A Note From The Founder
In 2020 I was (still am) working for a knitwear development company. This particular company offers a unique expertise in knitwear trend and development that most large brands don’t possess in-house. So our primary function is to assist large brands with the creation of their knitwear collections. When the world went into quarantine in 2020, our customers were severely impacted. We work with clothing brands that rely on heavy foot traffic to areas like malls and events like trade shows. People stopped shopping, our customers stopped making orders and our knitwear factories went quiet. Quarantine meant our business was at a standstill and, like many others, the future of our company was up in the air.
You hear this quip a lot in business: “In chaos there is opportunity.” It comes from a Sun Tzu quote and it is is strangely true. When chaos strikes, unexpected and unforeseen doors open offering a path forward. This happened when the world went into quarantine in 2020. Life changed in odd and unexpected ways. Life became digital. Cleanliness became a constant concern. People moved from the cities to the country. People were forced to socialize outdoors. Businesses that were paying close attention to these trends and reacted had a better chance of surviving and even prospering.
This became my focus. What type of unique product could a knitwear company offer during these strange times? I was already reading a dozen news publications and gathering research weekly as part of my job duties. So I focused my research in on how businesses are reacting to this new way of life under quarantine.
Facemasks became a central part of our lives, whether we liked it or not. Everyone was supposed to have one, and none of them looked fun to wear. I set out researching and designing a more comfortable, functional mask. I learned a few things:
- Cotton is better at filtering air particles than polyester.
- Multiple layers of fabric are better than one.
- A mask needs to fit snugly around the nose and face to be effective.
- Single use masks are terrible for the environment.
- Some people really don’t like facemasks, and others prefer a “neck gaiter” style over the “around-the-ear” style.
I used these findings to develop a mask using the same soft, organic yarn that we make our sweaters with. I wanted our mask to be as eco-friendly as possible because that is so crucial in fashion these days. Our mask needs to fit properly and offer real protection. I also wanted our mask to be more functional than the average mask that hangs around your ears. These masks offer little use outside of a pandemic. I wanted a mask that would be comfortable and effective during the pandemic, but also offer valuable functionality when the pandemic is over.
I designed the original concept and presented it to the team at our knitwear development company. We discussed it internally, and with our manufacturing team. This was happening in March and April of 2020, and at the time the concept was original and seemed viable. We made several samples testing different yarns and design details until we settled on a final product. After about 5 months of research and development, we received our inventory and launched the website around August of 2020. Just in time for the Fall / Holiday season. We called it the Abode Outside Facecover. The brand being "Abode Outside", and the product the "Abode Outside Facecover". The name is inspired by the idea of living closer with nature - another nod to sustainable fashion and my personal love for the great outdoors.
We had virtually zero marketing budget when we launched. We relied heavily on word of mouth through family and friends, networking with existing acquaintances, cold calling and a carefully crafted online presence. The response was exciting. Within a month of launch, we received several large orders from local retailers and businesses. Not only that, but one retailer experienced an incredible sell through rate of our facecover compared to their other accessories. To this day, our facecover stands as one of the most sustainable, functional, non-medical masks you can find.
The success of this product, and the interest from everyone we encountered along the way, motivated us to expand on this concept. We recently launched a hoodie that is equally as innovative and sustainable as our original product. It incorporates unisex sizing because we found an incredible amount of crossover in men and women’s styles and fit. We want our product to be available to everyone. We have a handful of other products in development, carefully designed this way. The next product releases are scheduled for July and October. Stay tuned as we build our collection dedicated to soft, sustainable materials, innovative functionality, and gender neutral sizing. We believe this is the future of the fashion industry.
Nate Baller | Co-founder at ABODE OUTSIDE
- University of Southern Denmark. "Face masks and the environment: Preventing the next plastic problem." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 March 2021.
- Amanda Tarlton, 2020, "Confused about the safety of neck gaiters? Here's what you need to know", USA Today https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/reviewedcom/2020/07/30/neck-gaiters-vs-face-masks-they-effective/5544515002/
- C.D. Zangmeister, J.G. Radney, E.P. Vicenzi and J.L. Weaver. Filtration Efficiencies of Nanoscale Aerosol by Cloth Mask Materials Used to Slow the Spread of SARS CoV-2. ACS Nano. June 25, 2020. https://www.nist.gov/news-events/news/2020/06/face-coverings-made-layered-cotton-fabric-likely-slow-spread-covid-19
ACS Nano 2020, 14, 5, 6339–6347