Spreading the Love American Made Apparel

In fashion there are many moving parts and many people who touch the product while it is produced. I often have to remind myself that we are making something out of thin air. I am not just running a business that sells sustainable sailing apparel, I am also manufacturing sailing apparel. The fun part is designing the product, but honestly that takes the least amount of time.

It’s widely known that most of the clothing that is sold in U.S. stores is made in China or somewhere like China. I often wondered why this is so. It’s a history lesson of sorts. The U.S. hasn’t endured the upheaval of other countries that often fosters the type of industrial revolution necessary to spark the infrastructure necessary to make clothing. The garment district in New York City at the turn of the century is where most of American clothing was once made. This is where the most beautiful garments of our time were produced. Although it still thrives, it is very much out sewn by other countries and the polluting fast fashion industry we have grown accustomed to.

The U.S. economy currently is based on service as opposed to manufacturing. Sweatshops overseas now do most of the manufacturing of the U.S. apparel market.

Manufacturing in Los Angeles has been a comedy of errors. What they committed to taking five days, has taken five weeks. They blame each other for the delays and there is one error after another. Sometimes, they even blame us, but we just laugh about it.  Honestly, if I didn’t have a business partner who is cool, calm, and clear headed in the face of adversity all would be lost. I’ve never really been thrown under the bus by a woman at work before, but I have recently been accused of being “emotional” when I was being a business woman who demanded accountability.

Our pattern maker, our project manager, our embroidery house, our zipper manufacturer and our seamsters all work together to make our jackets. This is only after the 6 months we spent milling our beautiful custom 100% Merino fabric. Its archaic, but they actually use Uber to move pieces of fabric around. Coordinating so many moving parts is no easy task as each entity has it’s own timeline.

I took three trips and spent nine days in our factory over the past month. Still, it is a painstakingly slow process. Text messages fly around daily in coordination and it is easy to see why China is a preferable option to the process in L.A. Nevertheless, we are committed to sustainable products produced ethically on U.S. soil.

Someday, it will be a smooth operation. For now the errors, mistakes and mishaps are a learning tool for bettering our future operations and production processes. No one can ever accuse me of not understanding the process.

Love and blessings to all.

Sunnier Days

While in Los Angeles last week a homeless man approached me with a crow bar while stopped at a red light. My doors were locked and my windows rolled up, but he was inches from me. At any moment, he could have shattered my window, and pulled me out of the car. Andrew was with me, and the man moved around the car to the passenger side, and screamed at him as well. We couldn’t understand what he was saying, but he was menacing and terrifying. We were three blocks from our garment factory on Maple Avenue and we encountered him not once, but twice with the same experience. As much as he startled us, it’s hard to say what he might be going through to cause him to act this way.

Later, back in Berkeley Andrew and I stopped into Hoi Polloi, a peaceful place that brews beautiful beer. We both ordered a pint of “Sunnier Days” pale ale, and laughed about our recent trip to Los Angeles. We’ve had some challenges, but we expected them, not exactly as they arrived, but we knew what we were trying to do wasn’t going to be easy.  In some ways, I feel blessed that I will have so many funny stories to tell my students about starting Ocean SF as this has been such a great lesson in not allowing anyone or anything to deter you on your path to following your dreams. No one said this would be easy, but it will certainly be worth it, as it is the common experience of anyone who has ever succeeded at doing something that challenges them.

It’s called a challenge for a reason.  Looking forward to sunnier days.

Love and Blessings

OCEAN SF & The Wild West

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We’ve been working on our next production run of our Ocean SF signature jackets. We are filling the pre-orders and guessing at inventory. Anticipating the buying patterns of a new company can be very difficult for even the experts. Being a clothing designer is a dangerous business I’ve been told countless times, and yet I persist because I love it. LOVE IT! It’s the Wild West, I was told last week on my visit to the Fashion District, in Los Angeles.

If you want to order your jacket and have been holding off, please do it NOW, by clicking here, so I can add it to my production scheduled for Thursday/Friday.  

By far our most popular size had been the medium for both men and women, and in the color orange. Who knew? All the colors are beautiful, but I do have a soft spot for the orange and will be wearing the new design with the zippered sleeves this summer with my white jeans, linen pants and shorts on our boat.  Can’t wait!

Love and Blessings to all.

Defining Moments

It’s a common point of view that women don’t help each other much in business. They are accused of not being team players at work, or told that they are too competitive. However, for me each time I made a major stride in my career it was due to being pulled up by another woman.

I was answering phones and typing memos for a Senior Vice President when she called me into her office and closed the door. She offered me a job working for her as a Systems Analyst. Now, I had a political science degree, so this was quite a surprise. I took it seriously and began writing business requirements for the mainframe that managed Bank of America’s mortgage lending business.

Five years later, I was sitting in front of the head of Bank of America’s Electronic Banking Division when she told me I looked like a marketing person. She offered me a job as a Product Manager. Now, I was a Systems Analyst with a political science degree, so this was a surprise not only to me, but especially to my peers with marketing degrees and MBA’s. When I changed jobs, even my former boss, asked if I knew how to be a product manager? Of course, I did not. But, again I applied myself in earnest and it turned out to be true. I was a natural at marketing. To this day, I love nothing more than developing brands and creating marketing campaigns. Nothing makes me happier than finding the right look and feel for the personality of a company.

When I left banking, I was pulled way up by my mentor Sandra Floyd, who helped me land my first consulting job in wireless.

More recently, when I started teaching at UC Berkeley’s IDC, I was pulled up by my now dear friend Brigette, who interviewed me. Prior to this teaching job, my experience teaching adults was confined to working as a ski instructor. And my neighbor Betsy Cole got me that job.

In conclusion, I think we help each other more than we realize. Thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way.

Love and blessings.

Sailboat Races & The Corinthian Yacht Club

My business partner was racing today, and in 30 plus knots of wind, I might add. So we went to the Corinthian Yacht Club in Belvedere, California to meet him. This is a stunning place all around. I walked upstairs and there was no one around except a man drinking a margarita and talking on the phone. I took a seat and we both looked out over the San Francisco Bay. There were maybe 100 people in the bar and deck below, but it was supremely peaceful and comparatively quiet on the second floor.

Sailing has become my life. Not just the sailing, but the lifestyle and the people. After the Corinthian, on the way home we stopped to put the tags on the boat, however the wind made this task better for another day.

I went into the clubhouse and there was a Jazz band playing. Several friends were there, so I joined them. The jazz band played on as the winter sun slowly set over the San Francisco Bay.

Love and Blessings.

Smooth Sailing

The last months of the year surprisingly brought a tremendous amount of fun. My precious daughter was home from college, my friend Jeff was home from Colombia, my business partner and I attended some very interesting and enjoyable Capital fund raising events, and it was my birthday which brought a few weeks worth of parties, lunches and celebrations.

Now, everyone has left and it’s just Siena and I again. When I’m not spending time with her, I am working ten or more hours per day on our nonprofit The Trident Project, and Ocean SF, and on the book I am writing about grief.

I believe in setting intentions, achievable goals, and then tracking to these on a daily basis, so I am also planning my course of action for 2018 and in particular the months ahead.

Over the last eighteen months, I consistently thought of my progress as being one of laying a strong foundation. I had no other intention than to lay this foundation. I spent a good deal of time thinking about my own happiness and what I needed to do to one day arrive in a future where I could use my talents, share my wisdom and make a difference in the world. My nonprofit The Trident Project, our sailing apparel company, Ocean SF and my blog were all born from this intention.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about my character and how to improve myself in this regard. Over the past year or more, this hadn’t entered my mind, but now I want to be a better, stronger, and kinder version of myself. To do this I am turning to my books and writing to find this wisdom, and spending time by myself again.

After a week of near solitude, over the weekend I spent time with friends. On Friday night out to dinner with the girls, then Saturday on the water with the Race Committee for the Midwinter Yacht Races. I helped to check in the racers, then went to the bow and raised flags for the start.

It was beautifully calm in the morning and then, luckily, the wind picked up for the race that afternoon. I spent time with my friend Fran, it was her birthday, and we sat in the sunshine, and wind, eating lunch as she told me about her life. It was truly a beautiful and idyllic day.

Afterward, I met my business partner and his girlfriend for drinks. We’ve been friends now for long enough to have some very funny memories, many of these included our early days sailing and hanging out at The Olympic Circle Sailing Club, where I met our mutual friend and my Sailing Instructor Tom Dryja.

While I was in his class he would say things like, “Sydney, that’s a beautiful knot, but it’s upside down and backwards.”

Over the course of my many days learning from him, 18 sails that first winter, I gained much respect for him, and his ability to teach the complexity of sailing to even a dyslexic like myself.

Eventually, I could tie all my knots correctly and now I own a boat.

This proves to me at least, that if you set foot in the direction of your dreams, they truly can, and do, come true.

I look forward to 2018 being one of smooth sailing not just for myself, but for everyone.

Love and blessings.

Marin, Tim Parr & Caddis

Being your own boss has many benefits, one of them is meeting up with interesting people in beautiful places. Today, in Marin, I sit outside in the sunshine having lunch with the legendary Tim Parr, who’s been a driver behind iconic brands like Patagonia, Kona, and L.L. Bean to name just a few.

He’s just launched another company called Caddis, an eyewear company. It’s all about lifestyle, check out their Architects and Custodians page here, it’s about creating change, generating ideas, and spawning creativity.

I’ve been trying to get a meeting with him since last summer, after an introduction by mutual friends, the Finegold’s of Tart, as he is very experienced in working with Merino wool. It was certainly worth the wait. He gave me some great advise for Ocean SF, aside from reassuring me that we were on the right track; he advised we take our time, and make the highest quality product possible. It will take as long as it takes. True that.

We’ve taken a great deal of time to create a sustainable product that is both beautiful and environmentally responsible, and after a year and a half of working diligently, orders will begin shipping in the next few weeks.

It’s been a journey, with many twists and turns along the way, but ultimately there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a vision you created with friends on a sailboat come to fruition. This is something Tim Parr completely understands.

What an inspiring guy. And he bought me lunch. What’s not to love?

Check out his company at caddislife.com.

Love and blessings to all.

Whoever Said it Was Easy Must of Had it Pretty Good

The life of an entrepreneur is wrought with untold obstacles, stress, and fight or flight inducing fear. If this were easy, then everyone would be doing it.

I’ve worked for four start ups, all of them successful, but I took note of the downfalls, the set backs, and the inherent doubt and confusion involved. So, I knew exactly what I was getting into when I started Ocean SF, but the lure of following my own dream, making a meaningful mark on the world, and being my true authentic self was too great. Safety and security and a known path in life can be beautiful, and I’ve done that as well, but stepping onto an unknown path is another matter all together. Taking this risk has summoned my upmost courage.

From the beginning, the obstacles along the way have not deterred, or surprised me. I expected them quite honestly, and regardless, I continued on knowing in my heart that I was on the right path, and there was no turning back.

Now, the fabric that we went to hell and back to manufacture has shipped. We looked all over the world for this fabric from LA, to NYC, to Italy, France, China and Bangladesh. We had everyone looking for it, and we rejected countless samples. Finally, we had no choice, but to acquiesce, and mill it our selves in our custom colors, most significantly Safety Orange. It took four solid months! Believe it or not, you can’t buy sustainable wool fleece, not like ours and not anywhere in the world. You can buy polyester fleece all day long for cents on the dollar, but it pollutes drinking water, and does not keep sailors, or anyone else warm if it gets wet. There is nothing like it for performance outdoors.

Our fabric is custom milled for Ocean SF of 100% Merino wool. The exterior is tightly woven to keep the wind out, the soft interior to keep you warm, while regulating body heat. Anyone can wear it for any sport. It’s beautiful, machine washable, and so on.

I’ve been conducting focus groups. And no surprise, everyone who sees our jackets, touches the fabric and tries it on absolutely loves it. Thank goodness!

To see the light at the end of the tunnel finally, feels so good. If it were easy everyone would be doing it. Follow your dreams people! Find what makes your heart pound and do that.

Love and blessings to all.

Blessed & Lucky

Julia Morgan Design

Yesterday, I was blessed to have been invited to the Keiretsu Forum’s Investor event in San Fransisco.

The event took place in the beautiful Julia Morgan Ball Room. For many years I have been a fan of Julia Morgan, her life and work. Ahead of her time, she blazed the trail for many women, who have since followed in her footsteps. For those that do not know, Julia Morgan was an architect, she studied civil engineering at UC Berkeley, and then went to France to train in architecture. She was the first woman to graduate from the Ecole in Paris in 1902, she went on to design the Claremont Hotel and the Hearst Castle among many other projects. She truly was an entrepreneur. Her ballroom on California Street is a treasure to behold, and beautiful, warm and inviting to sit in.

Against this gorgeous backdrop, we listened to founders of the most innovative products you can imagine. It’s always inspiring to be around people who are changing the course of history through innovative technology, advanced medicine and impact investing.

It was an amazing day. I met so many wonderful new people and deepened some existing ties.

Love and blessings to all.

Addicted to Plastic 

Did you know that every time a polyester fleece jacket is machine washed up to 250,000 plastic microfibers are shed into our water system? These nano-particals can’t be filtered by municipal water utilities and they end up in the ocean, the fish we eat, and most importantly our drinking water. 

Our company, Ocean SF, based in Berkeley, California is putting a stop to this. As avid sailors and adventure seekers in general, we began as a performance sailing apparel company, that focused on using natural fibers, especially Merino wool, because they are warmer and more comfortable. 

As founders we can make our products out of whatever we want, but we were drawn to a new type of technical wool fabric, not because it preserved drinking water, but because it was gorgeous to look at and looked even better once we made a jacket out of it. Wool is self regulating and can be worn year round. It’s wonderful to have on when the temperatures drop and the winds picks up, which is mostly all the time on San Francisco Bay.

The first studies on water pollutants and the impact of polyester fleece came out around the same time we decided to mill our own Merino wool fabric using state of the art fabric milling technologies. We were aware that what we were doing could potentially provide a benefit to the environment. Now, with so many studies in the news, it’s apparent we are able to create sailing apparel with a much higher calling. 

Sailors have worn wool for thousands of years because of it’s unique properties that keep you warm even when the fabric gets wet. Wool, cashmere, and other natural blends, outperform synthetic materials, which dry fast, but fail to keep one warm if they get wet. 

Our textiles themselves are very sophisticated. We’ve been able to weave and knit multiple textures into a single piece of cloth. The interior side is meant to trap air between the garment and user’s skin to keep body heat in, the outside is tightly woven to keep the wind out. This is not the short fiber, itchy and inexpensive wool sold in the 1970’s. 

It takes four months to create a single bolt of the fabric we use. We are one of very few companies dedicated to this, and we do it for our love of the ocean and our desire to keep our customers, ourselves, and our friends warm and comfortable while they are outside doing what they love most.  

OCEAN SF will convert the entire old world order of adventurewear polyester to our idea of the use of only natural fibers in the natural world.

The big players in the adventure apparel market now know the risks their garments pose to the natural worlds that they are supposed to help people enjoy, and to us these inconsistencies are completely disqualifying. They are addicted to plastic based fabrics because they are easy to manufacture, light weight to ship, and highly profitable to their shareholders. 

When you start wearing natural fibers in these beautiful natural places everything about the experience improves. The idea of wearing and obsorbing the chemicals used in production of a petroleum based polyester garment in contrast seems absolutely absurd. 

Wool, linen, silk and cotton feels more honest, and more pure. It’s more than obvious, they are a better choice for the outdoors. 

Shop our site for an alternative to the polyester fleece midlayer OCEANSF.CO.