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As a guide, I have had the pleasure of meeting really great (and fun) people on our tours. It’s a perk of the job I’d say. A few weeks back I met a mom and her fashionista daughter from the Midwest, who took a combo Garment District/Teen Shopping tour. We had a blast! Like I said, perk of the job.
I soon discovered Peggy- the mom- co-owned Soul Flower, an eco friendly, Made in the USA clothing brand and online store. The brand/online store is the brainchild of husband and wife team, Peggy and Mike Rossi. Soul Flower was founded in 1999 in St. Paul, Minnesota, as a small shop on a street popular with college kids and locals. They even worked the local music festival scene, as they say “spreading the vibe wherever they went.” By 2004, they decided to exclusively sell online and two years later, expanded to have their own line of eco-friendly clothing, using fair labor practices. The rest, as they say, is history.
Below is the Q&A with Peggy Rossi, co-founder of Soul Flower:
How did you get your start?
We started out as a small retail shop in St. Paul, MN back in 1999. Our shop was a 1000 square foot small boutique, set up as place for locals, hippies, and all-manner of unique folks to hang out and get some fun, funky clothing, a box of incense, or a cool wall hanging. Things have changed a lot since then! We have closed our store, started an online shop and catalog, and now create our line of eco-friendly clothing. We operate out of Minneapolis, where we have an online retail and wholesale website, warehouse and screenprinting shop. We carry Fair Trade, recycled fiber, organic cotton, hemp, and Made in the USA clothing. All of our screen printing is hand-designed and hand-printed in-house by our own talented team of “buds.”
What is the most challenging part of what you do?
The clothing industry is not exactly a “green” industry – lots of waste, chemicals, pollution, sweat shops. For me, the challenge is to move away from the traditional dirty part of the industry to something more positive and clean (eco-friendly). Finding manufacturers to work with who have the resources we need has been a huge challenge. But we continue to find ways to minimize the negative impacts on the environment and workers, and create a positive energy from the clothes and designs that are Soul Flower. We do a lot of manufacturing here in the USA and for the items we import, we work with a fair trade vendor in Nepal. We make sure everything we sell has a story to tell in that it was made in a positive way.
Who is your target customer?
Our customers enjoy a laid-back, bohemian, eco-friendly & peaceful lifestyle. A typical soul-flower bud likes comfort AND fashion, is thoughtful about how their clothing is made, and seeks out organic, natural fibers, recycled goods and products. Most care deeply about the environment & other cultures in the world, many enjoy live music and the vibe of a festival environment and lots of other outdoor activities. They all like to wear unique clothing & accessories that help express who they are.
Where can customers purchase your products? What future projects are you excited about?
Soul Flower is available online at www.soul-flower.com. We are always expanding our line and creating new pieces each season. Our newest project is working with some new tie-dye patterns that will be coming out in Spring of 2016.
What is your advice for someone who wants to start their own line?
Keep trying and find yourself a niche! There are so many designers in this industry, it is really hard to stand apart. So I would pick your story and stick with it. Know what you do you well and get to be an expert at it. And work to understand all aspects of the business – both the financial and the creative.
How does working out of Iowa & Minnesota affect your designs?
One of our best-selling designs says right on it “kindness matters”. Our designs have peaceful, positive messages, with a little bit of nature thrown in. That all reminds me of the midwest! Logistically, working from this location can be a challenge but with the technology available, it has become easy. We make buying trips to LA and Vegas every season and work closely with our mfg in LA almost daily. Everybody is just a Google Hangout away!