Fernanda Niven has spent years honing a healthy balance.
While the creative entrepreneur was introduced to wellness early by her parents, she came to truly understand the notion of a holistic lifestyle and diet while spending a summer in LA when she was 20 years old.
Just like a party at the hamptons, she was hooked.
Throughout the years she toiled in the film and fashion industries—being recognized by Vogue for her eponymous handbag line and running client relations for designer Vera Wang—as her interest in green living evolved. Then, seven years ago, she recognized an opportunity when she stumbled into Organic Avenue, then a humble shop, and invested in what is now a fast-growing organic, plant-based food retailer with multiple locations.
Now, she marries her passions for wellness and style as creative director of Parasol, a sun protective clothing line driven by both health and style. (She also sits on the board of Edible Schoolyard and the Madoo Conservancy, while contributing to publications like Town & Country and Manhattan.)
Here, Niven describes how battling Lyme disease and pursuing an insatiable fascination with what’s new keeps her in the wellness know:
Live The Process: To where can you trace your interest in green living and wellness?
Fernanda Niven: I have always had an appreciation for the earth, healthy food and wellness in general, which comes from my parents first and foremost. I think, as an adult, I really started making this a way of life when I lived in Los Angeles for a summer when I was 20. I started going to a supermarket called Mrs. Gooch’s, which is now Whole Foods, and saw a whole new way of eating and shopping for food and other products. Los Angeles has always been ahead of New York in health and wellness, and I think that summer is when it all started for me. Over time, I became more interested and sought out ways to add many different aspects of green, wellness and health to my day-to-day life. It’s evolved and changed over time. I have added things and taken them away according to what is maintainable and needed at the time. Having Lyme disease has also been a huge contributing factor. Being ill, I’ll try just about anything (in addition to antibiotics) to feel better and that keeps me on the hunt for wellness.
LTP: How did you become involved with Organic Avenue?
FN: Seven years ago, I walked in to a very tiny shop in my neighborhood and tasted a green juice called, “Young Love,” made simply of cucumber, celery and spinach. I was surprised at how much I liked it, as I had always really disliked green juices. I found myself in the store almost every day, trying everything they made, and I actually started craving the juice. I thought to myself, “If I like these green juices this much, then others would too.” There was enormous potential in what was a relatively untapped market, and I knew that OA was a great product. I met the founders Doug and Denise and became an angel investor and an employee.
I learned more about health and wellness during that time than any other. Working there and growing the brand really pushed my knowledge of food and lifestyle choices to a very different place. I changed a lot of things in that year. To name a few: I stopped drinking soda entirely, changed most of my beauty and household products to organic and shifted my diet, so that it was very clean and 90% vegetarian. I felt better and stronger than I had in a long time and really began to think about what I was eating, my environment and how it was affecting my body. Of course, I had thought about these things before, but this time I enacted a major lifestyle change and overhaul.
LTP: How do you marry your passions for style and wellness?
FN: I design a line of sun protective clothing called, Parasol. The shirts make looking good and sun protection effortless, which means more time for fun and outdoor activities. Parasol is everything in one: fashionable, functional and green, and it helps to keep skin healthy and safe. It’s essentially sun protection without the chemicals. I think it’s really important to have sunshine in small amounts, but it’s equally important to use sunblock, so I wear mine! I started paddleboarding a few years ago and the sun protective shirt was essential. A whole new world opened up for me: I could have long stretches in the water without worry. I reclaimed a bit a fun that I had lost along the way, staying out of the sun. Also, that summer, I noticed every child on the beach wearing a sun protective shirt. Again, I felt a trend was coming and wanted to be a part of it.
Fashion has always been an interest of mine, and the chance to marry the two was a dream come true. My friends had started Parasol and, after wearing the line all summer, I was very eager to join the team. This summer we collaborated with Clinique and designed an exclusive shirt in Clinique colors, which is available online. It was a thrill to team up with a brand like that to help bring sun protection to a new customer.
LTP: What are some of your personal wellness rituals and go-to natural products?
FN: My wellness rituals are TM meditation, sleeping, eating good whole foods (mostly plant-based), exercise, listening to music while walking, massage and spending time with friends and family.
My favorite go-to natural products are coconut oil (because it’s a great moisturizer and make-up remover), Tata Harper’s skin brightening serum, scrub and eye cream, Derma e’s Vitamin E Intensive Therapy Body Balm, Living Libation’s Poetic Pits deodorant and Drunk Elephant’s Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil.
LTP: What is your current wellness-related obsession or passion? What’s next for you?
FN: I love to paddleboard, so that seems to be my current obsession. Luckily, my job and obsession go hand in hand!
I’m not sure what is next. I am always looking for the next interesting and new product, class, way of eating or lifestyle activity. I’m very interested in integrative medicine and a holistic approach to health.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
FN: Taking a very long walk on the beach as the sun is setting, preferably during a warm Summer night with a friend in tow.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how do you do that every day?
FN: I think I have my own personal “equation,” which has taken me years to figure out. It’s still a work in progress and will most likely always be so. There are things I do every day to make me feel happy, positive and good. For me, achieving a healthy balance of all these things is just as important as doing them because, if it starts to feel limiting or like a chore, then it won’t naturally stay a part of my life. So, while I always lean toward green and wellness, it’s never 100% perfect. And that is okay. To me, that is living the process.
Editor's Note: other interviews you might enjoy either A Moment With Brighdie Noriega Grounds or A Moment With Jess Robertson.