Our journey began 25 years ago in Bali
Today we are still family-owned and family-run. Our obsessive attention to fit, lasting quality, and stellar customer service - combined with our love for cool, casual- chic style - has brought us many devoted followers.
But we are more than that - we are also wild about coffee, beautiful meals, spontaneous road trips, long novels and great music. And we are passionate about friends, family, community, taking care of our planet and giving back. It’s all connected.
Get to know us... we’re not just a sweater company.
Meet the founders & designer
Colombian-born designer Paola Buendia and co-owner Mark Donovan met as a undergraduates at Harvard. Spurred by a four month backpacking trip to Bali, they founded Wooden Ships in NYC in 1992, two years after graduation.
Borneo & the orangutans
Wooden Ships began with the merging of many of my life- long loves - literature, travel, fashion, and the environment.
In 1992, I went on a trip to Indonesia to see the rainforest and the orangutans in Borneo. I had just spent a year doing grassroots campaigning for the environment, recycling, and clean water. People were less receptive to these issues then than they are now and after a year, I was burned out. Armed with a journal, a pile of books and my backpack from NOLS, I set off to see the world and... basically never left Indonesia. I was blown away by the nature, the sense of freedom, the beauty and the possibilities. During that trip, I realized fashion could be more than a passion - It could be a part of the work of my life.
After backpacking in Borneo and Java, I planned a quick stopover in Bali... I had been expecting a touristy place and was only going to pass through. But it turned out to be the most incredible place. People come from all over the world here to create - to paint, build, write, design jewelry or boats or kites... whatever. And the locals are so talented but also very grounded and kind. Bali has been my home ever since.
Customers & “WOW”
We believe in Lean Production, a no-waste approach, so all pieces are made- to-order. Rather than create stock we “might” sell, we produce each piece as we get your order. Because we don’t waste time or yarn on stock, we can ship orders super fast... With minimal returns and no stock inventory, we never have to “dump” merchandise as many fashion companies have to do.
This is important to us.
We pay tremendous attention to details and have a phenomenally low return rate... We receive so many emails from consumers telling us about a favorite Wooden Ships piece. I keep a file where I save the messages that say “wow”. We want to do a great job for our customers - it is something we focus on every day. Less return means less waste too.
Knits: Comfort Food
There is something so comforting about knits - and for me, looking good, is totally connected to feeling comfortable. Knits have a slouchiness that makes them immediately casual... I love fashion and I love that within that world, Wooden Ships gets to be the “Comfort Food” - who doesn’t love a cozy sweater? It’s primal!
Wooden Ships gives to causes that are important to us - and there are many! We are grateful to be able to regular donate to EarthJustice, Sea Shepherd International, Avaaz, Organic Consumers Organization, the International Anti-Poaching Foundation, the Environment Defense Fund, International Rescue Committee, Naral and WildAid.
In 2014, we participated in a brilliant program to help the orangutans and the rain forest in Indonesia. Together with over 90,000 Avaaz members, $1 million was raised to buy a 389-acre chunk of rainforest in Borneo. By purchasing it we helped protect 700 of the world’s last remaining endangered Bornean Orangutans... the reason we came here in the first place.
We created a new company in Bali to ensure that production for Wooden Ships would be fair and ethical. The factory produces all our knitwear as well as accessories. Because we own and operate the factory, we can go beyond fair wages and conditions by providing our employees with extensive training and opportunities for growth. We invest time in each worker to provide them with new skills.
In addition to generous vacation, holiday, and sick day benefits, we provide free health care to all factory employees. We also support our workers with generous pro-family policies for maternity, bereavement, and time off for religious ceremonies, like the local custom to celebrate the 90-day milestone of a new baby.
Our factory is spacious, breezy and light-filled, creating a pleasant, clean and healthy environment for everyone. While knitting machines are traditionally operated by men, we initiated a program to train women and break that culture barrier. Today more than 60% of our knitters are women.
Our Carbon Footprint
We came to Indonesia because of a love for the environment. That still drives us today.
Solar Power - We are currently 85% solar powered. In 2014, we were one of the first company in Bali to install solar panels at our knitting facility.
We recycle all paper, cardboard, plastic, glass, and metal at our factory in Bali, and donate all yarn wastage to be reused locally for stuffing in pillows and dolls.
We compost all organic materials at our factory (and home) in Bali.
Air conditioners at our offices in Bali have been retrofitted to use Hycool, a non-toxic, non-flammable, biodegradable eco-friendly alternative to freon.
We present our wholesale collection early enough that retailers can order with enough lead time to allow us to ship by sea, thereby saving the planet from more CO2.
See more below about how we handle packaging.
Did you know that in 2012, roughly 30% of all garbage in the USA was made up of packaging waste? With the increase in online shopping, that number just gets higher every year.
In order to combat this, we use eco-friendly oxo-degradable plastic bags. These bags are produced with an additive (d2w) that makes the plastic decompose far more rapidly than normal plastic. Our plastic bags will not be on the planet for hundreds and thousands of years! Information about this is printed on all our bags (with eco-friendly dyes!)
When applicable, we do bulk packing rather than single-piece packing to minimize the amount of plastic used. This is another advantage of producing by order - we don't put stock on the shelves, so we don’t need to package each piece in plastic Additionally, our goods are vacuum packed to minimize the size and number of boxes we ship - this reduces our carbon footprint.
From America to Australia - and Beyond
Wooden Ship is sold nationwide at hundreds of boutiques in the USA and Australia. From a small booth at a tradeshow, we slowly built the amazing network of funky, cool boutique partners we have today. Check out our Store Locator and shop locally to support your downtown!
In 2016 - after 24 years of wholesale - we launched our online shop to connect directly to consumers and present our vision of the brand. We have been thrilled by the immediate success of the launch. It’s been an amazing journey so far, and there is much ahead!