When we sat down to formulate our business plan for Pavo Textiles, one of our initial goals was to locate a reliable mill in the United States working with natural fibers and a transparent manufacturing process. If we did not find the right mill for our venture Pavo would remain an intangible concept. File under: Dreams
Our intent was to find a mill in the United States, but we cast our net wide, looking at mills from all over the world in order to compare price, skill, sourcing, and technique. The more time we invested in our search, the more it became clear to us that we absolutely needed to find a mill domestically. The number of textile mills in the United States had been quickly dwindling and when those mills closed, decades of knowledge and expertise were quietly being lost to the dust of history. From 1997 to 2010, over 1200 textiles mills closed, with most weaving equipment in those mills being shipped overseas to be used in mills producing cheap textiles, destined for import to the United States. Between 2004 and 2009, almost forty percent of the jobs in the textile industry were lost with such jobs being outsourced to cheaper labor in countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, and China.
We were firm in our conviction to produce American-made textiles and we renewed our search with gusto. Our initial efforts were disappointing; there were a limited number of mills who could produce to the quality and specifications we required and those that were able to do so were decidedly wary of working with an unknown entity, which is what Pavo was at the time.
In our search one mill we heard about over and over again was The Oriole Mill; they came highly recommended by our contacts in the industry, and were spoken of with a hushed, reverent awe.
The Oriole Mill was founded in 2006 by Stephan Michelson and Bethanne Knudson as the textile industry in the United States was quickly transitioning production to cheaper overseas facilities and leaving laid-off workers and deserted towns in its wake. While other mills were closing their doors, Oriole was setting up shop. To say that this was a bold, risky, daring move is most certainly an understatement. In the face of a flagging industry focused on cheap disposable goods The Oriole Mill is deeply committed to weaving high quality textiles made with the finest natural fibers and have made a reputation for being innovative, independent, and luxurious. Their ideology embodied everything we wanted to be able to say and do with our textiles. Oriole seemed like a natural fit for Pavo since we shared many of the same convictions: the desire to create heirloom quality products, fair wages, the use of natural fiber, superior design, unsurpassed technical skill, and a deep and abiding commitment to high quality American made products. We wanted in.
For us, it was a match made in heaven. So we called. We emailed. We called again. It took months before anyone at The Oriole Mill would even talk to us. In hindsight, it is not surprising; they are a small artisan mill with exclusive clientele and they offer a unique service no longer found in the States and we were a buzzing fly with an unknown end product.