Canoe’s first home was a small cottage that sat in a small
redwood grove in Northern California. The space burst with the energy
of four industrious women all starting their own clothing businesses—from
hemp hats to hand-painted silk.
The main room was dominated by a large work table. The walls were lined
with industrial sewing machines and shelves overflowing with fabrics.
We stacked colorful cones of thread on top of the low ceiling beams
and somehow found space to display and sell our goods. Two talented
seamstresses cut and sewed one day a week for each of us.
It was a noisy, friendly place where the four of us brainstormed ideas,
traded resources and information, helped walk-in customers, and hammered
out ways to build our businesses.
first purchase was a $200 roll of undyed cotton/lycra fabric. I did
all the designing and pattern making, some of the sewing, and all the
bookkeeping, garment dyeing, and purchasing. Marketing meant going
to craft fairs. I divided my time between growing my business, waitressing,
and building an organic, off-grid homestead with my husband and two
My frst design was a two-piece swimsuit styled for comfort and movement.
I wasn’t much of a sunbather, and needed a suit that would stay
put when I played volleyball or bodysurfed. My suits were instantly
popular here in Humboldt County. Women began buying the tops to wear
as bras because they were cotton and comfortable. I gradually expanded
the line and converted entirely to organically grown cotton when the
fabric became available. I found a natural niche of wholesale prospects
gleaned from the Co-op America Green Pages.
The business moved to a building beside Benbow Lake and, inspired by
a handmade wooden blue canoe I noticed standing out among the familiar
green fiberglass models, I named my company Blue Canoe.
Back then, there were only a couple of other apparel companies using
organic cotton. They’re not in business now, which makes Blue
Canoe the longest-running successful organic-cotton clothing company
around. From the beginning we were known for our ”un-granola” styles
and fabrics. We were called “the pioneer of stylish organic clothing.”
Fourteen years later we maintain not only our commitment to organic
cotton and manufacturing in the USA, but also to providing truly stylish,
beautifully fitting, and functional clothing. Our line has expanded
from a few bras and panties to a full line of European-quality lingerie
and lounge wear, active apparel and fluid bamboo travel/casual wear.
Our main office still sits under the redwood trees, beside the lake,
but our lifestyle looks are at home in hip urban San Francisco, where
all our clothes are made.
years ago, I followed my dream. Thousands of customers later, I can
see that it was the right thing to do. I hope you’ll love
wearing Blue Canoe as much as I love creating it!