Loren Fox models her Wild Mantle.
— Avi Loren Fox’s entrepreneurial endeavor with a
hooded scarf started where so many efforts to find
oneself do — at a bar.
place: McShea’s Restaurant & Bar in Narberth, Pa.
The time: September 2013.
dilemma: The 2010 Temple University graduate with a
degree in environmental studies had just closed a
photography business she and her brother Nikolai
operated for three summers.
decided to enter that terrifying space of taking a year
without any plans," Fox recalled, citing her
mother, Teresa, a meditation instructor, as the
inspiration for that timeout.
to McShea’s Fox went, wearing a hooded scarf she had
made out of old sweaters.
of a sudden, I realized everyone was looking at
me," Fox said. "That’s where the Wild Mantle
came 50 orders from McShea’s patrons and acquaintances
for Fox’s head-and-neck covering — called the
Mantle; the company name is Wild Mantle — which
required her to solicit on Facebook for seamstresses to
help make them.
sold for $144 — the price settled on by Fox after she
consulted a numerology psychic, who advised that 44 was
her career number, success her trademark, and "to
take what’s in your heart and make it bigger."
accomplish the latter, Fox needed to find a U.S.
manufacturer willing to work with a start-up to sew
hoods made of alpaca from Peru and lined with fleece.
dependent on scavenged material, such as used sweaters,
is hard to scale in quantities to meet the kind of
wholesale demand Wild Mantle will need to grow into the
sustainable business Fox envisions, experts said.)
found Ice Box Knitting Mill in Longmont, Colo., which
required a minimum order — 144. Talk about karma.
this fall came the real magic, as Fox put it: Wild
Mantle launched a Kickstarter campaign Nov. 20 to raise
$30,000 in 34 days to cover the cost of the first batch
of Mantle hooded scarves.
raised more, $39,827. She attributes that to some
high-profile Twitter promotions by actress Kat Dennings,
who stars in the CBS series 2 Broke Girls. She and Fox
were friends growing up, in adjoining towns outside
first batch of scarves, expected by March or April,
primarily will go to Wild Mantle’s ()
hopes to have hoods to offer retailers by fall. They
will retail for $280, dictated by the price of alpaca,
and, she added, "I want to pay people fairly to
manufacture in the U.S.A."
those she has consulted for advice are Dave Neill and
Jacob Hurwitz, the cofounders of American Trench L.L.C.
They raised $19,108 on Kickstarter in early January 2013
to help launch their Made-in-the-U.S.A. line of trench
coats, currently retailing for $785.
the outerwear market has proved an expensive one —
involving much capital to purchase materials and meet
manufacturer minimums. So, Hurwitz said, American Trench
has turned its focus to socks and caps it has made in
Reading, Pa., and North Carolina while the company nears
profitability and can better support its coat line.
called Wild Mantle’s Kickstarter performance
"totally awesome and really the testament to
America’s support of entrepreneurs."
to Wild Mantle’s prospects, he said the world outside
crowdfunding required "adjustments along the way to
a more commercial environment where you have to find the
either going to find boutiques" that will carry a
$280 scarf, Hurwitz said, "or she’s going to have
to come up with a garment that’s less expensive."
a college student, Fox, now 28 and living in Ardmore,
Pa., was honored by the Society of Women Environmental
Professionals for founding and running for three years
Narberth Greens, a grassroots organization dedicated to
encouraging and supporting environmentally friendly
living. Among its accomplishments was a flower and
vegetable exchange for farmers to swap surplus crops,
and an energy challenge for the borough.
remains a priority for Fox. She is a member of the
Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia,
where her hooded scarf was little more than a concept at
the time of the support group’s main annual networking
function in 2013, the Social Venture Institute.
"there was a buzz through the conference from some
of the other entrepreneurs, even experienced ones, that,
‘Hey, I think this woman is on to something!’
"executive director Jamie Gauthier wrote recently
in an e-mail.
has been impressed with Fox’s progress.
of all the young people who have had trouble lately
finding gainful employment," Gauthier said. "Avi
is an example of how you can employ yourself and do it
on your own terms and according to your own
named her scarves Mantle because, in the Golden Compass
young-adult books, it meant a role or responsibility
and, in ancient times, a loose-fitting cloak, she said.
hopes to have enough capital to open a studio by summer
or fall, to afford employees in 2016 — and possibly
influence an industry.
Fox: "It’s really a medium for me to figure out
what the next cutting edge is of social and
environmental change within the manufacturing