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Cloud 9 Fabrics Interview

Cloud 9 Fabrics interview

Nowadays there are several companies offering organic collections, but there is one company who is at the forefront of the organic movement: Cloud9.  In early 2009 Cloud9 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 the Creative Director and Gina Pantastico the Director of Operations.

To start off with please tell us about Cloud 9 Fabrics, what do you do?

{MEB} 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?

{GP} We were both at points in our careers that just felt stagnant.  I 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 had 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 I am 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?

{GP} 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.

Michelle Engel-Bencsko & Gina Pantastico

What made you decide to purely focus on organic fabrics?

{GP} 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?

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{MEB} 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?

(GP) One of the things we are most proud of is our diversity, and this includes the substrates we offer.  Each and every season we dream up new basecloths to introduce to this industry.  We started with a high thread count cotton, we then introduced a true even weave quilter’s cotton, then it was flannel, then canvas, then voile…and now we are introducing Bark Cloth this fall!  Our fabrics can be used for an assortment of projects due to their diversity.  Quilts, apparel, home dec, crafting, and more…you can do it all with Cloud9 Fabrics.  We have many projects on our blog where you can see the fabric in action and even get a few tutorials for inspiration.  And stay tuned because we are introducing yet more substrates at Quilt Market this fall!

Northerly flannel collection

How does it feel when you see people using/making things that they made from fabrics you designed?

{MEB} 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?

{MEB} 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. Mostly these days we’ve been working with other designers who have their own interests and it’s been an inspiring working with each unique talent. What it comes down to, is building a solid array of prints that have key prints that are supported by prints. We create rather small and tight collections, so each print needs to have strong sense of purpose.

Organic and Fair-trade fabrics are becoming increasingly popular; do you feel proud to be at the forefront of that movement?

{GP} 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.

Other than your blog and website can we find Cloud 9 anywhere else online?

We also have a Facebook page,  Twitter Account and you can find us on Instagram and Pinterest too.

Where can people buy Cloud 9 Fabrics in the UK? 

We distribute via Hantex in the UK, finds stockists on their website.