Madcapz: Hats off to Carrie Bell

I have been employed in the Lufa garment factory for two years. This is my first job ever. From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., six days a week, I produce jackets and pants. The volume is so high — 50 to 60 pieces per hour — that it is not possible to keep a smiley face. My monthly pay is 2,500 taka [about 34 U.S. dollars]. I hardly save any money. In the last year I got myself three dresses. Each one cost 1,000 taka. Those were my only treats.

 –Shagorika, 18, Garment Worker, Bangladesh

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If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?

–Mad Hatter, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll 

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Good thing I made that BBQ salad on Friday. By Sunday rain had arrived. This morning it was cold enough to think about turning on the furnace. It’s beginning to feel like autumn after all. When the temps drop far enough, the maple trees around town will put on a spectacular–albeit short-lived–show. Northern California’s version of Vermont. It’s not that cold yet. But soon.

On July 17, 2011, I came across the quote at the top of this post in The New York Times Magazine. Here’s the picture worth {ten thousand} words that went with it. Please do check it out. The resigned expression on Shagorika’s face makes me think of the  souvenir cap I purchased at a gift shop in our nation’s capitol a few years ago. It has an American flag and THE WHITE HOUSE embroidered on it. So patriotic. So bold. Here ’tis:

 

But the label inside tells a different story, and mocks any tourist foolish enough to purchase this cap. The label–as you may have guessed–says Made in Bangladesh. Yikes.

I’ve worn the cap for years on my walks along the oak tree lined Iron Horse Trail. The trail follows the Southern Pacific Railroad right-of-way established in 1891, now paved over for bikers, walkers, skaters, parents / grandparents / nannies pushing babies in strollers, disabled folks with walkers or in wheel chairs–we’re all out there enjoying the fresh air and such. So there I was, in my Made in Bangladesh cap, walking along the historic American trail, clueless about how or where my cap had been made. No more. I’m mad, people. Mad enough to change my ways. But how? Enter an appropriately named New York-based company called Madcapz.

I first heard about Madcapz a few months ago via an email from president / founder Carrie Bell:

I’ve been manufacturing women’s baseball caps in the U.S. for 5 years now – and am on my third factory! It’s almost impossible to find a baseball cap made in America nowadays. Many companies say they manufacture ball caps here in the U.S., but they are actually importing the caps and then embroidering them here. My company, Madcapz, (madcapz.net) is different in that we actually do manufacture the caps here – 100%!

 It’s a passion of mine, but to be honest, is getting more and more difficult with the continually increasing manufacturing costs here.

The caps Carrie sells are adorable, with everything from solid colors to cheerful, feminine, fun patterns. Turns out the “mad” in Madcapz isn’t about being angry at all, but about finding a cap that suits each wearer’s particular personality, from fun polka dots to free-spirited butterflies.

I talked with Carrie by phone today. A former management consultant for a New York City non-profit, she began making caps about six years ago. She’d been diagnosed with Grave’s disease, her hair was falling out, and she couldn’t find any “colorful, fun” caps to wear. So she crafted her own using unique, whimsical one-hundred percent cotton fabrics that looked and felt good. She designed the caps with a low profile fit so they’d sit on her head just right (unlike men’s caps, which have a high crown and aren’t a good fit for women). When female friends and family members tried the caps on, they loved them. Carrie knew she was onto something. The caps are great for chemo patients, but equally popular with runners, golfers, tennis players, and anyone who’s outside lots and wants to protect her face from the sun.

“We sell to hospital gift shops, golf and tennis pro shops, and other gift shops all over the country. And we make the caps for lots of team walking,” Carrie said, referring to various groups tied to cancer research.

Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, Carrie explained, $2 of every Madcapz purchase will be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. But September’s still here for a few more days, so think about this: It’s Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. In partnership with HERA (Health, Empowerment, Research, and Awareness) Women’s Cancer Research Foundation (which fights ovarian cancer through research, education and special events), Madcapz has created a special edition turquoise colored cap. As madcapz.net says: “Turquoise is a restorative calming color – what better way to partner with the HERA Foundation than with a turquoise cap?” For every HERA cap sold, Madcapz will donate $3 to the HERA Foundation. Seems like a good time to learn more about ovarian cancer’s warning signs, and to buy a new turquoise cap to support this incredibly important cause.

Although Carrie lives and runs her company in New York,  a factory in North Carolina manufactures the entire Madcapz merchandise line (as well as caps for other companies). It employs approximately twenty to thirty people. “Most caps are made in either China or Bangladesh,” she said.  I told her about my White House cap. We sighed in unison. But now, thanks to Carrie, women consumers have a choice. “My caps are beautifully made and reasonably priced,” she said. At $21 each, these caps are within reach for most consumers.  

Carrie Bell began her business in response to a personal health issue, but it’s taken on a second purpose. As American women decide they’ve had it with Made in China / Bangladesh / Timbuktu, we’re looking for products–especially apparel–that’s Made in the U.S.A. Carrie’s business has doubled this year. While she believes it’s because the economy has improved, I have to wonder if the increase in sales is tied to an increase in patriotism. Either way, hats off to this determined, talented entrepreneur.

PS: I’m ordering a HERA Madcapz, but this one, for autumn, is also pretty cute. Happy shopping, CAMJ readers! Also, if anyone has a suggestion for Made in U.S.A. men’s caps, please do share. Love to buy a couple for Don / Richie C.

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