How We Started KOOSHOO - Part 1 of 2

startinganecofashioncompany

We love it when people get excited about our supply chain - the behind the scenes of how our products are made. 

To us, the stories behind our best selling products are just as important as the fashion and function of the finished goods. And that's to say: VERY important.

A few weeks ago we opened up shop on ETSY, a marketplace for unique and hand made goods. (The shop is looking mighty fine so be sure to come by for a visit)

What was unique to opening shop with ETSY was that they weren't about to accept just anybody making headbands and accessories. Rather, they were our first online partner to take an active interest in our supply chain, including a vetting process before we'd be allowed to sell. 

Though there was a lot of work involved, we were thrilled. 

We take tremendous pride in the way we manufacture, and our transparency around it. Give us a chance and we'll speak for days about the responsibility that we believe companies have to not only their customers but every human (and the environment) involved in the manufacturing process. Check out our Way of Doing Good Business to see what we mean. 

If more retailers demanded similar backgrounds it would encourage an accountability that is sorely lacking, especially in the fashion industry. 

Having taken the time to share our background information with the internal team at ETSY, we thought it fitting that we do the same for you, our customers and readers. 

We've separated the story into 2 parts:

  1. Part 1: Description of ourselves and how we started KOOSHOO (read this below)
  2. Part 2: Description of how one of our products is made - from start to finish (coming soon!)

Describe Yourself and your Business

Hi, my name is Jesse. My wife's name is Rachel. Together we are the founders of KOOSHOO.

We are yoga teachers who created KOOSHOO as a better option to fast fashion. We were inspired to start this business from what we saw on a year long journey through Asia. Having seen first hand the waste, environmental harm and the working conditions that our Western consumption demanded of cultures throughout Asia, Rachel and I committed - before we even had a product - that any business we create would be one with accountability and transparency at it's core.

A moment of color at the floating markets of banjarmasin, an industrial city in the jungle of borneo, indonesia

The idea for our first product - the best headband in the world - stemmed from our everyday professions as yoga teachers.

The yoga clothing market is dominated by synthetic materials and faceless overseas production. To us, that's entirely in contrast to what yoga stands for. We began with headbands because we both use them everyday in our yoga practice and couldn't find anything that was fashionable, functional and consciously created in the marketplace.

Two years were spent sewing sample headbands and testing them on and off the mat. We experimented with countless designs and sustainable materials, seeking dozens of expert opinions along the way.

We had our design process documented for our tremendously successful kickstarter campaign. watch the video here.

Once we'd created the perfect headbands on a sample level, we turned to a local pattern maker to formalize our patterns.

Our original intention was to have the headbands made locally in Vancouver, our hometown. That idea faltered when we tried to find small scale dyeing in Canada, finding that only 2 options exist in Canada: 

  1. Purchase 800 meters of 1 color at a time (it's all dyed overseas - usually China). 800 meters of fabric would not only cost a lot of money, it would yield tens of thousands of headbands (no thanks!) all in 1 color. This was obviously a non-starter. 
  2. Dye the products ourselves. With zero dyeing experience, this too was out of the question. 

We knew from our travels through Asia that keeping our manufacturing close to home was integral to what we sought to do. That's why we turned our attention to Los Angeles, a short 2.5 hour flight from our home in Vancouver.

In L.A. we found a wonderland for garment manufacturing, especially compared to the size of industry in Vancouver. Most importantly, we found sustainably-minded dye houses capable of small scale dyeing.

The next year was spent screening suppliers and making test products. We specifically looked for family run businesses that operated clean, well ventilated and safe workplaces. They had to pay their employees fairly and demonstrate a genuine interest in creating an empowering and positive work space.

A throwback to one of many days working with our dye team on color samples

A throwback to one of many days working with our dye team on color samples

The partners we ended up with exceeded even our expectations. They have become our extended family, especially given how much time we spend communicating with them. We travel to Los Angeles for production runs, working directly with our team on every detail of our organic cotton headbands, hair ties and shawls

Some of manufacturing practices and components we're most proud of include:

  • Our ridiculously soft organic cotton and much loved Tencel (sustainably farmed Eucalyptus trees) which is woven just south of downtown L.A. by a multi-generational family business
  • Our solar powered dye house (one of the only solar powered dye houses in the world) that maintains hand dyeing techniques seldom found in the American garment industry
  • Our family run (literally Mother and Son) cut, sew and packaging facility, home to several decades-long employees
  • Our use of only 100% recycled and/or biodegradable packaging
  • The fact that our products are woven, dyed, cut, sewn, packaged and distributed in a 20 mile radius of downtown Los Angeles

KOOSHOO is a word from Rachel's native Norfolk Island in the South Pacific (the link is for the home where Rachel grew up). It means "feeling good". Every time we make a decision with our company (and our lives) we ask ourselves "will this leave everyone feeling kooshoo?". We know when the answer is "yes" that we're staying true to our values.

> Up Next: Part 2: Detailed description of how our headbands are made, from start to finish (coming soon).