earth whilst also being politically pretty powerful as one of Hillary Clinton’s closest aides.
Emma Watson – for using her platform for good and for her phrase “If not me, then who? If not now, then when?”
Paloma Faith – because she’s just brilliant, so talented, warm and funny.