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The Journey Back Home

Posted on March 20, 2014 by Amazing Capes

Dear Friends, 

It’s been a little over a year since the first bundles of Amazing Capes have flown to their new owners around the world. People of all ages and and from 21 countries have released their inner superhero, and also supported 10 nonprofits through purchase proceeds. In an effort to take one more step forward, I'm proud to say that Amazing Capes will soon be having all of our capes manufactured closer to my home in Asheville.

The new factory is located in Asheboro, NC, and is owned by some wonderful folks who bring years of experience to the floor as well as warmth, skill and a cohesive vision. We couldn’t be happier about our new small business partners.

It has been quite a ride getting to this point and I'd like to share my experiences thus far as Amazing Capes prepares to cross a new business frontier.

Throughout college, I heard a lot of discussion about the global shift in manufacturing overseas. However, this was a concept I equated with “corporations, oil, politics and suits.’” Not my cup of tea. After graduating in 2009, I moved to D.C., and eventually flew off to Southeast Asia. When I returned home to North Carolina, my penniless yet ever-motivated self promptly re-discovered an enduring recession. Jobs continued to bite the dust, yet now I had the idea for a tangible product I wanted to manufacture! So, of course, I started looking for people to make it.

In 2011 when I searched for manufacturers in North Carolina and surrounding areas I was blown away by the high quotes I was getting. What I heard in college was true— all of the big guys had left or shut down, taking their cost-effective machines and methods with them. According to a study through Duke University "Although we have seen a drastic decline in the textile industry, the apparel industry has fared much worse, experiencing a 70% decline in jobs and 55% of plants from 1996 to 2006." Tens of thousands of North Carolinians were out of work.

Why?

Because their employers had left. And this left me, a novice to the manufacturing field, with three options: 1. I could abandon ship; 2. I could make an incredibly expensive product that no one I knew could afford; or 3. I could follow the manufacturing trail and make Amazing Capes a reality. #3 was the winner. 

I browsed online and found a factory in China that had a 500-unit minimum order quantity compared to most of the big guys with a minimum order quantity of 10,000. I reached out and a wonderful man named Aaron became my #1 contact over there; he was efficient and polite, a dream to work with.

I emailed him sketches and photos of rough prototypes, received an estimate, and wired my first payment for prototypes. Ten days later the first cape samples. They were real! The process worked. I began to understand the feasibility of manufacturing a product overseas.  

In late summer of 2012, after an extensive step and repeat design process, I scraped together the last dollars I had and wired it to Hangzhou City for the 10 final samples of what would become my first collection of Reversible Satin Amazing Capes. 

When the samples arrived, I attached them to fishing line took product shots. Next, I had the photos up on a website built through Shopify. It looked like a real store! All I was missing was inventory. This is where the online fund-raising platform Kickstarter came to play.

I spent a month crafting a video and set a 30-day campaign goal of raising $15,000 to meet manufacturing minimums. Watch that video here. In lieu of any financial safety net, I poured all of my energies into the project, and found the loving support of friends, family, and strangers who got behind me.

With only 3 days left, the campaign was featured in Kickstarter's national e-newsletter and "Release Your Inner Superhero" flew to 300% of its goal. I was humbled. I was ecstatic. The world wanted capes! 

Shortly after, in mid-December 2012, Aaron and his team were able to start the production process for Amazing Capes in the Zhejiang Province of China. By this time, Aaron had made some changes in his working life and had gone into business for himself. He was therefore able to set a higher price on the product, one that was both more fair to all involved, yet remained far cheaper than the domestic quotes I had received. 

Weeks later, in mid-February of 2013, hundreds of pounds of satin capes arrived. We loaded the boxes into the back of a pick-up and brought them in. The physicality set in, I looked at the 2,200 capes, and was floored by their existence, thinking of the group effort it took to bring them all in front of me.

For the next 2 weeks our kitchen was turned into a crazy cape tag-fold-wrap and ship center. Over 1,000 capes flew from the Post Office in Weaverville, NC, to their new owners around the globe. Another 1,000 capes were left to stock the website. 

Amazing Capes was in business! 

Since then, it's been a great year, one with a strong learning curve, and I'm more invested in Amazing Capes than ever before. That being said, I decided if Amazing Capes was truly going to be the company I envisioned, then it was time to loose our 8,000 mile handicap, whilst young and pliable, and turn our little wings back home.

After a year of growing success, Amazing Capes is positioned to take the next step in fulfilling our vision. Our priorities are, and always will be, high product quality, business transparency, promotion of social good, and the ability to test out new styles with minimal financial risk and a short lead-time.

Between 2011 and 2014, the whisper of companies who are shifting manufacturing back to the USA has grown more audible. This past fall I restarted my search for a practical price on domestic manufacturing.

I turned to the Internet and serendipitously found a sewing operation in Asheboro, NC— just a few hours from our home in Asheville. Perfect.

After I met with owners Gary and Lilia of Lighthouse, I was even more certain that this was the right move for Amazing Capes in 2014. The two have tons of positive energy. Their experience as seasoned industry rangers will prove invaluable to our company. For the first time, manufacturing Amazing Capes in the USA felt possible.

Here’s where we are now.

Fabric has been ordered. Lilia has prepared new patterns that reflect several design upgrades. New tags have been woven, and custom folding machinery has been installed to fit their machines. Gary has even tracked down a foot-press that will install our flying penguin snaps on the cape collars. (Yes, snaps!)

Choosing to make this transition to the home front was a chance; however, now that I'm working with people whose hands I have shaken, and whom I've hugged, I feel a greater sense of accountability and responsibility for my work, along with an urge to grow.

Amazing Capes has had its training wheels on, and I believe we've finally arrived at a place that feels right—one that will enable us to focus on our higher mission of “Saving the World Through the Power of Imagination.”

What does this mean for you, dear superhero?

New sizes and styles will develop more frequently. Each cape will be crafted by someone I can introduce you to, should you ever desire to meet their maker. In our first year we were able to give over $700 to the nonprofits each of our capes support. Next year we hope to build on these relationships and give even more. If you have a nonprofit you feel we should partner with—contact us!

As for the remaining stock in our current collection, they are truly a limited edition; they are a mark of our time, and they are full of imagination. (Not to mention, my friends, family and I heat-pressed the tags on each one of those babies.)

Thank you for your continued support, and please, stay tuned for the ride (and new designs). We just got our training wheels off! 

Looking forward,

Roxanne

 

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My First Cape... Re-discovered!

Posted on December 31, 2013 by Amazing Capes

My stocking held some extra magic this year... Beyond the customary orange and a handful of nuts that are impossible to crack there was a piece of soft black fabric. Confused, I unfolded this little bundle and soon discovered my original cape!

Sewn by my mom when I was around the 5, she used a black cotton fabric and iron-on images of the solar system and magical stars. Lost to my memory was her nifty handiwork in designing a front panel that safety pinned around my back. So novel! What I remember most is wearing this cape to pretend I was all kinds personalities... A great explorer, a mischievous  magician... I could do anything! This bit of fabric was constantly used in playing dress up with my sister.

The house I grew up in is perched up on a hill, beside a great big field and a big cluster of woods; lacking any neighborhood kids to play with, I was left to the strange devices of my imagination more often than not. My sister and I would perform plays, bake mud pies with sticks and dirt, and venture over the fence to build castle forts in the middle of the trees. The elements would usually find us building new forts every few weeks, but that didn't matter much, because at the time, our imaginations were infinite. The possibilities were infinite. And at age 5, there is nothing you can't imagine.

My mom and I thought my first cape was long lost to those sneaky habits of a basement that lives beneath an old log cabin... prey to mouse traps and the necessity of costume-bin-cleanouts... Little did she or I know that I'd ever start a cape company of my own. But as it turns out, what is truly special is never lost. The small cape turned up in the back of a linen closet, just in time for my own (woefully sleepy) delight. And on Christmas morning, my 5 year old nephew Evander was also able to try it on for himself. It fit him just perfect.

Walking past the fence and through the field with him later that day, I'm always reminded of the profound abilities of our imaginations to create magical worlds like no other. In the new year ahead, lets trace back to our younger selves and embrace the power of our imagination. There is great work to be done and a brave new world to discover!

Onwards and upwards,

Roxanne

 

 

 

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Episode 13: Into the Earth! Carlsbad Caverns, NM

Posted on May 20, 2013 by Amazing Capes

In the late 1800’s it was known to the locals in the region of southeast New Mexico as ‘Bat Cave’… a gaping hole in the earth where dusk would push thousands of Mexican Free-Tailed bats through its mouth and into the night sky. 16 yr old Jim White was the first known person to truly explore the caverns. “... any hole in the ground which could house such a gigantic army of bats must be a whale of a big cave.” With a handmade kerosene lantern and clearly no sense of Nyctophobia White discovered another world through miles of darkness. One of the most decorated caves in the world, the caverns are now illuminated to reveal the wild and ancient forms that calcium carbonate can take… thousands of slender stalactites dripping from the ceiling, chandeliers, Michelangelo columns having reached each other in the beyond, flowstone reflecting whale mouths... Carlsbad is wild, intrepid and amazing.

Prepared to enter this middle earth… oh land of Gondor… this extraterrestrial world… we came geared up with a new cape prototype! When Amazing Capes was in LA we ventured to the fashion district for several yards of fabric that was then sewn together by the talented skills of Ms. Gloria in Echo Park. The new cloak feels magical just holding it… what a feeling it was to put it on 750 feet below the earth! It's as if instantly one assumes the leading role of a great adventure, of a quest that needs undertaking.

After hiking for miles through several hours of illuminated darkness we took an elevator back to the ceiling of the earth 750’ above. “So trippy!” – said Anna and Rox at the same time.

AC Truth 13: Everything feels like a storybook adventure with an Amazing Cape. 





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Episode 12: White Sands, New Mexico

Posted on May 16, 2013 by Amazing Capes


Enchanting lands in a sea of white

Stories told of UFO flights

Crystals ground to gypsum sun

Stretch for miles come undone

 

Day to night meet at their ends

Soaring saucers round the bends

The grounds of time fall between

The urge of our hands coming seen


Heavy breath to the ridge of dune

New views ahead open ever soon

A cape of stars catches the breeze

The pull from space behind our knees

 

A blanket slate of earthly new

Constantly shifting for the few

What beauty emits from this land

The sweeping gypsum of White Sands









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Episode 11: Joshua Tree

Posted on May 13, 2013 by Amazing Capes

With sun warrior Wanda ready to hit the road, Amazing Capes spun a 180 and began its journey back east. Through uncanny valleys of wind turbines we drove duskward into the California desert. Traveling the same roads as U2, we too were drawn to the unique stretch of earth that forms Joshua Tree National Park. Identifiable by the fact that it seems as if this particular tree stepped right out of a Dr Suess book- the Joshua Tree looks like a furry 1970’s giant. These trees are unidentifiable as to their age, being hollow with no rings on the inside; so we like to think they are infinitesimally old dino plants… beholding the magical of energy of all they’ve seen crossing the terrain before them. 

Driving into the national park, stocked up on water and alien snacks, what soon became equally astounding as these wildly distinctive tree formations was the vast array of boulders blasting from the earth in the most spectacular crushing formations. We parked Wanda at the opening to Hidden Valley, a legendary bit of the park for the cattle rustlers that would hide out there between the massive rocks and inside the caves. Keeping an eye out for rattlesnakes, the slight breeze lifted our capes and the magnetic energy of the rocks pulled us in. Old energy, magic, lore, ancient creatures, and resilient greenery encompassed us in Joshua Tree. A hawk circling overhead, the rustling of a yucca plant, a Joshua Tree split in half from its long existence… Amazing Capes hopes to channel all this ancient energy into frontier-forward designs in the future... As the elevation dropped when we exited the park and the Joshua Trees were suddenly no longer in view, the brightness of the afternoon sun made it all suddenly feel like a hazy dream.

AC Truth 11: In the same way the Joshua Tree only grows when surrounded by a very unique set of elements… pay attention to what set of elements channel your own personal growth and consciously surround yourself in them. 

 




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Episode 7: Las Vegas in 22 Hours

Posted on April 24, 2013 by Amazing Capes

The road glimmers with heat waves as cacti-palms scatter the arid landscape crossing from Arizona to Nevada. The sun projects a halo around itself in the blue sky field and as it beams down upon this desert earth, the outline of a city appears on the horizon. Out of place, unsustainable, and massively absurd in scope, we wove through traffic and pulled off onto the strip. Las Vegas lay before us like a Hollywood movie set- to our left were the towering pyramids of Egypt, New York’s statue of liberty and the fountains of Bellagio… to our right the Eiffel Tower of France; pillars of glass and steel in a re-imagined world anchoring the set. 

With a swoop of yellow satin, Rox donned her cape and assumed her new role as an actor in this multifaceted over-indulgent escapade. What fun! How normal it felt to fly across this city!  To ride the escalators, float through the heavily chandeliered hotel lobbies, listen to the hungry tune of slot machines, view the wildly elaborate costumes… a city with a deep belly and a lot of flash. There is something to the power of playing a part that is liberating for a time- a freedom of anonymity while riding in waves of millions. 

$12 was gambled into rows of mis-matched cards, stickers were handed out, clubs were danced in, fountains splashed, Purity Ring sang awesomely from old Downtown, light shows covered the skies and everyone stared into the lights. With the whole world as your stage, Vegas is a perfect place to test run alternative identities or super identities…  What more could you expect, from a founder by the name of Bugsy? As the city was wiped clean before dawn, the sun came out as expected, and after 4 hours of sleep we revved up Wanda to hit the streets. 22 hours in this hungry furnace fed by dollars and dreams was just enough for Anna & Rox.  

AC Truth 7: To win big in Vegas, wear an Amazing Cape. *Returns may appear in the form of fun and smiles.  




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AC Episode 5: Back in Time

Posted on April 14, 2013 by Amazing Capes

Episode 5: Back in time at El Rancho

Along Route 66 in the crossroads town of Gallup, New Mexico there is a time capsule draped in the glamour and charm of Frank Sinatra and Betty Paige, John Wayne and Lucille Ball, their visages now encapsulated in black and white silver gelatin along wall upon brick wall. Built by the brother of film director D.W. Griffith, El Rancho was the southwestern playground for A-list movie stars since 1936 through the height of the 20th century. Featuring a desert backdrop, mahogany bannisters and 3 stories of lore, the hotel now has a change of cast, but once the heavy front doors have double locked, the energy of debauchery, fame and class sneaks out to mingle upon the red carpet at night. And as this glowing playground presented itself, we too decided to sneak out upon the quiet carpets and take up our roles in this humming drama.

AC Truth 5: History has recorded many great and terrible things; from bloody battles and ethereal pyramids, to masterful strings of numbers, to an old hotel in the desert singing Etta James… And as we inevitably breathe ourselves into the future, lets take care when we can fill our lungs from the past. There is still a whole lot to love about Lucy. 




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AC Episode 3: Cadillac Ranch

Posted on April 09, 2013 by Amazing Capes

Episode 3: Cadillac Ranch, several miles west of Amarillo Texas. An eccentric millionaire by the name of Stanley Marsh once hired a group of hippies to bury ten Cadillacs in the earth. To date, it is one of the finest pieces of art I have ever had the pleasure of both seeing and experiencing. Left open to the wiles of curious visitors, the cars  emulate a link between the nostalgic era of the beat driven 60’s and the future forward earthlings of today. They wear an armor of spray paint decades deep. Planted between the east and the west, the old and the new, the Cadillacs have become statues of their time, testimonials that challenge where we have come from and where we are going. 

3rd in line for the windiest region of the USA, Cadillac Ranch beckoned to Amazing Capes- HERE- it said- TAKE THIS WIND! Make your mark. Be bold. Take flight. Propel the journey forward!

AC Truth 3: By following your own eccentricities you will give others the courage to follow their own. 





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AC Episode 2: Graceland

Posted on April 09, 2013 by Amazing Capes

 Episode 2: Graceland, Home of the King. A few miles from downtown Memphis the home of Elvis remains in full audio tour glory, a time capsule of one man who brought the heat to post war America and died with the lust of a nation. Amazing Capes embraced the opportunity to stand in Elvis Presley’s living room and soak in the inspiration of his double stained glass peacocks. To walk beyond the white carpet and into his jungle room, plush with deep green shag carpet, a ceiling of astroturf and the energy of the only king America has ever honored. The TV room of yellow leather, a triple Nixon line up, and a yellow lightning bolt with the letters TCB shocked Ruby’s Magellan cape with its electric motto: Taking Care of Business… in a flash. In his 42 years before heart failure zapped his physical body, he imagined and became a body of art with an impossibility of death- and that my friends, is Taking Care of Business.

AC Truth 2: To make an experience more awesome, turn up the volume of the King and ride the golden wave. 







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Cherokee Nation Makes History: Reaches the Edge of Space!

Posted on March 28, 2013 by Amazing Capes

On March 8th 2013 students of Cherokee High School in North Carolina reached new heights that reflected the strength and sovereignty of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. As far as we know, this was the first day Native Americans have ever reached the edge of space by means of launching a massive weather balloon. The balloon was attached with a special box, parachute and Go Pro cameras that rose up up and away and captured footage from the air. 

When Amazing Capes was asked to sponsor the 5 High School students who were chosen as “Cherokee Space Ambassadors" we were totally on board! Meet Gabby Thompson, Tagan Crowe, Bradley Welch, Cecilia Magana and Ryanne Oocumma- all students of Nicole Jackson’s 11th/12th grade advanced biology class with unique roles in the launch.  To reflect their school colors, the Space Ambassadors were given red Super Mandela capes prior to the launch. They calculated distances & estimated projections, readied gear and held down the corner ropes keeping the balloon steady until lift off. 

The entire school came out on the lawn and spelled their letters on the playing field- in this video link you can see dizzying footage of the ground as the balloon rises up! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8x1Ww2y1nRY 

After the weather balloon popped at the top of the stratosphere, the go pro cameras and box (that included Gabby's tribal earrings...now having reached space!) were picked up on the border of South Carolina a couple hundred miles away... at the top of a tree. The tracking team managed to climb it and footage was retrieved.

The tribe partnered with Element Advertising, featuring Art Director Christopher Sams of Asheville, to take another step forward in history & in doing so, reflect the strength of the Cherokee community, their pride in education and the new heights the nation is reaching. We are so thankful to have been able to participate in this event. Onwards and Upwards! 






See more photos on our facebook album: Cherokee Space Ambassadors  

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