The Relaunch of an Eco-Conscious Brand
Minawear Luxury Hemp Yoga Loungewear’s re-launch in early 2012 found new customers and reconnected with the old. Designer Mina Hegaard is thrilled to hear from people who bought Minawear in 2001 and are still sporting the groovy hemp lounge pants today. Eleven year old pants you say? YES! Hemp is reported to last up to five times longer than regular old cotton, which is why after several years of washing and wearing some of those cotton threads may need to be replaced. Hemp, however, does not wear out – it wears in… And that’s eco friendly!
In the early 90’s, Hegaard recalls designing hats for rock stars made from scraps of material found in the dumpsters of San Francisco’s fashion cutting alleys, “They would chase me off for stealing their trash!” When those magical free-fabric dumpster stores were fitted with padlocks, Hegaard was disheartened by the wasteful attitudes of the industry and moved to Los Angeles to bartend and write a screenplay.
One screenplay and thousands of mixed drinks later, Hegaard met Kim Jimenez, who owned California Hemp Products on Main Street in Santa Monica. Kim was bubbling with enthusiasm about hemp, and soon enlisted Hegaard as a partner in his shop. Hegaard sought funding to expand into a department store so she wrote a business plan and showed it to her brother Kenyon Gibson in New York. “Kenyon was the last person I thought would get on board. Most people’s first comment when you tell them it’s hemp is “Can you smoke it?” But he got it.”
As well as funding Minawear, Gibson was so enthusiastic about educating people about the world’s most useful plant that he embarked on a mission to write the most comprehensive hemp book to date – Hemp for Victory. As a linguist, he was able to translate material from several languages covering many centuries. Hegaard wrote the textile chapter for the book which is a compilation of many authors including actor and hemp activist Woody Harrelson.
Minawear’s close proximity to Hollywood made it accessible to entertainment industry folks like Christian Slater and Nick Cassavettes as well as TV shows like Six Feet Under and Survivor. Minawear quickly gathered a following in boutiques around the world and in 2005 Minawear began private labeling for a company that would eventually acquire her brand. By the end of 2007, Hegaard’s contract ended and she moved to Victoria, Texas to raise her daughter near her husband’s family. She spent the next two years there restructuring her outlook. She invested in some marketing and design classes, taught art to children, taught American history to college students, and worked on her ceramics chops. She was done with fashion and had banished all sewing needles from the kingdom.
But Minawear was destined for rebirth. The parent company in California was folding up shop and reinstated Hegaard with her namesake – giving her all the inventory, the trademark, and the domain name Minawear.com. Unsure of how hemp would go over in rural Texas, Hegaard planned to liquidate the inventory and walk away. But rural Texas was receptive, as well as some of her past customers who all encouraged her to rebuild.
Minawear officially re-launched January 1st, 2012, and word quickly spread through the eco fashion world to old accounts as far as Hawaii and Japan and several new accounts were established in Texas, Rhode Island, and California. In addition to actively employing social media and sending out press kits, Hegaard has been exhibiting at yoga events and local festivals to find out what is happening in the industry after four years of being on hiatus from the business. “Business in general has changed dramatically. Retail buyers are more cautious and take longer to commit, and social media has taken over a major portion of advertising.”
When Hegaard lived in Los Angeles, she personally oversaw all aspects of production on a daily basis, which ate up most of her time. The biggest change for Minawear is that production is now completely managed in China from the growing of the hemp and organic cotton, to the processing and knitting, to the cut, sew and dye, leaving her plenty of time to focus on marketing. To manufacture in China was a tough decision, but after carefully researching factories and finding the right production manager to oversee every detail, Hegaard is confident. “Hiring a full time production manager is worth every penny and grey hair I am not getting. The quality and consistency of the product is impeccable and that simplifies my life.”
The Minawear line features only the best of the bestselling items, which are mainly colorful women’s pants and bottoms. For fall 2012, Minawear is introducing hemp roll top leggings with Spandex, along with hemp fleece hats, scarves and cozy blankets. Next year Minawear will re-launch the men’s line and hey, mommies! Rumor has it that there may be a Mini-Minawear sighting somewhere in the future too!
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