Cloud 9 Fabrics
Nowadays there are several companies offering organic collections, but there is one company who is at the forefront of the organic movement: Cloud 9. In early 2009 Cloud 9 Fabrics, a company producing purely organic fabrics was launched. Their bright colourful designs helped to show the world that organic fabric didn’t have to be plain and boring. We speak with the founders Michelle Engel-Bencsko and Gina Pantastico.
To start off with please tell us about Cloud 9 Fabrics, what do you do?
Michelle Engel-Bencsko & Gina Pantastico >
Cloud9 Fabrics is a manufacturer of 100% certified organic cotton printed fabrics for the quilting and crafting market. We offer a wide array of fabrics in different price points in an effort to make organic fabrics affordable and available to everyone.
Why did you decide to set the business up?
We were both at points in our careers that just felt stagnant. Gina left the corporate world to start a consulting business for companies that needed assistance with sourcing and production. Michelle had her own textile business but knew she wanted to do something on a bigger scale. One day Michelle reached out me just to say “hi” and we got to talking...and talking...and talking. Between the two of us we have over 35 years of experience and we knew that with both of our skills we could do great things (Michelle is the creative driving force behind Cloud9 Fabrics and Gina is the sourcing/production expert). The next thing we knew, we were at our accountants office getting Cloud9 Fabrics officially incorporated.
For those who don’t know can you explain what organic fabric is?
It can be different things to different people and it can pertain to many aspects of the farming, weaving, printing, and finishing…Not mention the social compliance perspective. For example, you can technically call cotton that is only composed of 5% organically grown fibres “organic cotton”. At Cloud9 Fabrics our cotton is made up of 100% organically grown cotton. Organically grown essentially means that non-toxic methods are used to control crops from seed to harvesting.
Once the cotton is harvested our goods are processed on machinery that is set aside and only used for organic cotton fibres so the consumer can rest assured that no conventional cotton will be mixed with our base cloth. In addition we only use low impact dyes for the printing of our cloth. One of the interesting benefits of using low impact dyes is they have a higher absorption rate, which means less dyestuff is actually required to adhere to fibres which also results in a lighter, softer fabric.
Likewise, low impact dyes don't require toxic chemical mordants to fix the colour to the fabrics as do natural dyes. Low impact dyes are often reclaimed from the liquid waste and the water is recyclable. Another added benefit is that they require less heat which saves energy. In additional to all of this, we also only work with mills that can show that they are a socially compliant facility, which means that they are committed to ethical and responsible conduct. This includes respecting the rights of all individuals, a devotion to sustained social compliance, and an accountability to the environment.
What made you decide to purely focus on organic fabrics?
We knew that we wanted to start a fabric company and felt that we needed a niche to set us apart from the rest of the industry. While tossing around ideas for our company Gina mentioned organic fabrics and Michelle’s response was nothing less than enthusiastic. We are both passionate about the environment, and since we are both moms we knew that this would be a product that would be desired by other moms. Luckily we are finding that organic fabrics are being embraced the entire crafting community…not just the moms!
Previously organic fabrics were viewed as being rather beige and drab, did you find it hard to fight that stereotype?
Not at all! Quite the contrary, the market seemed hungry for it. The market is driven by fresh, clean, modern prints so it made sense to develop fabrics that fall in with that. It has elevated organic cotton to a more understandable level and more and more people are embracing them.
What type of projects are your fabrics suitable for?
Cloud9 Fabrics offers two primary base cloths. We have a Premium fabrication, which is a 200 thread count sheeting. It’s crisp and silky to the touch and we reserve this primarily for nursery collections. It also carries a higher retail cost at $16.50/yd. Our Price Sensitive ranges are on a more traditional quilter’s weight base cloth. It has an even warp and weft for even shrinkage and is preferred for machine and long arm quilting. It is also more affordable at a $11.95/yd retail. As for projects, the sky is the limit! Either fabric is suitable for quilting, crafting, home décor, clothing, toys and accessories. We have many projects on our blog where you can see the fabric in action and even get a few tutorials for inspiration.
How does it feel when you see people using/making things that they made from fabrics you designed?
It’s quite rewarding to see our fabrics in use. We are always amazed at the talents so many people possess. What’s nicer still is that people opt, not only for our specific ranges, but for organic cotton options. There are so many fabric choices in the market that it is quite a boost to know that people our choosing ours.
Where you find the inspiration for your collections?
Inspiration can come from many places. For my own collections, I tend to be drawn to natural themes: flora and fauna. I typically like to stick to a theme- the beach, a pond, a garden, etc and work out prints based on a loose concept. More recently we’ve been working with other designers who have their own interests and it’s been a different method in refining a collection for each. What it comes down to, is building a solid array of prints that have key prints that are supported by prints. I create rather small and tight collections, so each print needs to have strong sense of purpose.
Do you have a favourite fabric from your collections – or is that like asking you to pick a favourite child?
There are definitely favourites- I can’t help it! Really, I don’t think of my work as my children, so it’s OK, I guess. I like so many, I am drawn to the prints that seem to sell out the fastest and get the most notice. Sandpiper from Beyond the Sea, Eleféte from My Happy Nursery, Free as a Bird (designed by Heather Moore) from Cut Out & Keep, Clearing from Nature Walk, Flora from Miscellany by Julia Rothman, etc. But there is one print that I adore that did not seem to move the masses as much and that’s Pearl (Beyond the Sea). I think it reminds me of my childhood and so I have a strong liking for it in particular. There are some new prints on the horizon that will definitely move into the top 10.
What do you have coming up in the next year?
Starting in September, we have two nursery collections shipping: Maman, which is developed from adorable illustrations by Michelle’s grandmother when she was in her 20’s and Nursery Basics- a steadfast range of prints and solids in optimal colors which are easy to coordinate and mix/max into almost any nursery.
As part of our Price Sensitive series, we have Across the Pond, which has really garnered a lot of interest. We also have the irresistible Monsterz, by Michéle Brummer-Everett, coming in October (also a Price Sensitive collection) as an introduction to our Cloud9 Kids division- a line of fabrics not quite for babies and not quite for teens, but for those imaginative years. We plan to feature artist Geninne Zlatkis (Price Sensitive) before the end of the year as well as part of our Designer Series.
Range-wise, we plan on at least 8 new collections for 2012. Probably more. We have artists lined up for additional Designer Series offerings and more to come in our Cloud9 Kids division.
Because Cloud9 is a two-woman operation and we have no one to please but ourselves, we can take full advantage of our whims. While nothing is concrete, the plans are in motion for some product manufacturing and some new base cloths. We constantly challenge each other for new ideas and set about trying to make them a reality.
Organic and Fair-trade fabrics are becoming increasingly popular; do you feel proud to be at the forefront of that movement?
Of course! While organic cotton is nothing new, seeing it in our marketplace was fairly unusual and we’re thrilled that people have embraced our company, aesthetic and viewpoint. We applaud everyone who is making the movement in this direction. It’s really important that organic cotton becomes more mainstream. The more manufacturers offer it, the more understandable it becomes to the public and more the demand for the product, which will increase the demands agriculturally.
We also have a Facebook page.
Links for Cloud 9: