Our paths first crossed in elementary school on Lopez Island. We were two island women born three days apart. Lissa, the daughter of a shipwright, grew up exploring the Salish Sea by wooden rowboat and spending time in her father’s shop amongst the boat skeletons, nautical charts, and wood shavings. I spent several years working on fishing boats in Alaska surrounded by wild beauty and proudly donning diesel-saturated coveralls, usually coated in a layer of fish scales. The experience of growing up immersed in the wild landscapes of the Northwest and a shared love for the natural world and thoughtful fashion were the inspiration behind Ship Supply.
As self-taught seamstresses, who as young women and mothers launched businesses, we were meeting weekly to help each other with our respective endeavors. Through this mutual support and shared space, we naturally started to analyze our own business models. We ultimately realized that in order to grow in the long term we needed to join creative forces to reach new markets. It was a magical epiphany! Sharing a very similar aesthetic and a mutual love for fashion, we embarked on the journey that would become Ship Supply.
Our humble beginning was certainly an adventure, and, at times, it felt like we were swimming upstream. The first collection we designed didn't fully resonate with us. Feeling discouraged during a late-night phone call, we decided to meet the next day and take a hard look at our most loved and hard-worn clothing. The shared characteristics, the common denominator, of all these garments were a cherished vintage feel and a classic aesthetic often made with wool and perfectly worn cotton. They all shared a certain texture, had significance and history, and had lots and lots of pockets. These items were what defined us! Clothes that are always in the dirty laundry hamper or freshly washed, because they were made to last and, therefore, live and grow with us.
The transition from home-produced hand-made products to navigating the steep learning curve associated with the modern garment industry was challenging. We were determined to maintain the highest standard of quality, but production of larger quantities and outsourcing the manufacturing proved to be challenging hurdles in bringing our designs and visions to fruition. Organic fabric produced abroad was readily available, however, we felt the potentially toxic washing practices and the carbon footprint created by transporting fabric great distances didn't meet our sustainability and environmental ethics standards. We searched far and wide but finally found a farm in Texas that grows organic cotton and does it sustainably. It felt impossible at the time, but we persevered, ultimately designing our custom fabric with the help of a family-operated mill in South Carolina. This process cost us time, and money, but the resulting Ship Supply bull denim is everything that we set out to do.
Once we had the perfect fabric we were able to start the process of bringing our designs to life. We drew inspiration, as we always have, from our home in the Pacific Northwest. The sea, with its various textures, big stones, beach pebbles, smooth driftwood, tangled piles of seaweed, and thick fog. Wind, rain, and all the seasons. Our aim is to reflect these elements in classic, timeless designs. Wool sweaters, canvas pants, with lots of textures, and layers. For Ship Supply’s Spring 2021 launch we developed two staples. First the Sea Pant, a sturdy and flattering pant that is perfect for work and play. And later the pop-over Curtis Top, named after Lissa’s Dad’s old fishing mate from Norway.
Through trial and error, we found a production environment that aligns with our ethics and connected with people that believe in slow fashion, sustainable clothing, human rights, and fair wages. We limit Ship Supply's offerings to small production runs, which results in higher production costs and, therefore, a slightly higher consumer price point. This practice doesn't simply yield environmental benefits, it also allows our manufacturers to pay their employees a fair wage and provide critical and fundamental benefits, such as paid sick leave.
This is us, two young women who are passionate about designing clothes with a conscience. At times it feels like we are doing this the hard way, and in a lot of ways we are; but, as we have cultivated meaningful working relationships our mission and process has become more mature and realistic. We hope that Ship Supply can set an example for garment production moving forward because sometimes change starts with two friends and a small network of like-minded producers.
- Ana Zautke, Co-founder of Ship Supply