This Monday, November 5th, we released our first Gracious Garlands-exclusive product: tree skirts! And by “exclusive”, we mean you can’t find these beautiful accents anywhere else. Not only are they gorgeous, but the production process of creating each skirt is quite special, and we want to share it with you.
It all began in summer 2018, when our lovely owner, Elle Worsham, began to notice a trend in the market for holiday decor. There was a lack of products that were versatile enough to be used in both traditional and modern homes; most products looked like Christmas just “threw up” on them. Elle wanted to find a harmony between minimalism, the modern home, and our favorite pieces of holiday decor such as stockings, tree skirts, etc. This desire sparked a vision that Gracious Garlands could be the company to find that balance and start sharing quality, relevant, and stylish holiday decor with our customers.
With little to no experience in product design, Elle recruited a friend who had experience working with micro-enterprises and product design around the world to help walk her through the process (enter Cameron Crake!). Cameron proceeded to coach Elle through the process and provide for her all the contacts she would need to make for this vision to come about (we couldn’t be more thankful).
Elle then found tonlé (yes, it’s lowercase), a zero-waste, ethical fashion brand based in Cambodia. After reading their story and studying their methods of production, values in employment, and overall vision as a brand, Elle knew the importance of enlisting their help in this project.
tonlé is driven by the mission to reduce waste and “change the way business is done” in the fashion industry. The creation of non-perishable goods that occurs daily in the U.S. and around the world is a significant addition to our carbon footprint that we often overlook, and tonlé is out to minimize that damage as much as possible. Along with their commitment to sustainability, tonlé cares deeply about ethical labor, providing fair wages and generous benefits to every member of their team, along with plenty of opportunities to grow, learn, and move up in the company. The women at tonlé specialize in a variance of trades that allow them to see the production process from start to finish within their own workshop. Natural dyeing, hand-weaving, packaging, and screen-printing are a few of the skills women at tonlé are using to create products that are kind to the earth. We too hold these values, and it was of utmost importance to us to find a company that could bring this dream to life without damaging the lives or wellbeing of others.
So we kept working. We went through the list of things to do and found a way to make each of them happen. Elle drew up dimensions for the skirt, finally settling on a size that would work well with most trees, but would specifically contain the giant fresh trees that our customers seem to love. Elle then created a CAD, which is essentially the kind of pattern a seamstress would use when sewing a garment from scratch. Pretty neat, huh? After a substantial amount of back-and-forth communication in trying to find the material and color to use, trying out various material swatches from Cambodia, and considering what process Elle wanted to use to have these skirts produced, decisions were made and the process was further along than it had ever been.
Then, using just basic knowledge of Adobe Illustrator, Elle created both designs herself, straight from the well of creativity in her that was ready to burst. This wasn’t a draw-the-design-and-scan-it-in process; Elle had to design the screen itself for the screen-printers to use, scaled to size (a five-foot diameter), and make sure it lined up perfectly with the build of the skirt. Yeah, she’s superwoman.
Even down to the button that would be used, every detail of the product needed to be specified before even a prototype could be produced. With lag time from working across the world with tonlé, and with the thoroughness that this task called for, this initial production process has lasted us from the summer until now. And to that we say, it was completely worth it.
The tree skirts are here, and they’re beautiful, and they’re ready to take their place in your home. We wanted to bring life into this product. We wanted to bring the stories of these incredible women at tonlé into your home through this small yet lovely piece of decor. There’s no need to create more waste in this world, so join us in our support of companies like tonlé that are taking tangible steps towards reducing the negative traces we leave on the planet.
Shop our new zero-waste, Gracious Garlands-exclusive tree skirts here!