Wake up smiling.
It’s not only great advice, but the name of a fledgling apparel company based in Sointula.
Lauren Hall, who has lived on Malcolm Island off and on since 1992, began work on her ‘Wake Up Smiling Apparel’ line about a year ago.
“I originally thought about focusing on promoting my artwork,” Hall said.
“I enjoy designing imagery, however, I was interested in a platform that was not just limited as an art object,” she explains.
To accomplish this desire, Hall decided to venture into a pop culture medium she felt was functional, fun, and an accessible price.
“You can’t get more pop culture and practical in the fashion world than t-shirts,” she said.
Hall wanted to build a brand “that was uplifting, inspirational, and locally themed.
Her business name, ‘Wake Up Smiling Apparel,’ is about joy and fun. A smile is something that is worn and the statement ‘wake up smiling’ can be a lifestyle.
“It is about being happily engaged with life and the world around us and enjoying what you do every day,” says Hall.
Another inspiration for the name is a meditation described by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, who says that upon waking people should smile slightly.
“There is also research that indicates the health and wellness benefits of smiling, even if it is a fake smile. And even better, the contagion of smiling at someone allows a person to easily, but generously, extend to others an elevated mood and sense of well-being,” she said.
Along with the psychological and inspirational facets of the business, Hall decided to incorporate natural themes, and even physical materials, that tie her apparel line together with the beauty of the local landscape and the joy people feel by being in it.
“I included a naturally dyed t-shirt, because it adds an unusual dimension to the line,” says Hall.
She explains she experimented with many local materials such as Sitka spruce cones, alder leaves and bark, cedar root and bark, salal berries and leaves, ferns, mint, and lichen.
“I narrowed my focus on Alder leaf dye since it is an easily-accessible tree and offers a range of colour tones,” she said.
The colour and effect variation depends on what time of year the leaves are collected, how long they are soaked, and how the dye is extracted (using hot or cold extraction).
“Personally, I thoroughly enjoy waking up in the morning and heading out to collect Alder leaves in the forest. Natural dyeing is a specialized and time-intensive process that brings a big element of pleasure to my work day, and I definitely wake up smiling.”
The use of natural dye accentuates Hall’s incorporation of local icons into her line such as orca, Common Northwest Neptune shells, ravens, dragonflies, and hummingbirds.
The clothing line features another interesting element – medieval monk art.
“I am always looking at imagery from different cultures and time periods. I ran across several playful illustrations from illuminated manuscripts and thought they were simply fun. My reaction to them as fun and playful is what drew me to them,” she said.
The last year has been spent bringing her product from the development stage to the marketplace.
This summer Hall took her business on the road, participating in North Island festivals.
“The experience has been invaluable for getting market feedback, making connections, and setting up the direction for the next phases of business building,” she said.
In five years, Hall expects to have connected with organizations and businesses in British Columbia, and to have her apparel line in brick and mortar locations.
“I have also been researching possibilities for expanding sales outside of British Columbia,” she said.
She also plans to have a web presence.
The feedback to Wake Up Smiling Apparel has been positive.
“I have seen much enthusiasm toward my concept and products, but also great generosity to open up possibilities to promote and expand my business venture,” said Hall.
The road to entrepreneurship has not been a straight one.
Hall’s early training was in visual art and music. She attended the Alberta College of Art and Design in the late 1980s and continued on into music at various universities, particularly in classical guitar performance.
Later she experimented with various jobs including being a bike courier, tree planting, personal training, and commercial fishing, to name a few.
In 2000, she went back to the University of British Columbia for an undergraduate degree in anthropology, specializing in archaeology.
This varied background made her realize that she was well equipped to build and run her own business. “I also have a strong entrepreneurial spirit,” she said.
“I decided to move back to Sointula and start my own business since where I lived was important for me. My love of our North Island landscape is a huge influence on my imagery and business concept,” she said.
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