Growing up in Austin, Texas, Robin Wilson struggled mightily with allergies and asthma.
“I was the kid with the Kleenex,” she said. “Austin blooms year-round, and I was pan-allergic with food issues and animal dander issues, too. That’s the canary in the coal mine because a lot of people back then thought it wasn’t real, and now kids are allergic to peanuts and ‘anaphylaxis’ is a word people recognize.”
Wilson’s parents tried to buy hypoallergenic pillows and bedding for their daughter, but the only thing they could find was prohibitively expensive.
That experience inspired Wilson to create Clean Design Home, a line of affordable pillows, bedding, towels, and other home textiles designed to resist allergens. Wilson partnered with bed and bath linen company Martex for the Clean Design Home x Martex collection, which just launched at Macy’s.
All the products are made with Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) cotton and are certified Made-in-Green by Oeko-Tex. The towels are made with Supima cotton, and are tightly woven and low-lint to reduce the presence of airborne allergens. Pillows and comforters are filled with a hypoallergenic down alternative.
“The sheets have a very dense weave, so if bed bugs or dust mites are in your mattress, that protective weave will help prevent them from coming through the material,” Wilson said.
Wilson’s line is built around the idea that making even small changes—like buying a pillow with a washable cover or adding protective layers atop mattresses—can make a big difference for allergy sufferers. And that thinking is rooted in accessibility and an understanding that many of the hypoallergenic products on the market are too cost-prohibitive for many consumers.
“Clean Design Home is trying to educate consumers with affordable products so they can protect and prevent to help them live a better life,” she said. “You educate people and say, ‘Here’s a simple step—you may not be able to afford a brand-new mattress or all-new pillows, but you can at least afford a cover.”
With the launch, Wilson becomes the first Black American female founder of a global, licensed hypoallergenic textile brand. But the road to this point has been far from easy for Wilson, who experienced fiscal inequities and found fundraising for the business challenging.
“As a woman of color, we only get about 5 percent of the venture capital money in the world—that’s pretty disappointing, but I hope to change that,” she said. “I believe as more people in general continue their journey to entrepreneurship, they will meet someone like me who was pretty much self-funded and realize that resilience is the word of the day every day.”
Wilson found support from Macy’s through the retailer’s The Workshop at Macy’s initiative, a vendor development program dedicated exclusively to diverse -, women -, LGBTQ-, and veteran-owned businesses. She also has launched a crowd-funding campaign to help finance brand extensions, including mattresses, dish ware, flatware, and more.
And as Wilson continues to scale the brand, she keeps people like her younger self and her parents in mind—those who can benefit from the use of hypoallergenic home goods but can’t swing the high price tag many of those products carry.
“Our goal is to be the brand that has research behind it, testing behind it,” she said. “We want to have a quality, affordable luxury brand that people can reach and aspire to reach.”