Manufacturing overseas for cheap labor in order to maximize profits isn't our thing. Because it comes at the cost of what we value. As a company created by a woman, for women, our products aren't made on the backs of other, more vulnerable women.
Today, only 3% of apparel sold to us by American companies is made in the USA. Not because it's not possible. It's a choice. Of the 40 million garment workers worldwide, more than 85% are women. The vast majority are trapped in poverty earning less than $3 a day. The answer to the riddle of how western brands keep profiting while clothes keep getting cheaper is that these garment workers are paying the real price. ( The True Cost is an exceptional documentary on Netflix revealing the hidden world of what we wear.)
Turbella designs, cuts and sews its collection in Los Angeles, California. Our shower gear is made by craftspeople, mostly women, earning a living wage in safe and environmentally responsible conditions. It's not just what we're told, because hearing isn't enough for something as important as people. It's what we see and experience. The factory is less than an hour away and we visit regularly. It's a pretty cheerful place. We have relationships with the people sewing for Turbella. We wouldn't have it any other way.
My name is Leah, and I created Turbella out of frustration with my blow-dry going bust in the shower and hair tangling while toweling, plus a bunch of other hair-meets-water woes. It got me wondering if other women were tired of hassling with their hair every time they showered. It's a big small thing that isn't just about hair. Some days, the shower is the only time we have to ourself, for ourself. It's no time for nonsense. It's time to recharge, so we can take charge of our day.
Before I dove into what my husband affectionately calls “the shower cap biz,” I was a TV writer and producer. As the co-owner of a production company in Los Angeles, I had the pleasure of creating lifestyle programming for TV networks like Travel Channel, Food Network and HGTV. Basically, my job was telling stories about people inviting something new into their lives. So, I thought it’d be fitting to share a bit about this “something new” and how Turbella came to be.
They say the best ideas come while showering. I guess mine came while cursing my umpteenth sucky shower cap. This particular one's elastic was so stretched out after only a month that its only usefulness would be as a tarp for a large pizza. The cap before that squeezed so tightly I wondered, under the thunder of water hitting it, if it was reshaping my sweaty head into a figure eight. I usually wasted half an hour post-shower wrestling my hair back from the Swamp Thing. Which got me thinking:
What gives? Well, our "equipment" is a crunchy disk of plastic stuck on a wimpy strip of elastic. We call it a shower cap although it's actually a bathing cap. It was invented in 1901 to wear while soaking in the (clawfoot) tub, not for standing under a torrent of water in a steamy enclosure. Yet the shower cap hasn't really changed in those 116+ years. Which is great if you're a Victorian ghost. But if you have places to be this millennium, the bathing cap/shower cap is a crazy-making relic.
Maybe crazy is contagious, because it inspired me to start this company and try to figure out how to make the world's best hair protection for the shower.
We soon realized that if we wanted to eliminate all hair hassles, we also needed to improve on what's available to dry wet hair after the shower. Cotton towels don't cut it – rubbing causes tangles, split ends and breakage to vulnerable wet hair. And balancing a tower of towel on our head is a pain in the neck (for real) when getting ready. Microfiber hair turbans tend to also be underwhelming – the fabric is a reminder that the car needs washing or the floor needs mopping. Even the most expensive microfiber towel and hair turbans are made in China, like the cleaning cloth counterparts, and lack quality details. No wonder showering felt like a chore.
Every woman I know has precious little time for herself. Can't the daily shower be a luxurious treat? Wanting to get to 'yes' on that question lead the way in the early days. It also clarified our mission:
We looped in – literally – the Austrian gemstone company, Swarovski®, for the crystals that fasten our two hair turbans, the Turbella 2-in-1 and the Enwrapture. We finally landed on the right super-absorbent textile for hair-drying. It's milled here in the USA without any questionable chemicals. It absorbs 10x its weight in water in less than three seconds (Yes!). That's about 18x better than a cotton towel and 2-6 times more effective than microfiber imported from Asia. Plus, it feels, well, no words...
So, a happy home run on the hair-drying front. But the keep-hair-dry-and-styled was an elusive beast!
Outdoor sports companies like REI, Patagonia, and The North Face have blazed the trail to adventure for all of us with near limitless possibilities. Thanks to evolving textile technology in athletic wear, it’s possible to keep warm on an alpine hike and cool on a tropical expedition. We can stay dry while shredding Class V rapids and shake off a torrential downpour on a run. We can ‘just do it’ in the most extreme environments and be comfortable.
Also, high performance is one thing, but what woman longs to wear the rugged technology of a wilderness parka or alpine tent on her head? We guessed zero. So, we set the bar that our fabric had to be as soft, light and luxurious as a silk scarf and as waterproof, breathable and exothermic (geek talk for "heat-releasing") as the premiere technical outerwear. "Pucci meets Patagonia," we called it.
Nearly two years of research, design, and development, thousands of fabrics, countless trials and spectacular blunders later, the three pieces of the collection were put to the test by real women. It was thrilling to get their feedback. Even more than confirming that we delivered the benefits we'd hoped, it was the specific ways the products worked for women that made me so happy. Many I hadn't even thought of. The most gratifying surprise was how many women actually packed their Turbella when they travelled! So, in honor of these first fabulous women (and the planet), we package each Turbella in a TSA-approved (and PVC-free) travel case. I can only imagine the adventures.
It's my sincerest hope that a Turbella makes your hair a joy to handle and taking a shower the luxurious treat you deserve.
Leah Lessard Jeon