Wardrobe Insider: Olivia Cotes-James

As a self-described visionary and advocate who was voted 2020’s International Young Business Leader of the Year and Hong Kong’s Women’s Advocate of the Year, Olivia Cotes-James, the founder and CEO of LUÜNA, has made it her mission to make periods better through toxin-free period products and taboo-free educational programs. 

With a fun, extra and oft-colourful look, she’s as authentic in front of the cameras—take a quick look at her Instagram if you don’t believe us—as she is behind the scenes shifting period policies across the Asia region. With LUÜNA having launched in Watson’s, and corporations signing on with them to provide free period care for staff, PAKT caught up with Cotes-James to discuss her fashion loves, dream collaborations and what you’ll never find in her wardrobe.

1) Describe your style in 3 words.

Different every day.

2) What’s your go-to outfit?

The only thing I can guarantee about my go-to outfit, would be the fact I’m wearing trainers!

3) What’s the most precious item in your wardrobe and why?

A wool jacket I borrowed (stole) from my mum. My phone screensaver is a picture from the 80’s of her and my dad, with her rocking the hell out of the shoulder pads. I don’t pull it off to quite the same effect, but I certainly try. 

4) Favourite piece you bought recently and why?

All my recent, second-hand finds from Green Ladies, especially a multi-colour, furry and sequinned sleeved jumper. That actually sounds a grim combo, but I promise, it works… kind of! Green Ladies has been curbing my charity shop cravings lately. 

5) What is a must-have clothing item everyone must own?

Something that’s been passed down from another era, by someone they love.

6) Who are your style icons?

Leandra Medine Cohen. I have a wardrobe of items I proudly refer to as Man Repeller’s, so for that reason and because she recently posted a pic in a white dress covered in a healthy dose of period blood. Other than that, I have to mention Latonya Yvette and Gina Martin because, whilst advocacy and activism doesn’t require a banging wardrobe, but they manage to do do all three sensationally. 

From left: Leandra Medine Cohen, Latonya Yvette and Gina Martin

7) What’s your personal style signifier? 

Dramatic sleeves—the puffier, the fluffier, the more sequinned the better!

8) If you could have anyone’s wardrobe whose would it be and why?

My mum’s. But she won’t let me have it yet—unless I pinch it without her knowing—see earlier question!

9) Less or more?

When it comes to clothing today: less buying new, more second-hand. 

10) If you were an item of clothing what would you be? ​​

Woah big question! I’d be an 8-inch perspex heel—transparent, aims for the sky, most comfortable being uncomfortable with a high pain/stress threshold. I think you have to be an 8-inch heel of some kind to start your own business.

11) Where do you love to shop? 

Green Ladies and Hula for a curated, pre-loved heaven in Hong Kong.

12) What is the best fashion advice you have received?

The only person you need to look good for is yourself.

13) If a museum asked you to donate one item from your wardrobe that represented you what would it be?

My trainers—they have to be, as I basically wear them every day. I’m essentially the anti-Carrie Bradshaw, with close to no interest in the shoe portion of my outfits. 

14) What will we never find in your wardrobe?

Expensive shoes LOL.

15) What’s your number one fashion rule?

Don’t play it safe, but be comfortable at all times. Basically, wear something as bizarre as you can, but with trainers.  

16) What is your dream project?

Working with governments to distribute LUÜNA period cups and menstrual health education for free to all!

17) Dream collaborator?

I’d love to work with the UN, to support more women and girls without access to safe period products, and the amazing work they already do to advance gender equality on a global scale. 

18) Top 3 accounts to follow on social media.

Hong Kong Shifts @hongkongshifts—Such a beautiful project celebrating shift workers in our city.

Spill Stories @spillstories—Founded in Hong Kong by the amazing Tiffany Huang, this IG account acts a platform to tell the stories of diverse lived experiences and amplifies stories from people of colour worldwide. The Black in Asia anthology is an essential piece of work featuring stories from black writers who have lived across Asia. 

宀 Gallery @mihngallery—Created by my talented friend Laura who curates incredible art, mostly by local artists from Hong Kong. 

19) Favourite fashion apps? 

I don’t have favourite apps—I hate my phone because I have to be on it so much for work! Although, I have just realised that my guilt for never having time to read can be offset through audiobooks on Audible, so that’s probably the only reason I would willingly open my phone outside of work needs. 

20) Where were the last three places you travelled to and what are the can’t miss shops?

London. Charity shops. I miss them so so so much. I dream about them. There’s a good bunch on the Holloway road where it’s perhaps less curated than in areas like Chelsea, but this is where, if you have the patience you find the gems!

Cambodia. Sadly I don’t think I did any shopping, I don’t even think I did anything but work… It was CNY 2018 and I was obsessed with the notion of launching the LUÜNA business and spent the whole time on my laptop! If only I’d known then what I know now…

Taiwan. Anywhere that sells 牛肉麵 (beef noodle soup).

Follow Olivia on Instagram @olivia.cotes.james and LUÜNA on @luuna.naturals