Twirls & Twigs – Eco-Green with a Twist of Rainbow

In recognition and celebration of this week’s Earth Day on April 22, Twirls & Twigs Creative Director/Founder Shawna Dalton talked with The Giggle Guide® about her passion for green living, children’s fashion, color, and the balance of nature, business, and her family. Dalton says, “I was one of those girls who always wanted to be a fashion designer. I studied design from age 16, when I drove to my first summer session at Otis/Parsons. It was love at first sketch for me. Design made my soul sing!” And she has been following the beat of a different drummer and singing the praises of her chosen career path ever since. She completed a BFA at Otis in 1992 and immediately went to work for a Los Angeles clothing manufacturer. Now heading her own brand, she is pleased to create a “made in U.S.A.” collection, proudly manufactured by a business partner that she first met many years ago.

Prior to starting Twirls & Twigs, Dalton created five children’s lines sold to high-end department stores, moderate chains and specialty retailers. She was mentored by and worked with several celebrity designers, including Richard Tyler, Bob Mackie and Todd Oldham. She loves that now she is an entrepreneur who puts her creativity and sweat equity into building her own vision and brand. She is tuned into inspiration whether awake or asleep, as she sometimes rises in the morning refreshed by a dream that she has “worked on” in her dreams!

Through her inspiration to “do her own thing,” Dalton is admired as an innovator who makes her self-described “eco-savvy” styles unique by making fashion, vibrant color combinations and finishing touches as important as the organic and sustainable fabrics.

When was your brand born, and what was the initial inspiration?

Twirls & Twigs became a reality in October 2007. My inspiration was my children. Wanting to dress my own children in mindful fashion proved only to exist in my mind’s eye! What I wanted for them didn’t seem to exist. So, drawing upon my year’s of education and experience, and encouraged by my husband’s confidence in my abilities, I decided to create the fashions myself. My family, playful expression, and my business and personal commitment to do what’s better for the environment, remain my inspiration and drive for continued growth and creativity.

What was the biggest challenge you faced when starting?

At first, it was very difficult to find organic trims and well-priced sustainable fabrics. By finding the resources I needed for my brand’s identity, this challenge turned into our greatest asset!

What is one thing you would have done differently?

I would have been more fearless! Sometimes trying something can make you a bit timid about one’s gifts and abilities. Starting a new business is scary — no matter how much wisdom, experience and talents one brings to the table.

I also believe that perseverance in the face of growing a business is a MUST for all entrepreneurs.

What do you feel are the keys to your success?

The three biggest keys have been:

  1. My ability to relate to a child’s perspective. Knowing what little girls love in the Twirls & Twigs collection, and staying focused on the brand’s environmentally sound fabrications and practices helps sustain the creative passion that makes designing, manufacturing and selling such wonderful experiences.

  2. The support of my husband and my sister always sharing how wonderful the collection looks and encouraging me to keep going — even when the going is tough.

  3. The consistent encouragement, support and positive responses we get from retailers and customers across the U.S.A. I am grateful and proud that so many tell me that Twigs & Twirls is their top seller and there is nothing else quite like it. All of our garments are made in the U.S.A. which I also believe is an important key to our success. In addition, I am working with a manufacturer that I respect and that I have known and worked closely with on other successful brands for many years spanning my entire career in fashion design.

Describe a typical new product development cycle for your business?

When I begin a new collection, we start with color and theme –– this may be inspired from my travels, visits to art museums, and even our family home and yard. We created a fairy tale land in our own backyard filled with chickens, ducks and a few other pets.

How do green or eco-friendly concerns influence your business decisions?

Twirls & Twigs is an eco-savvy collection –– I call it “eco-innovation.” When I started Twirls & Twigs, there was no trim available in organics at a cost-effective rate. Following my career designing children’s clothing for Nordstroms, Bloomingdales, Target, and Kohl’s –– as well as having two daughters of my own –– I had a deep understanding of how much young girls love embellished details on dresses that twirl on the power of their own joyful energy!

Being environmentally driven was a pivotal point in the development of our collection. In a rush to complete our debut line, I found myself cutting up other designers’ leftover fabrics from seasons past and transforming them into coordinating trims and finishing touches on our original organic fabrics. I was working on the Web site with a copywriter and wondered how she could explain my concept in a cohesive, simple, and entertaining manner. She came back to me with the tagline, “designer leftovers and bountiful whimsy.” It was the perfect marriage of the beauty of soy fabrics and the bold mix of ruffles made from prints stripes and dots. This was how the magic happened. It gave us a story and the product a specific look different from other eco-collections.

Most importantly, was the response from the customers — the children LOVED the dresses. We always try to keep the base of the garment something eco, with organic cotton or recycled poly-modal from Lenzing fibers. Then we recycle thousands of yards from other collections into distinctive ruffles and trims.

**What types of marketing have been most effective for your business? **

Various marketing strategies, combined with developing mutually beneficial relationships with our retailers, have been our most effective ventures. We invest in select trade advertising, participate at key national trade events, and work to earn our reputation as a brand that consistently delivers top sellers.

How does your business make use of the Internet?

We use our Web site to share our collection with potential and current retailers. We also use Facebook to communicate directly with our fans. This has been a great joy for us to see how many people enjoy the Twirls & Twigs collection. We are also a sponsor of The Giggle Guide® because of its recognition and usage in the children’s industry and its well-rounded list of features that allow us to promote our brand in many different ways, including video production, direct e-mail campaigns, new product news and sales promotions. Plus, The Giggle Guide® can provide us with up-to-date statistics to measure online traffic and hits from each of the site’s online impressions.

What is one change/addition that’s had a positive impact for your business in the last year?

When we hired Operations Manager Lou Elkus last year, his professionalism and communication skills made us realize the importance of providing excellent customer service. With him on our team, my life changed for the better! The company’s production flow maximizes efficiency and serves our retailers’ needs for reliable, prompt delivery that helps increase sales volumes.

What is your one piece of advice for someone entering the children’s market?

Do market research! Find something the kids want or something needed in the market you are targeting. Teamwork with your favorite retailers and develop well-priced options that will connect with your targeted customer.

Twirls & Twigs: Eco-Savvy Innovations

Twigs & Twirls is a great example of what Earth Week and increasing environmental awareness among children and young families is all about.

For Twirls & Twigs creator Shawna Dalton, necessity has certainly been the mother of invention. Inspired first by her daughters, and then by playful pirouettes and her love for nature, Shawna turns sustainable and organic fibers, designer remnants, and recycled cotton into fanciful apparel, with all the added touches of whimsy, that reconcile style with substance. Twirls & Twigs parlays Shawna’s extensive industry experience into eco-savvy innovation, where the celebration of a greener world can be seen through playful expression.

Twirls & Twigs uses recycled designer remnants to create each garment, saving the otherwise unusable yardage from filling U.S. landfills. The organic cotton used in the collection is grown without the use of pesticides or toxic chemicals.

Modal, a biodegradable fabric made with the spun reconstituted cellulose of Birchwood trees, is also utilized in the designs. The sustainable fabric is low impact and therefore reduces the harmful chemicals released in the environment.

Recycled cotton reduces an estimated 5 billion pounds of waste from going into U.S. landfills. Recycled cotton is made from pre-consumer fibers and clippings collected after the cut-and-sew process. The regenerated fibers retain the color of the original garment, so less dyes and harmful chemicals pollute our planet.

Twirls & Twigs offers girls’ apparel in sizes infant through 8. The collection includes original embellishments and original animal character accents on one-piece rompers, activewear, dresses, skirts, leggings, tees and baby blankets.

For more information:
Phone (310) 965-7700

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