Friday, July 4, 2014

The First Green Tree Organic Cotton Panties are in!

Green Tree Organic Bikini Panty
We're so excited to share our new Organic Bikini Panty and Organic Hi Cut Panty.  Both styles are available in five colors from x-small to x-large.

Way back in August of last year I made the decision to have Faerie's Dance start its own line of organic intimates and loungewear in order to keep consist stock of our highest turnover items.  It took a couple of months to get an ambitious plan in place, but lack of experience and a little bad luck had us riddled with obstacles and delays.  Finally, almost a year after the initial idea was formulated, we have our first 2 styles on sale.  For me, it's a momentous occasion. 

These two designs are first for one simple reason - we were able to iron out the fit details and get them stylish and comfortable with just 2 rounds of prototyping.  Some of the other styles have been more problematic.  The two printed designs from the original plan are now in their fourth prototype sewing.  But the point is to put out a style that will be comfortable and fun to wear.  So producing something that doesn't have exactly the right fit isn't an option.

We're also still learning some surprising lessons.  For example, some of the colors "behave" differently than others in sewing.  We've even found that stretched fabric (it's stretched a little when it's rolled into bolts) will "ease" after cutting and sewing.  So you have to adjust the machine tension a little from the first couple of sewing days to the last.  While most of these little details have now been worked out, you will find that there's a 1/2" size difference from some colors to others in the same size.  And while that is apparently considered "normal" in sewing, we're working with our producer to really hit a consistent size, stretch and tension every time so that you as a customer will know exactly what you're getting.  If you like these panties, we want you to be able to buy them again 3 years from now and get the exact same fit.

At this point, our original Phase 1 and Phase 2 plans have been combined.  We're currently in varying phases of production on 10 additional pieces including panties with covered elastic, a few sleeker styles, some lace panty versions, a cami with bra, leggings, and a bralette.  Our goal is to put out 2 additional styles approximately every 6-8 weeks.

Once we round out this dozen, hopefully in early 2015, we'll have professional model photos taken of the entire line.  I apologize that it's taken so long and am at the same time immensely grateful for all of you who've been watching this journey and stuck with us.  We're offering these first two styles for $1 off for a very short time as a Thank You.  (Oh and quick hint: our 9 year anniversary is coming up soon, so watch for something extra special in the July newsletter.)

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What color is Moonstone anyway? Match the Name to the Color to Win One of Our New Panties.

My SO often helps me pack orders on busy days, and we've had quite a few words about what color a color actually is.  What color is aubergine, he'll ask.  Purple, I answer.  Well then why don't you call it purple!? What the heck is aubergine? 

A good many chuckles have passed in the warehouse on this topic.  We use the colors that the manufacturers assign, and even I scratch my ahead occasionally on the choice of color name. 

The other day we were looking at a printed catalog and I pointed out a list of colors that I couldn't make out because they hadn't included swatches.  The conversation went something like, "Well, I know a tiger lily is a flower, but I'm really not sure what color it is.  Have you seen one?"  So after another silly round of what color each color is and where these color names come from, he suggested a contest.  So here it is.

Glen's contest:  Match the color names to the color swatches, for example 1A, 2B, etc.  Leave your answer as a comment here or on our Facebook page with some way to get in touch with you (e-mail, phone, Facebook handle) and the person with the most correct answers will receive one of our new organic panties when they come out in June (or July).  Last day to enter is Sunday, May 25, 2014.


In the very likely event that more than one person ties for the same number of correct answers, we'll draw randomly to decide who wins. Anyone can play for fun, but you must leave a way for us to contact you if you want to win the prize.

Happy Guessing!

PS - We originally started with 20, but we couldn't even get it right... lol.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Pants to Poverty Organic Underwear Line is Back (And Literally Better Than Ever)!

If you've followed us for any length of time, you'll know that we almost never put intimates on sale.  So this a fantastic opportunity to stock up and score a win for organic, fair trade underwear.
 
organic panty sale

Why are we doing it?  Well, for the last few months, Pants to Poverty, one of our all-time favorite organic panty manufacturers, hasn't been responding to my inquiries.  Combined with the fact that most of their UK-based website items were on clearance, I figured they'd gone the way of Perfectly Imperfect, Ciel and Love Nature and were out of business.
 
Then last week, I got a call from Ben Ramsden himself, Pants to Poverty's founder.  They've been in India working directly with their farmers and developing a new "3-dimensional accounting model."  This 3D accounting model tracks the profit and loss of the business not just in financial terms, but also in social and environmental terms.  We'd already spotlighted Pants to Poverty in our Fair-Trade Fashion Round Up as a leader in the Fair Trade Fashion movement.  Now this revolutionary accounting idea has propelled them to nomination for 2014's Global Leadership Award in Sustainable Apparel, which is a pretty BIG deal for a small company.
 
In order to implement this new 3D accounting model, they're streamlining their offerings quite a bit.  They've come out with a series of their most popular styles in 4 consistent colors across both their men's and women's line.  They've also up-sized the women's panties, stating that customer feedback has suggested they were sized too small compared with conventional brands.
 
I'm truly thrilled to bring in these new undies.  Along with the organic panties we're currently manufacturing, our customers will soon have a wider selection and awesome choices of styles and colors.
 
To facilitate going hog wild on this new order, we need a little working capital.  Hence putting the entire (now mostly discontinued) current line of Pants to Poverty Undies on sale for the next 3 weeks - from Earth Day to World Fair Trade day, you can get 15% off everything we have left.  Just use coupon code Pants at checkout.
 


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Zen of Organic Panty Manufacturing

Last August, I announced that Faerie's Dance would start manufacturing their own line of organic cotton panties.  By October, we'd put a down payment on our fabric and had our first patterns. At the time, I posted that we'd launch those first few designs in late January or February.

It's April, and many of you (including myself) are wondering, where the heck are these panties?! Good question.  Let's recap.

When we left the deposit on the fabric, the manufacturer (a small, family-run, GOTS certified manufacturer in India) told me it would be about 60 days to completion.  So I lined up our Stayton, Oregon based seamstress for end of December and our Portland based printer for early January.  And for about 2 or 3 weeks, we were on schedule.

Once we were ready to get our low-impact dyed colors done, I learned I needed the Pantone color numbers to proceed.  I'd already picked the colors to match the latex-free elastic trims.  Unfortunately, the elastic seller wasn't able to tell me what the Pantone numbers were.   And it turns out, buying what I thought would be a swatch card is actually a reference encyclopedia running about $900.  After a bit of a confusion and scramble, I mailed pieces of elastic to India and they were able to match the colors that way. 

This small glitch put us 2 weeks behind.

Being a small business owner, I'm aware that things can occasionally (read: regularly) go wrong.  So when a machinery part broke down at the fabric manufacturer and they told us (very apologetically) that there would be another two week delay, there really wasn't much I could do.  (Other than lament that the Hearts A'flutter panties wouldn't be ready in time for Valentine's Day.)

At this point, we were 4 weeks behind.

Now, we do a lot of importing.  Our best-selling bra line is from Italy.  When you ship small, lightweight items, they generally need to go by air because there's not enough weight and/or volume to justify hiring all or part of a sea shipping container.  So I really (really!) should have known better.  But in my excitement of getting our first custom made fabric, I did not account for the time delay of shipping sea versus air.  Air usually takes a week, two tops.  Well for 1300 lbs of fabric, you really can't ship by air.  (Unless you want to pay a ridiculous amount of money and waste a lot of jet fuel, neither of which are high on my priority list.)  So my allotted "shipping week" was taken over with special forms required for sea shipments.  Then the actual shipping time took an additional 4 weeks.

Suddenly, we were 2 months behind.

Ok, but February 27th is the big day fabric is arriving!!  I figured a few days for customs clearance, and I would be able to get the fabric to the seamstress first week in March.  I make calls. I schedule.  The fabric arrives!  And I am the lucky winner of a special Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System (VACIS) exam.  If you just clicked that link, yes, the winner of a VACIS exam also wins the right to pay extra for the exam even if the cargo is deemed legal and no contraband is found.  To make a way-too-long-story short, customs finally released my fabric on the afternoon of April 4th.  They held it more than 5 weeks. My business was required to pay nearly $400 in additional exam fees, and no contraband was found.

Et voilĂ , we were now 3 months behind.

So I call the seamstress, and guess what?  She's in the middle of someone else's project.  This was not at all unexpected, and I was really grateful that she (a small business owner herself) was still willing to work my project in.  I'm sure some of my delays had her scrambling to find other projects.  She worked in all of the sample sewing and fittings (which are now done! yay!); and is able to start full production April 28th.

And just like that, we are 4 months behind.


Jaime, our Patternmaker, verifies the measurements of the first samples


I'd love to offer you all a list of the lessons I've learned during this experience, but it's a blog post, not a novel, and room is limited.  And for the sake of all the issues I still haven't run into and the fact that I haven't even called the printer back yet, let's just call it 5 months behind and hope for a July launch.  Just in case.

That said, the single biggest, most overwhelming, really smack-in-head, light bulb on, ah-ha lesson that I've come away with is... humility. 

I am humbled by the efforts of the fabric maker, customs broker, seamstress and patternmaker in support of my project. 

I am grateful to the many customers who've asked about the panty status, and who've not only been understanding about the delays, but even outraged on my behalf over the extra customs costs.

I am overwhelmed by the vast effort that goes into bringing the simplest of items to market.

And most of all, I am embarrassed by all the times I've been frustrated with manufacturers over delays they've had.

I'm going to go a little easier on folks from now on, including myself.  How many of you are harder on yourselves than you need to be?

Combining this with the experience of getting judgmental e-mails, I'm going to make an extra effort to be a bit more empathetic all around.

And just like that, I found a little peace through adversity.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Just Because We Don't Have What You Want, Doesn't Mean I Don't Care

As owner of an eco-fashion store, I get a lot of great emails, but every once in a while I get a crazy, nasty e-mail.  Most often, it's because I don't carry someone's size, but several other varieties of nasties also wind up in my inbox. 

We're getting a little more exposure lately, and with it, an up-tick in nasty e-mails.  Last week I received three; two were variations of size-related issues and the last was a rant that I'm a fake vegan because we carry 5 items (out of 951 currently in stock) that are made using free-range, hand-sheared alpaca.  One actually ended in "you disgust me."  No, I've never met this person nor interacted with them in any way prior to receiving the e-mail.

Admittedly, our Plus Size selection isn't as extensive as I might like.  With my strict criteria about fabric, finishes, dyes and human rights, plus sizes are just not that easy to come by.  I was very excited to find a new plus size eco-fashion source recently, and am happy to be expanding our plus selections this summer. 

Accusations are Unhelpful
Most of the women in my family are heavy, and it's always been important to me that I carry items that my family could wear and enjoy.  So please don't write to tell me, "You hate fat people," "You can't relate to larger women," or "You're not a real environmentalist," just because I don't carry or have something you like in your size. 

On the other hand, if you know of a brand that carries what you want, let me know.  We've looked into many overseas brands by request of our customers.  Some don't export to the USA, some are very expensive or have high minimum orders that we were unable to meet.  But a few have been matches, and we've added several brands based on customer suggestions that are hard to find in the USA.

Show Some Compassion
I struggled with carrying alpaca, but started because several (eco-conscious but not necessarily vegan) customers explicitly asked me to find warmer coats that were truly eco.  The amazing folks at Indigenous Designs took a written stand against mulesing when approached by PETA, and really do care about the welfare of the animals that are sheared.  From their website:
"Indigenous sources the majority of our alpaca fiber from outside of Arequipa, Peru in the Puno and Cusco areas, close to many artisan work groups. These alpacas are free range roaming animals with pasture rotation. The alpacas are not fed hormones and do not receive chemical dippings for ticks or parasites. There are no chemical ingredients allowed on the land or animals."

The thing is, these are just this week's criticisms.  Every decision I make for this business is made thoughtfully. And while I would certainly not expect everyone to agree with all of them, it would be really nice if folks could avoid accusations and name calling and perhaps ask me why things are a certain way. 

Ok, in all fairness, the vast majority of e-mails and calls we get do exactly that.  So I ought to be able to just shake off this vocal minority who sends nasty notes.  But it's hard. 

Remember People Have Feelings
This business is my passion and it means a lot to me.  It particularly stings when someone accuses me of being solely profit-driven since I earn half my previous salary running my own business, and work twice the number of hours.  (I wish that were an exaggeration, but it's not.)

Earlier this week, I saw another small business owner noting how badly they felt when they were openly criticized. So I'm writing this post for three reasons.
  1. I know the majority of my customers and readers are fantastic, understanding, socially conscious, super stars and after a week of hurtful comments, I'm reaching out to offer up some love to the good guys! :-)
  2. To share my experience with other solopreneurs and small-business owners so they can step back, like I'm trying to do, and realize that it really is impossible to please everyone and that we shouldn't let one person ruin our mood or our business.  It truly is impossible to please 100% of the people.  Just do your best.
  3. To provide a useful quick-link response to future e-mailers. If I sent you this link as a response to an e-mail, try e-mailing me back with a bit more civility. I'd be happy to answer your question, help you find something, or even explain my decisions as long as your remember that I'm a real, live person, not a corporate entity.  And I have feelings that can be hurt.  So please show a little respect and kindness and I'll do everything I can to do the same.
Best,