It’s hard to imagine the poised and beautifully pregnant Olivia Wilde on the red carpet of the Oscars as the same person the actress writes about in a new op-ed piece about a trip to Haiti that forever opened her eyes and lead to the birth of her company.
In the article for retail magazine Darling, Wilde writes about her and her friend and business partner Babs Burchfield volunteering in a morgue in Haiti. Their job: to give the city’s “discarded poor” a “dignified burial” by placing rosaries on each of their bodies.
“We stood next to each other, cigarettes dangling from our mouths, rum burning our throats, hazmat suits covering everything but our sweaty faces, clutching a handful of rosaries each. We were aware of the unlikelihood of the moment—two white American girls working to bag bodies in a morgue—but this was Haiti, and we had come to expect the darkly unexpected,” Wilde wrote. “The cigarettes were to mask the retched smell, the rum to ease the shock.”
Despite having volunteered in Haiti previously by helping build schools and distribute food and medical supplies, Wilde said she and Burchfield knew after their experience in the morgue that they needed to do more.
“Our eyes were open,” the 30-year-old actress wrote. “That day, we became partners, and though we weren’t sure what we would build together, we knew we would dedicate our lives to bringing light into the darkest corners of the world.”
What they built was Conscious Commerce, a company that brings brands together with non-profits. Their first collaboration was with Alternative Apparel, creating a messenger bag to raise funds for the Academy for Peace and Justice high school in Port au Prince, Haiti.
By printing the name of the school on the bag’s inside flap, Wilde and Burchfield “hoped to create a direct link between the bag owner and the students whose education they were helping to fund.”
Their next project was working with retail chain Anthropologie and designer Yoanna Baraschi on a dress whose proceeds would go toward a school and safe house for girls in Calcutta, India.
Besides giving consumers a marketplace for “responsibly made goods,” Wilde said she and her partner hope to create a “movement to encourage a different way of living.”
She wrote, “It is crucial to scare yourself, embrace humility, and learn from each complete and profound experience.”
Darling magazine’s spring issue with Wilde’s piece is available at Anthropologie, Nordstrom and other retail stores.