Cindy Walsh, the owner of the Red Rover Clothing Company, transforms fleece outwear into stylish chic. She shares her story.
ABI: Cindy, you have developed a line of very fashionable women’s clothing using fleece materials. How did you develop this style and why did you choose the materials?
CW: I started my business in 1993 designing only for children. The line sold well, but customers were always asking for the clothing to be made in adult sizes. In my second year, I added the women’s outerwear and accessories that are now my main business. I chose fleece fabrics because I had a ready resource for them in Massachusetts, they are easy care, comfortable and have lots of great colors. I saw the potential to take a functional type of fabric and use it in a more stylish way.
ABI: A number of retail fairs you do are in the summer. What is the response from the public to sales of outerwear in the warmer weather?
CW: It varies from the inability to even look at the fleece, to great sales! At some shows I have a loyal customer base and they buy no matter what the weather. In any case, I look at it as advertising for future sales. I hand out lots of postcards that let them find me later in the season. I do get plenty of returnees in the fall at shows and in my own retail shop that first saw my work in some warm summer venue.
ABI: Do you have any pointers for fiber artists who would like to start wholesaling their work?
CW: Pare the line down to make it simple for the customer to see your vision. Have a color story and limit your styles to include pieces that you have vetted, know will fit and sell on a retail level. You’ll be able tell the store buyer that it is a sucessful style, best seller, etc. Make sure your wholesale pricing is enough to cover your materials, labor and overhead times 2 (at least).
ABI: Tell us about the retail shop you have at your studio. Has this been a profitable move?
CW: Most artists that do retail shows have been asked by customers “can I come visit the studio?” Having a seasonal business (September-March) allows me to have customers come directly to me without having them in the working studio itself. They can hear the stitchers running the sewing machines making the clothing. I can do fittings, shorten sleeves while they wait and work up special color combinations. The customer will get more time and space to decide on a custom coat than in a busy 10×10 booth.
I have full time help in the store so I can get my work done during the week and still do shows on the weekends in high season. It is a destination shop so the customers who make the trip usually buy. I own the building and when we renovated I made sure I’d have this type of space. It brings in about 25% of my retail business for the year.