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Update, Oct. 2020: Wind at Our Backs After Being Stuck in the Doldrums

October 13 2020 – Kathryn Wepfer

Orange origami sailboat - Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán
Orange origami sailboat - Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán

It’s October 2020, seven months into the pandemic, and it’s been a while since we posted a business update.  The summer was a very difficult time for my motivation, clarity, and spirit.  With much of the fashion industry stalled due to lockdowns, or refashioned to serve PPE needs, it was particularly challenging to make progress on product development, the piece of the business that fuels me the most.  I’m grateful that the industry has started moving again, and we are able to resume product development with a path toward launching in 2021 – much later than originally planned, but aligned with the delays that the industry as a whole is experiencing.

I want to update you on three area of the business that I’m particularly excited about right now:

Product Design: Our latest prototype got stuck in California during the state-wide lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic, and it finally arrived a few weeks ago, allowing product development to get back on track!  We’ve always relied on the kindness of friends and strangers to test the prototypes, since it’s critical for the garments to fit well on a postpartum body, and I’m pleased to report we’ve found a safe way to do fittings during this pandemic so the testers feel comfortable trying the latest prototype.  I’m grateful to the many strangers who have volunteered their time as busy moms to infants, in the midst of a pandemic, and I am humbled by their eagerness to provide the feedback needed to make better products for future moms.

Bag of pumped breastmilk with various fabric swatches

Textile Selection: Over the past few months I’ve discovered I am a huge textile nerd.  I’ve been exploring fabric options for the last year, but something inside me – probably the engineer – has been lit up lately and I can’t learn enough about textiles and textile science.  I’ve doubled down on my research for optimal pumping wear fabrics, both through expert resources and investigation of fibers used to produce existing garments.  We’ve turned my laundry room into a laboratory, utilizing my freezer stash of breastmilk to test how various textiles handle milk spills and spot cleaning, and to time how they fast they dry.  I’ve done blind tests to train myself on the feel of various fabrics, and developed my own rating system for how fabrics feel against the skin.  There’s so much to consider in the selection of textiles, particularly for garments that must meet the demands of both work and nursing/pumping wear, and we're making great progress toward solving this puzzle.

Paper patterns for garment making - Photo by Ksenia Chernaya

Development Agility:  The pandemic has provided businesses with an opportunity to rethink their operations and how they can be more agile moving forward.  In the fashion industry, many U.S.-based companies are starting to focus on near-shoring to increase their ability to respond to future industry and consumer shifts.  In many ways, we’re lucky here at Fulcrum to be facing the pandemic pre-launch, when we have so much flexibility in how we move forward, without needing to fundamentally change the way we do business.  We’ve been exploring how we can do product development closer to home so we can be closer to that end-to-end process, and I’m excited to say we’ll be shifting our product development here to the DC-area.  Going forward this will grow our opportunity to learn, be efficient, and invest in the local creative community.

The last quarter of 2020 is shaping up to be a busy one, with some great forward momentum after a challenging season.  Thank you so much for your continued support through this journey, and I can’t wait to share another update as we look toward 2021.

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