May 28, 2010
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I met with the owner/buyer of an eco-boutique today and showed her my iPad sleeves. I am currently going through the exercise of evaluating distribution options, and I thought it would be a good idea to do some boutique litmus testing to see what buyers thought about my products.
She began our conversation by asking me if the velcro in the iPad sleeve was reclaimed. I would think that reusing old velcro would be a bad idea because it would lose its “stickiness”. And honestly I have never seen reclaimed velcro–ever. To my knowledge the velcro manufacturers do not sell reclaimed or recycled velcro. She then asked me why I didn’t use recycled or reclaimed foam in my iPad sleeve. In my opinion, reused foam shouldn’t be trusted unless you knew its origins and could confirm it was safe. Also, you wouldn’t want to jeopardize the safety of someone’s expensive electronic gear by using recycled bubble wrap or shredded newspaper stuffing just to be able to claim everything is 100% recycled. She then explained to me that she could not carry our products because they weren’t 100% recycled or reclaimed.
Next, she pointed out other bags and accessories in her store that met her eco-standards. The bag she kept referencing over and over again was made out of bicycle tubes and reclaimed seat belts. I picked up the bag and it weighed a ton! Please also note that the bag flap was held down by large strips of velcro. She then directed me to some wallets that were made from rice bags and food packaging. Please note that the pieces were not sewn together– they were taped with clear mailing tape. I am still wondering how they were able to repurpose mailing tape. And the most shocking thing about this was that the retail price of this “wallet” was $30.
I learned a lot today about how extreme some people think eco-fashion needs to be. But then you have to ask– is it really all that functional and fashionable?
May 24, 2010
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There seems to be a lot of scientific research out there about the dangers of PVC and vinyl, but one article in particular caught my attention: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=link-between-autism-and-vinyl
This article suggests there is a link between vinyl flooring and autism. Although there is still much more evidence to be collected, it does seem this connection to autism is plausible. What scares me most is that we all come into contact with vinyl every day, from shower curtains, to floors, to raincoats. And most relevant to my work– many bags are coated in PVC to make them waterproof. I have a beautiful Orla Kiely bag that I used to carry all the time, and I used that bag so much that the vinyl PVC coating cracked at certain stress points. Who knows what kinds of toxins I was exposed to once I broke the seal! I haven’t carried it in over a year since I started my research on fabrics, mainly out of fear of the unknown.
On a slightly more upbeat note, there have been some nice ipad bloggers who mentioned our ipad sleeves in their product reviews (these links are also on our facebook page):
http://www.ipadaccessories.com/ipad-sleeves/plaid-doctrine-ipad-sleeves (also hilarious!)
http://www.ipadcoversblog.com/2010/05/19/eco-friendly-ipad-sleeve-by-plain-doctrine/ (not as hilarious, and they called our brand “plain” doctrine…but that’s ok )
Thank you kind bloggers for your support!
And thank you kind readers for your support too!
May 17, 2010
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I thought it might be a good idea today to spend some time discussing the components of our laptop bags. The product pages in the Plaid Doctrine website use a template, so we can’t go into very much detail about the materials we use in our products. So here’s a more detailed breakdown of what components go into a Plaid Doctrine bag:
Leather: This is by far the most expensive component in our bags. Why? Because the leather is vegetable-tanned, and we use prime-grade US steer leather from good ol’ St. Louis. The midwestern tannery’s primary business is in making saddle leather, and they use natural tree bark in their tanning liquors. Because there isn’t any chrome in this liquor, it takes a minimum of 1 month to get to the right color and suppleness. It took several months to find vegetable-tanned leather that didn’t transfer color or absorb water. I am glad I finally found leather that was practical, that looked good, and would age well.
Recycled fabrics: The exterior fabrics are made with recycled polyester, and the bag lining is made with recycled nylon. The exterior fabric comes from 2 domestic mills: one is in PA, the other is in NC. There are no domestic textile companies I could find that manufacture recycled nylon, so I had to import the lining material from Japan. I am hoping that in the next year there will be more companies in the US that make recycled nylon so I don’t have to import anymore. Importing is a real pain in the arse! The percentage of recycled content in the fabric varies by mill, but at a minimum the composition is at least 50 percent recycled (from plastic bottles).
Hardware and trim: The snaps, hooks, sliders, and loops are all brass (with a matte nickel finish). I was approached by many lower-end hardware vendors, but we felt it was important to have nice hardware. Have you ever had a laptop bag where the metal parts had an external paint coating that flaked off after 6 months? I have, and who knows what the heck was in that paint! As for the zippers, we use YKK.
Shoulder strap webbing: Last but not least is the shoulder strap webbing. Not very glamorous, but very essential to the bag! I went with a company that specializes in webbing– it’s their core competency. The catalogue they sent me had over 100 different types of webbing– it blew my mind. Did you know there is nylon, polypropolene, and cotton webbing, just to name a few? We needed custom-dyed webbing because the only colors they have in stock are camoflauge colors they use for the military! The webbing we use is manufactured domestically in Alabama.
Our iPad sleeves and purse organizers use the same eco-friendly fabrics listed above. And like our bags, these accessories are also made in the USA.
I hope this made for an interesting read. Thanks for stopping by!
May 13, 2010
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I had a bit of a scare today. I woke up with a scratchy throat. This usually means it’s the early stages of a nasty cold, or it means I am going to sneeze my head off for a few days thanks to mother nature’s gift of pollen. I decided to sleep it off to see if that would help. 3 hours later, I woke up feeling fine. Hallelujah!
Over the last 2 weeks I have been asked by different media outlets (ranging from small-time bloggers to real magazines) for product samples. It seems fairly easy to guess which media vehicles could help aid brand awareness, but I have found it’s difficult to predict which ones might lead to actual sales. I need to be selective with my sample submissions since I don’t have too much inventory right now, so I may only be able to experiment with a few of these requests. If any of them pan out, I will surely blog about it! If you know of any influential bloggers or websites that would be a good choice for Plaid Doctrine, let me know!
It’s Friday tomorrow! Maybe I’ll do a half-day and enjoy the 70 degree weather
May 10, 2010
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Yet another unpredictable but exciting day. I received some sales over the weekend so I spent some time this morning preparing those shipments for FedEx delivery. Then late morning I got a call from my iPad sleeve manufacturer, who let me know the pre-production sample was ready for review, and I would need to head down to Tukwila in the next 2 hours because he was going to leave for the day. So I sped up the shipment processing, made it to FedEx, and then picked up the sample, all within an hour. Whew!
I decided to take a little break from my marketing frenzy (just a day or two) because I’d been pounding the pavement pretty hard and needed some time to figure out what was working and what wasn’t. So far it looks like reaching out to local press is a good vehicle for my brand– I found out this afternoon that Seattle Times’ nwsource.com ended up writing an article about Plaid Doctrine after I met with the fashion columnist last week. Check it out! http://www.nwsource.com/shopping/plaid-doctrine%E2%80%99s-eco-friendly-work-bags-combine-function-and-fashion
Just as I am sort of getting the hang of launching a business, I was reminded by my doctor to take it easy because I will be having a baby in less than a month. IN LESS THAN A MONTH?! Holy cow. That’s so soon!
On that note, I better get to readin’ some of those baby books. Adios!
May 6, 2010
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A few people have asked me if I ever plan to design bags that use repurposed banners, signs, rubber tubing, sailcloth, etc. like some of the other “green” bag designers do. This was definitely something I had considered very early on, but as I did some research I decided this wasn’t something I wanted to pursue because of 2 main reasons:
1) Many of the old outdoor signs/banners used insolvent inks, sometimes lead-based, that had been treated with weird chemicals to make them weather- and UV- resistant. How would I be able to test which materials were safe for direct human contact? I’m no scientist, that’s for sure, and I am an organic chemistry drop-out. I haven’t seen any scientific evidence that these materials would be safe for a consumer product.
2) Many outdoor materials are made with vinyl or have a PVC coating, which are materials I didn’t want to use in my bags. The more I read about these materials, the more I fear them. I recently stopped carrying around my beautiful Orla Kiely handbag because it was coated in PVC
As I do more investigative research on new eco-trends I’ll let you know what I find. And if you find out any interesting eco-fashion factoids, feel free to send them to me or post them in the comments section.
Have a great evening!
May 4, 2010
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Over the past week I’ve been focusing a lot of my efforts on PR and marketing. From the start I knew my initial efforts would be focused on getting my press release out to eco-fashion bloggers and to local Seattle media outlets, and so far this focus on localized press seems to a decent strategy. It’s tedious work, and requires a lot of research and stalking (which I am very good at btw), but I know it’s important to getting more business. It’s actually not that bad once you get into a groove.
I have also been spending time setting up my Google adwords keyword campaign. It was very easy to get started, and there is even a free promotion right now in Inc Magazine for a $75 free advertising trial, so it’s virtually risk-free. I’ve been updating copy and keywords as I get more information on what people are clicking on. I am learning so much! FYI there are a lot of people googling “purse organizer”, and a lot of junky companies advertising with that keyword. That’s good that there is demand for purse organizers– too bad it’s a relatively expensive ad to buy!
OK, time to get back to pounding the pavement! Thanks for reading!