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Homemade hooded scarf becomes style icon

Avi Loren Fox models her Wild Mantle.

PHILADELPHIA (TNS) — Avi Loren Fox’s entrepreneurial endeavor with a hooded scarf started where so many efforts to find oneself do — at a bar.

The place: McShea’s Restaurant & Bar in Narberth, Pa. The time: September 2013.

Fox’s dilemma: The 2010 Temple University graduate with a degree in environmental studies had just closed a photography business she and her brother Nikolai operated for three summers.

“I decided to enter that terrifying space of taking a year without any plans,” Fox recalled, citing her mother, Teresa, a meditation instructor, as the inspiration for that timeout.

So to McShea’s Fox went, wearing a hooded scarf she had made out of old sweaters.

“All of a sudden, I realized everyone was looking at me,” Fox said. “That’s where the Wild Mantle story started.”

Wild, indeed.

First came 50 orders from McShea’s patrons and acquaintances for Fox’s head-and-neck covering — called the Mantle; the company name is Wild Mantle — which required her to solicit on Facebook for seamstresses to help make them.

They sold for $144 — the price settled on by Fox after she consulted a numerology psychic, who advised that 44 was her career number, success her trademark, and “to take what’s in your heart and make it bigger.”

To accomplish the latter, Fox needed to find a U.S. manufacturer willing to work with a start-up to sew hoods made of alpaca from Peru and lined with fleece.

(Clothing dependent on scavenged material, such as used sweaters, is hard to scale in quantities to meet the kind of wholesale demand Wild Mantle will need to grow into the sustainable business Fox envisions, experts said.)

She found Ice Box Knitting Mill in Longmont, Colo., which required a minimum order — 144. Talk about karma.

Then this fall came the real magic, as Fox put it: Wild Mantle launched a Kickstarter campaign Nov. 20 to raise $30,000 in 34 days to cover the cost of the first batch of Mantle hooded scarves.

Fox raised more, $39,827. She attributes that to some high-profile Twitter promotions by actress Kat Dennings, who stars in the CBS series 2 Broke Girls. She and Fox were friends growing up, in adjoining towns outside Philadelphia.

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Fox hopes to have hoods to offer retailers by fall. They will retail for $280, dictated by the price of alpaca, and, she added, “I want to pay people fairly to manufacture in the U.S.A.”

Among those she has consulted for advice are Dave Neill and Jacob Hurwitz, the cofounders of American Trench L.L.C. They raised $19,108 on Kickstarter in early January 2013 to help launch their Made-in-the-U.S.A. line of trench coats, currently retailing for $785.

But the outerwear market has proved an expensive one — involving much capital to purchase materials and meet manufacturer minimums. So, Hurwitz said, American Trench has turned its focus to socks and caps it has made in Reading, Pa., and North Carolina while the company nears profitability and can better support its coat line.

He called Wild Mantle’s Kickstarter performance “totally awesome and really the testament to America’s support of entrepreneurs.”

As to Wild Mantle’s prospects, he said the world outside crowdfunding required “adjustments along the way to a more commercial environment where you have to find the right price.”

“She’s either going to find boutiques” that will carry a $280 scarf, Hurwitz said, “or she’s going to have to come up with a garment that’s less expensive.”

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Chris Etling is a copy editor and paginator at the Arizona Daily Sun. He's worked for the Daily Sun since November 2009.

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