December 6, 2016
-by Benjamin Okun-
Nicolas Chignardet is among the few (but proud) male members of MIT S&PC, who live in Cambridge with significant others working on everything from astrophysics to management consulting. Originally from France, Nicolas lived for several years in Switzerland before moving to the U.S. with his wife Melina, a computer graphics scientist.
Although figuring out “what to do” is a common challenge shared by many partners arriving in Cambridge, Nicolas has had a different experience: after studying computer science and math, then working for several years in the banking industry, he knew he was ready to fulfill a longstanding entrepreneurial dream. Upon arrival in Cambridge, he plunged immediately into the activity of starting his business, a high quality apparel line based on Fair & Organic principles. I visited Nicolas at Workbar, one of the new shared-workspace ventures that serve the needs of local entrepreneurs, independent contractors, and other self-employed individuals who prefer a communal work environment.
Nicolas grew up in an agricultural part of France, and from an early age he was aware of the impact that commercial wheat production had on the environment, including regular periods when groundwater was unsafe to drink. These experiences began to shape his interest in starting a company that provides a useful, high quality product created in an ethical way. He eventually decided to start Origamo, which offers a curated collection of men’s clothes centered on a commitment to high quality organic items, and a transparent supply chain based on fairness, from the first stage of cultivation to delivery of the final product directly to clients.
The name Origamo is a play on the word Origami, the art of crafting a beautiful object from a single sheet of paper, along with a final “o” that represents Italian’s plural masculine form. The company seeks to provide essential, flexible wardrobe items for which each element, and each stage of production, is carefully sourced and monitored to maintain the company’s commitment to organic material, fair trade, and high quality.
Nicolas says the process of starting his company has been incredibly demanding, and as a one man show, the project has kept him busy with 12+ hour days spent learning each essential element of the business based on his own analysis and research. Inevitably, unexpected challenges arise, such as when mother-of-pearl buttons sourced in Australia turned out to require specialized import licenses before being shipped for quality control to the U.S. Eventually the problem was solved, and the buttons continued their production journey to Asia and Europe, where they would meet the high quality organic cotton that Nicolas sourced personally in Peru.
Although Nicolas has been deeply engaged in this all-consuming project since the beginning of his time in Cambridge, he says because he works alone he feels some sense of the loneliness and isolation that can be common experiences for Spouses & Partners. Still, he is excited to have launched his Indiegogo campaign, which offers Origamo’s signature Polo Shirt. Check it out, and perhaps find inspiration to start your own creative entrepreneurial venture during your time in Cambridge!
Origamo website: https://origamoapparel.com/
Indiegogo campaign: https://igg.me/at/origamo