Get To Know Lila Mae, Your New Feel-Good Gifting Site

We're still in the early part of 2013, but we're guessing that "thoughtful consumption" will be one of the buzzwords of the year. And, luckily, this growing emphasis on eco-friendly, American-made products means that a bounty of new e-tailers are springing up to cater to the conscious consumer. One such concept is Lila Mae, an online shop — cofounded by District native Ryan Dempsey Argentieri — that specializes in giftable goodies with a feel-good backstory.
We caught up with Argentieri to get the scoop on Lila Mae — plus, we've picked out some of our most prized finds from the site. Read on to get acquainted!
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Tell us a bit about the vision for Lila Mae.
"We started out wanting to make it cool and chic to be eco-savvy, while also building a business that proactively helped rejuvenate the U.S. economy. For us, it’s about patriotism without being nationalistic or exclusionary. Most importantly, to make conscious consumption fun! No guilt, no remorse, no political agenda — something we can all agree on."
How did you transition into the e-commerce world after working in international affairs and sustainable development?
"Hard to believe, even for me! Over the years, I grew increasingly frustrated at the difficulty of finding products that were safe enough for me to consume or surround myself with. Shopping for food or other products started to be stressful for me, and I hated that feeling. I couldn't believe how hard it was to find anything made close to home that was also eco-friendly — not to mention that most of the environmentally sound products available were not really the sort of thing I could get away with wearing in the C suite. My business partner, Heather, found many of the amazing vendors and products we started with. And the rest, as they say, is history."
Sweater Toys Beautiful Bunny, $35, available at Lila Mae; Hovey Lee Oceane Bracelet, $135, available at Lila Mae.
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What's your favorite part of your job?
"Meeting so many incredible people, from vendors and customers to partners and other business owners. I thought I had it made in the corporate world — never a dull moment, especially when you work overseas. But rediscovering treasures in our own backyard has been really special."
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What are some of your favorite products on the site right now?
"Such a tough call! I love the e ko logic cuff and collar, although I gave my set away recently. It's so cozy and fab, it has been hard to resist sharing with my girls!
Lotus Wei flower essences have changed my life. Starting a business is daunting, especially in ecommerce, and the stress took its toll. Flower essences work through the body’s acupuncture meridians to affect mood and state of mind. I am a believer in holistic medicine, but even I couldn't believe what a difference the products made. It was almost instantaneous.
Everything we carry from Peg & Awl makes my heart sing, especially the wax canvas tote and desk caddy. And I love the dbO Home hot chocolate cup and plate. It makes my afternoon yerba mate feel like tea at the Ritz."
Lotus Wei Quiet Mind Balancing Serum, $50, available at Lila Mae; Peg & Awl Chalk Tablet, $37, available at Lila Mae.
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What's the biggest challenge involved with sourcing and selling sustainable products?
"Finding products that are both eco-friendly and made in the USA has been tough. A lot of vendors are having a hard time surviving and producing goods in mass at a price point the market can absorb...but change is coming. It is also a challenge to find clothes that are both haute and sustainable. Stay tuned on that front. Margaret Lilly of Lilly's Closet and I have some ideas up our sleeves."
Tell us about your dream day in D.C. — with no time or space limitations, how would you spend 24 hours in Washington?
"Car service (it’s my dream day, right?) picks me up just before daybreak so I can catch the sunrise over the U.S. Institute of Peace and Lincoln Memorial while driving over the bridge. Whisks me away to Hot Yoga DC in Tenleytown for a steamy morning yoga session with owner Ashley Pehrson. Then head directly to Puree in Bethesda for some green juice and a wheatgrass shot or two. (I know it’s a bit outside the District, but some things are worth the extra miles!) From there, I head to Ohana Wellness for a massage and maybe acupuncture from the superb Saya Barkdoll and crew. Go to Denise Sharpe for a wash and blowout, since my hair will undoubtedly need some fixing up.
Head back downtown to the Mall for some urban hiking. Start by the Capitol and traverse the Mall, popping by the Botanical Garden, Museum of Natural History, National Gallery of Art, or any of the buildings I feel called to. Make it down to the Reflecting Pool, and I am in perfect shape for the late afternoon sun on the water. Pay homage to our troops at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and stop in to pay Lincoln a visit before strolling over to the Jefferson Memorial, passing by the just-blooming cherry blossoms (it's April, by the way — did I mention that?) Mosey around through FDR and MLK for inspiration, stopping along the way to make new friends with other visitors. Head to Elizabeth's Gone Raw on L Street for an amazing feast whipped up by chef Jonathan Seningen and the stunning (and inspiring) owner Elizabeth Petty. After dinner, get some cocktails at Lincoln (love how my girl Maggie O'Neill designed the place) and finish out the night with some live jazz or funk on H Street or U Street. Then, see where the night takes us..."
Actual SF Shumai Bowl, $125, available at Lila Mae; Maggie O'Neill Pop Capitol Print, $160, available at Lila Mae.
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