Re-Inventing a Fashion Scarf for 2020/2021
Taking a new product to market during a National Crisis
"Every really new idea looks crazy at first."
- Alfred North Whitehead
It was mid-march during the lockdown when my sister-in-law called. She said, “Your scarf would really work to cover the face. You should sell it NOW.” At first I thought she was crazy. Then I tried it on myself. It did work. And my journey to the market began…again.
For the past seven years, I was selling custom scarves to national park visitor centers such as: Flight 93 National Memorial: https://www.nps.gov/flni/index.htm Harriet Tubman National Historical Park: https://www.nps.gov/hart/index.htm Women’s Rights National Historical Park: https://www.nps.gov/wori/index.htm and Independence National Historical Park: https://www.nps.gov/inde/index.htm
Honestly, I love America. Even during tough times and divisions, I am grateful that I was born here. I have been able to create a product, get a patent, and get it out there to sell. You do not have that freedom in every country in our world. I feel honored that my clients have been connected to American history and the sales from the scarves have supported these national parks.
Unfortunately, that work came to a screaming halt in March. The rest of the year was not looking bright. Like everyone else, I wondered what this would all mean.
“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
- Albert Einstein
Image from Lori Greiner's site: https://lorigreiner.com
Right away, I got a book out that I had bought a few years ago written by Lori Greiner, “Invent It, Sell It, Bank It!” https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/234661/invent-it-sell-it-bank-it-by-lori-greiner/ I have always admired Lori. She owns many patents and she is the ultimate inspiration for women entrepreneurs. Lori stars in the award winning show, Shark Tank. https://abc.com/shows/shark-tank Shark Tank is a hit entrepreneurial business show, on ABC, where she invests in companies and helps turn people’s dreams into a reality. She’s invested in over 100 products, with a 90% success rate. https://lorigreiner.com
I went back to her book because even though I had a patent and a product, I was starting all over again with a new brand and a new purpose. In her book, Lori advised conducting a survey. I followed her advice and sent a survey to 90 women that did not know me or my product. She stated that if you are selling a brand new product, that you want to see an approval rating between 60-70%. This means that your concept resonated with the population. My survey results came in at 73% approval. This gave me the confidence to move forward.
"Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats."
- Howard Aiken
Before 2020, little did I know how hard it would be to get a new product into the market. Not only that, but showing and educating the public about how it works was tougher than you would think. The whole concept was exciting to me but odd for others.
Now, the idea of having wiring in fabric that can shape to your face seems “so normal” now. I realized that this scarf could really help women. It would have a new purpose and function. It would not be hard for women to understand what it could do for them now.
"Get a good idea and stay with it. Dog it, and work at it until it’s done right."
The journey was beginning again. I had to find the right fabric. By some miracle, I found the Americas Apparel Producers’ Network (AAPN) https://www.aapnetwork.net/ . It was amazing to see how many companies were working so hard to get materials out for the healthcare industry and the public. They invited me to become a member and they welcomed me during a very difficult time.
I connected with one US company that was willing to sell the yardage of fabric that I needed. I was so grateful for that. They had engineered comfortable, moisture wicking fabric for big clothing companies that had set very high standards to meet. This fabric gave me a balance between comfort, breathability and fit.
Then I sent the fabric to a sewing company that I had worked with before. They developed a prototype with this fabric that integrated the inner wire into the seam of the scarf. It worked! I was thrilled. The product looked great.
“Study the past if you want to define the future.”
At different times in my life, mostly when on vacations, I had seen people of Asian descent wearing masks. I wanted to know more and found an article on this. I found this to be very interesting: East Asians have been wearing masks before the outbreak. Growing up in South Korea, Jamie Cho knew from childhood that if she got sick, she had to put a face cover on, even if it was just a common cold. “My parents told me it was to keep myself and others safe. I would see others wear masks as well, especially during the winter seasons.” The masks weren’t just a medical accessory, she said. For many, they served an aesthetic purpose: something a woman might put on to cover a makeup-less face while running errands or a K-Pop star might slip on to avoid being spotted by fans in an airport. Source: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/east-asian-countries-face-masks-before-covid_l_5f63a43fc5b61845586837f4
I think that in the future covering your face won’t be perceived as a “strange thing to do” in America. It may even become more of a norm for people to cover their face when they’re in crowded areas or traveling. I look forward to the future when this is all over. My hope is that during this difficult time, I can offer an attractive alternative for women to wear that makes them feel…a little more normal.
“Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward.”
– Nelson Mandela