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Loomineers Origin Story

How Hand-Weaving Helped Start Our Business.
July 15, 2020
By OLVIER CHARLES

Know those things that could never be planned but end up shaping your life?

If you've ever seen the movie, Before Sunrise, you'd know what we mean. For those who haven't, it's about two people who meet on a Vienna-bound train, strike up a conversation, create a cosmic bond… and then… go their separate ways. 

📸 by Castle Rock Entertainment, via Photofest

Yeah, they just go back to their lives, and the movie ends inconclusively. But then something happens. A sequel comes out. They find each other by chance 9 years later, and soon after, chart an entirely new course in life.

If you told either of us 10 years ago… 5 years ago… or even last summer, that we'd spend the majority of 2020 hunched over a 50-year-old loom, temperature rising from #weaverfever, we would have laughed at the idea...But here we are.

Long story short, we met in the 3rd grade and we eventually found ourselves as roommates and coworkers in the Bay Area.
On a commute home one day, we had our first conversation about Oliver Charles.

Not this commute...

We talked about our work wardrobe and noticed that for the past few years we’d been wearing the same handful of outfits on rotation. The outfits were made up of clothing that we pieced together over the years, like an Arcteryx jacket, Banana Republic Traveler jeans, and a few gifted nice button-downs.

The more we talked about these seemingly random pieces of clothing, the more we realized why we kept them around. They were authentic to us, and they looked good. We also realized that when we wore these outfits we felt generally happier working. 

It turns out that there are a lot of people like us who want to feel comfortable and confident throughout hectic days. That's why we set out to create a go-to item for your personal uniform: a sweater. Nice enough to wear for work. Comfortable enough to wear at home. A single item for all of life that looks as good as it feels and lasts for years.

We began surfing the web for materials.

We were obsessed with what made certain materials better than others. In our search, we discovered a natural material that was the underdog in the world of wool called khullu ('coo-loo"). Khullu is the soft underbelly fiber that insulates yak from −40° F winters.

📸 by Himalaya Journey

The small community of khullu enthusiasts raved about the fiber's breathability, warmth, and sustainability.
  • 40% warmer than sheep's wool, and 15% warmer than merino wool.
  • 60% more breathable than cashmere. (Shokay)
  • Better for our planet than cashmere. (NPR)
To test the hype, we found a way to work closely with khullu and see which benefits were fact vs. fiction. What started as a joke, turned to us agreeing that we'd learn how to hand-weave.
Perhaps we got too lucky because within a week of researching khullu, we were signed up to weave with an instructor in the Bay Area. Her name is Lou. She rocks. She's an entrepreneur and master weaver who started SFFiber.

About a week later, we joined Lou at her home for an 8 hour Saturday where we went through the many steps of weaving a scarf. We forgot to pack lunch, but Lou fed us some apple slices 😊.

To get an idea of what our first day looked like, check out some photos from our weaving class.
Lou was super instrumental in starting Oliver Charles because she introduced us to Diane. Diane loved our fascination with fiber arts and ended up donating a 45" loom to our mission.
We learned that the loom was originally purchased in the 1970s! Unfortunately, Diane can't weave anymore, but she takes great pride in her loom, and we're trying to make her proud.

We're still pen-pals with her too. 
For a long time we were coming home around 7 or 8pm from exhausting days at work, grabbing a beer, and sitting behind the loom to weave into the wee hours of the night. This routine continued right into March 16's Bay Area Shelter in Place Order. Like many people, we started our quarantine, grappling with information overload and terrifying hypotheticals...

While so much is still uncertain, we decided that we'd dedicate the time we're spending inside to our new craft. 
Our apartment is quickly becoming a workshop... or maybe it's a warehouse? Stock: we have a 50-year-old loom, mountains of yarn cones, swatches replacing artwork, random sticky notes plastered to windows, and a silly amount of raw khullu fiber.
We're all kind of blurring the lines between work and life these days, right? But hey, that's not always a bad thing. There's been a silver lining for us over the last 2 months. We've improved in our craft, reflected on human connection, and rediscovered the innate joy of being creative with our hands.
After working with khullu over the past several months, we're excited because the natural fiber exceeded our expectations. We created our first prototypes with our hands, gained a new appreciation for textile production, built a product we're proud of, all while saving money on manufactured samples.

Without giving ourselves the time and space to fail in creating our first prototype, we would have lost an unnecessary amount of money on sample iterations. We would have also done ourselves a disservice by not taking time to understand what goes into making a product of a uniquely high quality.

We're applying what we've learned to design a go-to item for your personal uniform.

We need your help. You know better than us as to what clothing/styles/things make you feel good... so here's the deal, instead of us designing alone, let's do something new and co-create a sweater together. Apply to join our Customer Advisory Board below.
PS: we adopted a punny name for our weaving duo #loomineers... Side note, we will teach the @thelumineers how to weave for FREE. If anyone knows the @thelumineers please send us an email at loomineers@oliver-charles.com.

See all of our weaving projects

From the very first scarves to the final lightweight, soft fabrics we're weaving today, follow our journey as we hone in on improving our craft.

It takes 600 strands of yarn and over 100 hours to produce one scarf.  
These are the first scarves we ever made. Can you guess which one is Slater's vs. Jack's?
If you believe that every good wardrobe starts with owning less and owning better, consider buying yourself an OLIVER CHARLES sweater.
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