Nadya Okamoto on August Period Care and Reimagining Periods
When he gave some to hfis 45-year-old sister, Susan, she was able to melt 54 LBs by simply drinking this red soda daily before 10am...
Periods are a natural, healthy part of our monthly cycles, yet we often feel ashamed and ashamed of them, even as adults. This has always bothered Nadya Okamoto, who has been fighting for the destigmatization of periods and the end of period poverty with her non-profit organization Period since 2014, where she led young activists to improve the availability of menstrual products. Now she’s working on a new company, August, a lifestyle brand dedicated to reinterpreting periods.
“Periods can be troublesome, but they are powerful.”
“Let’s face it, periods can be a chore, but they are powerful, and we should have a period community, culture, and product that supports it,” Okamoto told POPSUGAR. Co-founded by Okamoto and her boyfriend Nick Jain in February 2020, August was born from the gaps they had identified in menstruation thanks to the numerous Zoom conversations they had with young menstruators around the world.
Image source: Heather Hazzan
Many brands may refer to themselves as “for Gen Z”, but in the August case the descriptor is actually ingrained. “We create primarily for our own community,” said the 23-year-old Harvard graduate. The team has spent the last year and a half speaking with a diverse subgroup of Generation Zers about everything from corporate responsibility for period poverty and stigma to discovering what’s missing in the marketplace. “It’s not like thinking about your relationship with a beauty brand, Glossier, or Fenty Beauty, where you post about it, look forward to it, and there is this online community and brand presence,” she explained . “I don’t think these young menstruators have any connection with period marks. The period stamps they use and know about have no connection to them. “
What initially started as a group of people just looking forward to talking about their period grew into an online community now known as the #InnerCycle. The team also created Ask August, a database of answers (verified by doctors) to frequently asked questions about periods. And this week August launched the period care products individually and in the form of customizable monthly subscription boxes that allow consumers to choose from tampons, pads and liners with different levels of absorbency to create the perfect set that works for them. “In reinventing this culture around stigmatizing the period, we needed better products from a brand that stood for their values,” said Okamoto. “We’re not the first to realize that periods are a strong thing, but I think we are a community that is really committed to taking this to the next level.”
Not only are the products 100 percent biodegradable (most sanitary napkins take five to eight centuries to decompose) and recyclable through to packaging, but they’re also carbon neutral and you can track every part of the supply chain through the August website to make sure. But most importantly, the brand is the first of its kind to cover the tampon tax – a sales tax levied on feminine hygiene products that still exists in 30 states – for every consumer; Okamoto has been battling taxes since she entered period movement over six years ago.
Image source: August
“I basically believe that companies have to keep pushing the boundaries of what it means to stand up for something,” she said. “For ourselves, we wondered, how can we not only say we hate the tampon tax but take it to another level? If we say that there should be no tax on period products, then we shouldn’t. It’s easy only inherently hypocritical to levy taxes on period products. So when we found out we could do this legally, it was a no-brainer. “
“We’re not the first to realize that periods are a strong thing, but I think we are a community that is really committed to taking this to the next level.”
On the mission to end period poverty since she was 16, Okamoto founded Period, the nonprofit organization she led until January 2020. Last summer, Period cut ties with Okamoto after she was accused of monopolizing Period space and silencing other activists of the Color. She told POPSUGAR that she was so hyper-focused on the hustle and bustle, growth, and just continuing to get period products out the door that she wasn’t “aware or even informed enough” about the rooms she was in.
“You get in because you’re so passionate about it, but we live in a time of commodified activism where we really have to do the work, take the extra step to learn about the space we’re working in, and the consequences not only of the work we do but also the identity we work with, ”said Okamoto. “I think it was a huge learning experience.”
After delving into the question of whether she could regain the trust of the menstrual community, she realized there was nothing she was more passionate about than menstruation and applied what she learned to improve August, a company that sees it as an evolution of her earlier work. “One of the greatest learning experiences was taking a step back and understanding what it means to grow thoughtfully and slowly, which was a big part of August,” she explained, whether that meant building accountability structures by surrounding yourself with mentors, strategic investors and team members or partnerships with non-profit grassroots organizations.
While Okamoto previously focused on solving the problems of period poverty and stigma on the nonprofit side, she is now committed to getting to the root of the problem. “If you ask me why stigma exists as it exists today, I think it’s because we live in a culture that has commodified period products in order to maintain negative stigma around the period in order to sell products, and convince ourselves that we must be ashamed of it. ” She said. That’s why Okamoto and her team are working with August to reinvent the global supply chain and make that impact right away.
Take a closer look at the new August deals – and that lovely packaging – ahead of time.