1. Things Fall Apart
It’s March 15, 2020. Lindsay Rose, as she’s known to her friends and colleagues, fights back tears, seated amongst her army idle sewing machines in the workshop of her rising sustainable fashion manufacturing empire, Suay Sew Shop. The slow creep of the Coronavirus news feed had vibrated into stark focus and she knew what she had to do. Close the doors of her business for the next 2 weeks, probably more. Perhaps forever.
Trying to stay calm and pausing every few minutes to return frenzied text messages and pat her dog Merle for support, she crunched numbers in hopes of figuring out how to make payroll for her thirty employees. In the midst of this hysteria and heartbreak, a sense of calm emerged. She had already exhausted every ounce of her soul to build this business with the singular vision of creating a better, more sustainable niche within the environmentally disastrous garment industry. And now, as the walls closed in, she released her mind from the vice grip of responsibility, left her shop in the heart of Los Angeles and drifted back to her happy place; rows of organic vegetables, fresh warm air and the absolute freedom of a simple, sustainable lifestyle.
2. Sprang Break 2020! Brought to you by Coronavirus
It’s April 4th and Lindsay’s iPhone is back on blast. But this time, it isn’t a barrage of news updates reporting cancelled leagues and ailing celebs. Over the past 48 hours, Suay had fielded 20,000 emails in reaction to a viral news story. First Yahoo picked it up, then the NY Post. Suddenly Suay was competing with the Trumpster for the featured headline on Google News.
Absurd. Lindsay’s narrative is — and has been for these past few weeks —ridiculous. Uncharted. Somehow Suay Sew Shop has flipped from a dark wave of uncertainty to a crowd-funded infusion of over $170,000.
The news story recounts the drama of Lindsay, her business partner Heather Pavlu and childhood friend Chloe Schempf as the trio began researching, constructing and innovating the essential and notoriously absent PPE masks. It describes the meticulous process of redesigning the pattern for maximum facial coverage to rethinking the structure of the fabric. The commitment of the group to the quality of their product has an actual number; they threw down $1,400 to purchase a Grainger particulate counter capable of measuring filtration down to 0.3 microns. The climax of the story comes when, after 10 days of testing everything from vacuum cleaner bags to coffee filters, the women discover that the common blue shop towel — a staple on the shelves of hardware and automotive stores — could exceed the filtration rate of cotton cloth by up to 93%. The due diligence the women brought to the project is simply inspiring. The number of lives extended or enhanced by their effective masks will never be counted.
But news cycles and pandemic heroism aside, there is a larger lesson at hand. And this is just a small peek into the creative, environmentally focused, solution-oriented mind of Lindsay Rose. She’s been doing this shit for years. And while Suay’s enhanced PPE masks are an ingenious solution to an immediate problem, she has focused her life 24/7 for the last three years on a long term solution to a larger, even more potentially disastrous threat to humankind. And the culprit is physically much closer to you than the COVID-19.
3. The Empire’s New Clothes
Millions of minds, quarantined in houses, huts, shacks and McMansions all over the world, are wondering how the world will emerge from the Coronavirus crisis. What lessons will we learn? Can you believe the great air quality in LA this week? (Yes.) Were there really dolphins swimming in the Venice canals? (No.)
Will this unprecedented global time-out bring us closer together? Now that we realize we are vulnerable, will we begin preparing for the next existential threat to humanity?
A forward thinker, Lindsay Rose contemplated these questions when she opened up Suay three years ago. After building farms and in Idaho and New Mexico and losing them to shifting ownership and priorities, Lindsay headed to the big city to make her fortune (which she planned to spend someday on land of her own). Just to keep things interesting, she also aimed to tackle a massive problem. After oil, the fashion industry is the second biggest polluter on the planet. From water pollution & and consumption, to microfiber pollution, soil degradation, rainforest destruction, waste accumulation, greenhouse emissions and chemical pollution, the real cost of your shirt is not factored into your Amazon shopping cart total.
Stitch by stitch, Lindsay and her team began tackling the problem, creating new lives for used and forgotten fabrics & textiles. Soon, heeding the siren call of the millennial dollar, large corporations called up and asked to partner. A major outdoor clothing company dropped off a mountain of used puffy coats. Choking on floating goose down feathers, Lindsay and her team sorted, disassembled and reassembled them into new, highly coveted ones with an even cuter design than the originals. Emerging through pure determination as a powerful businesswomen, Lindsay continually ventured outside of her comfort zone. She forced her way into board rooms where she demanded fair wages for her workers and fair terms in million dollar contracts. She spent seven days a week working to expand and improve Suay.
With large global companies knocking down her door, Lindsay began working toward her 2020 goals, which included opening up a home goods retail store directly next to her sew shop and starting a sewing school where she would train more people in her methods. A new investor courtship was also forming, aimed at a deal which would potentially allow Lindsay to cut her schedule back from seven to six days a week.
Then everything fell apart. Innovation ensued.
4. Takeaway Only
When we emerge from this disaster, things will be different. Hopefully better in some ways. Some people will take lessons they learned to heart and reenter society with a newfound appreciation for the vulnerability of humanity. Some won’t. A few will follow the Suay lead and chase goals that are tied to the betterment of people and the planet.
So often, we feel stuck in jobs, habits, relationships and lifestyles. We wake up and read the news feed. We go to sleep watching some stranger’s imagination play out on screen —without exploring our own. In making PPE masks, Lindsay and her team brought an inspiring story to your living room, but behind the masks lies the real revelation: a little creativity a lot of sweat can save lives (and maybe our earth too.)