My first trip to Bali was purely for pleasure. A much needed get away after many years of diligently growing Sweet Skins (and my three children). Although I grew up in South East Asia, I had never been to Indonesia before. Excited and ready for adventure, I stepped off the plane into an all too familiar hot & aromatic Asian airport. And into the loving arms of my sister Zoray and my six year old niece, Cempaka. Home at last!
Riding from the airport to our home in Ubud is utterly enchanting. Artful in every arch, and every doorway ornately detailed. Statues carved of stone & wood. Every stoop adorned with flowers and little offerings to the spirits.
I hadn’t planned on doing business in Bali. After all, I have a “Made in USA” business. Besides, I grew up in Thailand; if I wanted to manufacture in Asia that would be the obvious choice. But seeing as how every one I met was an artist, a painter or the brother of the maker (all of whom are ready and eager to do business with me) I had to at least consider the possibilities.
Ideas began swirling in my head like sugar plums — thinking about the shoe collection I’ve always wanted to design, the denim line that hovers just near the men’s collection that’s been brewing in my heart, fresh style swirling and whirling in a cloud of accessories, hearts and wings twinkling away in the endless skies of blue that are the back drop of my dreams…
Let me just spend the next three weeks soaking in one or any of the many beautiful non-chlorine swimming pools, while I contemplate it. This is how I spent my days in Bali: in water, in warmth, in love, in fruit & sweet black coffee for breakfast; Soaking in the maddening beauty of tropical plants and my niece’s beautiful face; losing weight while eating non-stop; walking until my feet blister, and then swimming & dreaming some more.
By the time I left Bali, I had conjured up an entirely new & jet set life-style to aspire to, including a home in Bali, a heavy dose of plane hopping and several new lines of beautiful wearables, made with love in Bali. Stay tuned…
It all starts with me, in my messy design studio (a room in my home) dreaming away, playing around with drawing, fabric, colors & clothing concepts that I wish I had in my own closet and self taught pattern making arts. I get lots of inspiration from my friends, people watching, sunny days & nature.
Next step: I order the best organic and recycled fabrics that my money can buy. The fabric usually comes in it’s natural off white state, but occasionally I have a chance to have entire bolts dyed before they are sent to us. Organic fabrics is delicious stuff, but unfortunately each roll seems to have it’s own personality. It can be unpredictable, thinker or thinner, some dyes up well, some not so vivid. Some shrinks up more and some doesn’t shrink at all! So if you’ve ever noticed that your new pair doesn’t fit quite the same as your old pair, this is probably why. Each piece of Sweet Skins is unique.
Fabrics are shipped directly to our local cut & sew shop. Sewnique is a small sew shop, in a converted garage out back of owner Cathy Thompkins house. Cathy is the owner of Sewnique, and the big boss lady to Monica, Adelida & Leonardo our experts sewing team. Being that we live in a totally non-industrial Eugene Oregon (a little city known more for it’s organic produce and green space, than factory work!) and that Cathy takes very good care of the crew, this is not the cheapest way to do business. We could send it away to be made in China for much cheaper! But we choose to keep the work right here, to support families in our community. Sweet Skins are made with love, and they are intended to bless all the lives they touch, at each step along the way.
Anyway, once the garments have been cut and sewn, I pick them up and bring them home. Here, they tend to over crowd my laundry room all throughout production season (which is most of the year). My family isn’t really thrilled about that part. Open to change. I dye most garments myself with low impact dyes. I do my best to create the dreamiest colors and to keep consistency between batches. I wish I could say I was a dye artist, but I’m afraid it’s just a means to an end for me. Every piece of clothing that we ever sold has been washed and dried, so that you know what you’re getting when you shop off the rack.
Once each piece is dyed, washed and dried I take the bundles to my little boutique & warehouse, known as Sweet Skins Eco Boutique. There one of a few shop girls will help to prep the clothing, steaming, folding, take inventory and check for imperfections.And there you have it, that’s how Sweet Skins are made. Thanks for shopping & making my dreams come true!
Another beautiful summer in the pacific northwest. Here at Sweet Skins we managed to stay very busy, but we did things a little differently than we’ve done in the past. First of all, we graduated ourselves from the Eugene Saturday Market. After 5 years there, we said our good byes (we still shop there of course!). But now we have our own store “Sweet Skins Eco Boutique”. We spent alot of our summer getting the store off to a good start. Here’s Paula, our store manager, tending to the window display…
And last, but certainly not least, I took the brave step of auditioning for Portland Fashion Weeks Emerging Designers Showcase. This required some serious work on my part, planning my collection for Spring 2010 while working on production of Fall ’09, getting samples ready without the help of my sewing team (who were on vacation at the time…) and just plain working up the nerves to have my designers shown in front of a panel of fashion industry judges! See below: me looking less then glamous in front of the judging panel. The good news is, I got in!
See you on the Runway, October 8th Portland Fashion Week!