From Overalls to Ownership: My FLAX Journey

From Overalls to Ownership: My FLAX Journey

Starting my first blog post feels like a daunting task when there is so much that I could say about FLAX. Hi there, my name is Kate, I’m a mother of two, the proud owner of FLAX for the last 9 years and sharing a little about how I got this amazing opportunity is probably the best place to start.

Originally from Middlebury, VT, I finished high school in Ithaca, NY, not far from FLAX’s first home. I attended a FLAX Barn Sale in high school and picked up a pair of FLAX overalls that I then practically lived in. I would lay in the grass at Stewart Park, smoking clove cigarettes between classes, and roll up the legs of the most sublimely comfortable overalls ever to feel the sun. Life was good for a kid in Ithaca, even if I didn’t fully appreciate it until years later.

When I returned to Vermont for college, my mom got a job working for FLAX as the sales manager. She quickly became an integral part of the company, and I was exposed to much of the behind the scenes, the unique culture and the vast array of beautiful fabrics, textures, and styles. I eventually got to travel with the company, first presenting at trade shows, and then stepping into model once or twice before moving to Maui to live near the ocean and sew some wild oats.

When being so far away from home lost its shine post 9/11, I returned to Ithaca and spent my free time with my buddies at FLAX again, almost daily. There were clam bakes, picnics, Christmas parties; FLAX was ingrained in so much of my life even though I wasn’t part of the staff, I was a part of the FLAX family. We were an eclectic mix that knew how to have fun and I still think back on those days so fondly.

Soon, my own family grew, and my love of FLAX clothing blossomed again. The waist band of my Bedskirt Bloomers fit so nicely under a baby bump, and the Easy Dress was so forgiving around the gathered empire waist, and it unbuttoned at the chest, so breastfeeding was a snap. The best part was, no matter how my weight fluctuated, it all just seemed to fit. I could wash it, wear it, fall asleep in it, play with my babies, tend the garden, run errands, wear it to work, dress it up and make it cute, young, and fun. And I could do it all in complete comfort. I’d layer it in the winter, loved the breathability and drape in the summer, no one wore more FLAX than me. I am convinced that is still true today.

I moved with my family to Cazenovia, NY just north of Ithaca and opened an online store, Red Onion Clothing, an homage to my mother’s store she had when I was a kid back in Vermont. My Red Onion carried exclusively FLAX and for the first time showed the entire range of collections, colors, sizes, and styles that FLAX offered. It was overwhelming and it was wonderful, and it quickly took off and became a hit. I could speak to each piece I sold because I wore it all and could advise customers on what they would likely love, what they could pass on and what they might want two of. I could take this feedback and relay it to my mother, still an integral part of FLAX and now a key advisor in which styles should move forward, were missing from collections, as well as other parts of design and development.

My online store outgrew its space and more and more local women wanted to come in to shop in person. I moved into a lovely storefront in Canastota, NY, with lots of windows, easy access to the NYS Thruway, and spacious dressing rooms. I expanded my team and together we kept selling the best possible selection of FLAX.

It was 4 years into my Red Onion journey when a once in a lifetime opportunity was offered to me. The owner of FLAX asked me to consider taking over as his successor. We both probably knew there may have been others who were more qualified. I was a young, busy mother, with 100 irons in the fire, but I think we both knew that I loved FLAX more than anyone else. I am convinced that too is still true today. I couldn’t imagine FLAX in the hands of anyone who loved it less, so I said yes.

9 years later, here we are. One town over from Canastota, in Wampsville, NY. My mother is still the same sage voice at FLAX advising me daily, one of two employees that moved North and of 3 that continue to work with FLAX from back in the days of some of those core memories that built my love of this company. Our team is small but amazing. We are still an eclectic mix that knows how to have fun, and this is still a family. We still make our clothes in Lithuania in the same factories with the same linens and take the same pride in our brand. So much has changed but so much stays the same. We are still FLAX, the company I loved for the first time 25 years ago and the company I love today. The FLAX that may evolve with time as all things do, but I hope to love it for the next 25 years as well.

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