Manufacturing overseas for cheap labor 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.
Only 3% of apparel sold to us by American companies is made in the USA. Not because it's not possible. It's a values 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 shower gear is cut and sewn in California 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. That's me on the left, circa the 70s, drying off by a toasty wall heater at our home in British Columbia, Canada. I consider this photo to be Polaroid proof that at one time, the daily bathing ritual was actually something I looked forward to. And so easy! (Though my mom might dispute the simplicity of the 1,000+ times she combed out the Medusa of tangles lurking beneath an oversized towel.) But I couldn't remember haircare ever being quick and enjoyable as an adult. That got me asking other women if they hassle with their hair every time they step in or out of the shower. Turns out, well...YEAH!
I founded Turbella out of frustration with hair towels and no-tech shower caps that don't work. What I discovered in talking to other women is it's a big small thing that isn't just about hair. Some days, the shower is the only time we have to ourselves, for ourselves. It's a precious time to recharge, so we can take charge of our day. Which got me thinking...
This strange and specific feminist manifesto of sorts energized me. So much so that I left my career and set out to try to create the best shower cap and hair-drying wrap ever.
Before diving 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 more backstory 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. The elastic on this particular one was so stretched out after a month that its only usefulness would have been as a tarp for a large pizza. The shower 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 puzzling...
A triathlete can compete in the most punishing weather conditions and with today's cutting edge technical outerwear, she's covered. That's good.
But that same athlete can't take a shower and keep her dry hair styled. That's ridiculous!
What gives? Well, our "gear" 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 117+ 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 hair protection that actually works.
It soon became obvious that to eliminate hair hassles, there also needs to be a better way to dry wet hair. Cotton towels don't cut it – rubbing causes tangles, split ends and breakage to vulnerable wet hair. Balancing a tower of towel on your head is a pain in the neck (sometimes for real) when getting ready. Microfiber hair turbans are also 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 their cleaning cloth counterparts, and lack quality details. No wonder bathing feels 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 the goal ~ To transform the daily shower with high performance luxury.
We looped in – literally – the Austrian gemstone company, Swarovski®, for the crystals that fasten our collection. 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. And it feels sublime. So, on the "dry-your-wet-hair" front: High performance - check. Luxury - check. Mission accomplished - check.
But, the "keep-your-hair-dry-and-styled-in-the-shower" mission? Not so much (okay, not at all). Turns out, that's next to impossible with the existing materials and construction used for shower caps.
Plastics and laminated fabrics either don't breathe at all or nearly enough to manage the hairstyle-killing moisture trapped beneath it.
Water goes through holes. For a kindergartener with a watering can, that's fun physics. But if you want to keep your hair dry, a few hundred sewing machine needle holes in your hair cover is a problem.
The path to a solution would have to begin somewhere else, which brought me back to that triathlete, and the great outdoors.
Outdoor sports companies like REI, Patagonia, and The North Face are blazing 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.
With that came a guiding principal - Adapt the technical fabrics and construction methods of the best outdoor gear to keep hair dry. It was a start, except that no outdoor sport features hot water in free-fall.
Also, high performance is one thing, but what woman longs to wear the rugged technology of an 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, hundreds 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! In honor of these first fabulous women (and the planet), we package each Turbella in a 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
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