Sourcing OH Fabric

“This stuff is expensive, it’s really gorgeous!” An older gentleman in downtown Chicago folded some pink fabric into a bag for me. He owned the store by SAIC and loved to remind me how expensive the deadstock fabrics were originally. 

The feeling, the weight and the color had me sold. I kept it around (more on that next week) and somehow always knew it was the one.

This sandy rose fabric became my North Star as I began looking for fabric for Opaline Hue. 

Soon after that I joined a sustainable fashion accelerator program, Factory45. I was able to find some fabric suppliers through a database in that program. I was given the right wording to reach out in a way that would increase my chances of being taken seriously. 

One supplier I talked to had contacts with many fabric mills and is a well known person for independent designers. When I talked to him on the phone I told him what I was looking for. He told me that wool would be too expensive and I should look for something else. I knew I would find a way to sell this amazing fiber, AND he had no idea what my budget or price point was. That was simply his opinion. 

I had other suppliers sending me what I was looking for, so I thanked him for his time and moved on.

This was a moment I got to exercise my confidence in decision making. It's times like those when I feel like I was designed for entrepreneurship. There was so much freedom and power in saying, "Nope, sorry. This is what I want and it will work."

My first swatches came in the mail and I was in lurve. I knew I had found the right one - a thick and stretchy knit. I ordered some sample yardage to test it out. When it arrived, I felt so confident it was the one. I laid it out and cuddled it and hugged it and pet it. It was a good little fabric! Ruff ruff! I had the fabric made into samples.

When I brought the samples home and tried them on, something felt off. 

I noticed a shine that made it look more like sportswear. This was for daily life, not athleisure. I felt sick. What ran through my head were questions like, how could I not notice this before? Does the fabric I'm looking for even exist? Am I totally wasting my time while at the same time trying to hype this on social media? Am I going to make a fool of myself? It's in times like those I feel I was not designed for entrepreneurship. It can feel devastating to see clearly through hindsight, when there's no one but you making the decisions. 

I took a few hours to clear my mind and revisited the swatches I had. I decided to try out more that I may have overlooked. 

Among that pile I found it. The fabric that your Opaline Hue sweaters are made of. The sample yardage came in a bright royal blue. My friend thought they might be better suited for jerseys for a middle school boys basketball team. We thought I could try them in the market for adult women first. I dyed them black, and those are the samples you see in the first photo shoot. [Follow up - almost all of my pre sale orders were from adult women, and not middle school boys, so I might be onto something here!]

One last story. 

I had friends pass around my sample to wear test it. I washed it in between wears - which was not necessary for the sweater, but just to be polite to my friends. When I got it back from the last person to test it, I noticed pilling all over it. I froze and boiled all at the same time. The only thing I knew about pilling is that it caused people to get rid of their clothes. I designed these to last for as long as the wearer wanted them. Depleted, I walked inside my home and told my husband I'm quitting and I'll just be watching TV if he needs me. Then he was like, oh, what's that now? And so I fell to my knees, wailed into the abyss and lamented the little tiny balls of wool on my sample sweater. 

Come Monday morning, I decided  - before, of course, I quit forever - to email my supplier and ask if this was an issue for other designers. She sent me some information on initial pilling and how it's normal in new wool fabric as smaller hairs work their way out. She assured me the fabric gets better over time and its nothing to worry about. 

Oh!

Well maybe I overreacted just a teense. 

What I'll never be overreacting about is how amazing this fabric is. Wool has natural technical properties. It's made for your productivity as you show up to impact your world. It handles moisture in a way that allows for the wearer to be comfortable in almost any climate. It is naturally wrinkle resistant, stain resistant and odor resistant. We recommend not washing it as often because it just needs an airing out much of the time. It's a thick and beautiful fabric that stretches and comes back to shape. 

And, it improves over time. 

Next week, the patterns. 

All the love,

Maddi

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