Faribault Woolen Mill

My first visit to Faribault Woolen Mill was a little over seven years ago. As part of an intro-to-production training, I ventured to the mill with around twenty of my peers, eagerly anticipating what the day-to-day in a factory would be like.

faribault-mill-woolRaw white and black wool is processed and spun to create grey yarn.

If I recall correctly, we, the business-analysts-in-training, outnumbered the team working at the mill that day and the mill was producing only a handful of different blankets. It felt slow, almost as if everything had stopped just for us, although I know now that that wasn’t the case. Nonetheless, we were given an entirely thorough tour – the team proudly explained how they turned raw wool into yarn and then wove said yarn into blankets, and thoughtfully answered our questions about production, lead times, and the like.

faribault-woolCombing the white & black wool.

I left thinking I knew how a factory worked. I also remember thinking that it was ironic that a company that we would never work with was taking the time to teach us – the people who would soon be importing products from everywhere in the world except from this mill in Minnesota- about production.

faribault-factoryThe mill is fully integrated, which means it can accomplish all production steps, from raw wool to finished goods. It is the only mill of it’s kind left in the United States… pretty incredible, right?

Since then, I’ve visited factories all over the world but the simple pride displayed during my first visit to Faribault has always stuck with me. I became accustomed to factory tours where the teams would boast about the state-of-the-art equipment or the multiple production shifts ensuring product flow was consistent, but I never again saw a factory where the team was solely focused on – and proud of – preserving their craft and working with what they had. I knew they existed, but I wasn’t lucky enough to work with them.

faribault-mill-machineryMost of the machines are from the 1940s-1960s and many are no longer produced, so the teams conduct proactive maintenance to ensure they remain viable. 

It felt like I’d come full circle when I visited Faribault again a few weeks back.  I first visited to learn about production, to utilize the knowledge I gained to import product. Now I was there as a friend, with a goal of sharing the experience with you and celebrating the brand that Faribault has become. I’m a factory nerd at heart – the daughter of an engineer and a scientist/maker, I love to see how things are made. But to say that my most recent visit to Faribault was powerful is not quite enough.


Faribault is more than a mill; it is an incredible, proud community. That pride and sense of community is why I was given such an outstanding tour years ago, even though my work was indirectly responsible for the change in consumer behavior that had put the mill in danger of closing. And that proud community, combined with hard work, calculated risks, and a belief in heritage values and production, is why Faribault is what it is today.

faribault-yarn-spoolsYarn is spun onto spools for use on the looms. 

It wasn’t easy. The mill, which had been open since 1865, closed in the middle of the workday in 2009 – the middle of the day! Can you imagine?  The machines were tagged for sale to a company in Pakistan, and the building sat unused for two years, managed by a devoted caretaker who remains integral to Faribault operations today. In 2012, the mill was purchased by Chuck and Paul Mooty, local businessmen who believed in the brand and the value of made-in-America  products and who understood that the rising price of wool overseas could make domestic production advantageous again.

faribault-factory-millYarn storage in the mill. 

The mill had flooded while closed, and no one could be sure the machines were still operable, but the Mooty’s took on reparations, updating the building, servicing the machinery, and adding new machines to modernize the process as needed. But they did not do this alone – when the plan to reopen the mill was announced, the craftspeople began to return. After the mill shut down, some employees had taken early retirement and others began new careers – many ended their retirements in order to return to Faribault, and one woman who was a few degrees short of completing a nursing degree even chose to forego the degree in order to return to the mill! The mill had been, and continues to be, a multigenerational family operation, and the employees were committed to it’s revival. They returned to rebuild the mill and the brand and to establish processes to ensure Faribault would be successful going forward. 

faribault-typewriterThis early 20th century typewriter is used to transmit patterns to the looms.

And it has been. The timing was apt, of course, given the resurgence of the made-in-American movement and of conscious consumerism, but most importantly, the new team behind Faribault stayed true to their heritage and continued to put out incredible, classic products. Today, we see Faribault at Steven Alan, at West Elm, at all of our favorite boutiques and in GQ and Martha Stewart… which means that the once quiet mill now employs almost 100 people and runs production lines each day.


faribault-mill-design-boardSometimes, I wonder if this site is worth it. I worry that, at the end of the day, TAE is still just pushing latent consumerism and can do little to change consumer behavior. This trip to Faribault was so powerful and reaffirming because I remembered (again) that it’s not about buying stuff. It’s not about having all the things. It’s about community, and family, and heritage, and following through on your beliefs and values. It’s because the why and the how are just as important as the what.

Without the Mooty’s belief in Faribault, and without the craftspeople and brilliant strategists who returned to rebuild the business, and without the retailers who believed in the brand and the consumers who chose to buy this incredible product, we wouldn’t have a story. But because of all of these people, because of this community, we do. And that is what makes it worth it.


The factory store

 Original photography for The American Edit by Ashley Sullivan. Follow Ashley on Instagram!

Thank you to Bruce Bildsten and Jana Woodside for sharing the Faribault Mill story and taking us on the tour. Follow Faribault:


We’ve talked about a lot of the economic/logic-based reasons for supporting American designers and makers  – but when it comes down to it, it’s all about the connection. If you make incredible products but you aren’t very nice or your other business practices aren’t as thoughtful, I’m a lot less likely to continue to support you. But if you surprise me and inspire me, I’ll be you customer and advocate for as long as you’ll have me.

Giejo, Gabby Sabharwal’s swimwear line, is the perfect example of a brand that I love (and an A List brand, of course!). I discovered Giejo last year while searching frantically for a suit for a trip to Tulum. I was getting ready to leave my corporate job and my frustration and anxiety had manifested itself in a pretty significant weight gain (turns out, cinnamon rolls and pizza aren’t meant to be eaten every day! who knew?!). I knew I needed a new suit but I dreaded the experience… swimsuit shopping is not my idea of fun. I came across Giejo and loved the cuts and mixed patterns so I ordered several options and sizes. I was surprised at how good I felt when I tried them on – the fit was great, the material was fantastic, and the pieces were comfortable. I kept my favorites and sent back the rest – and then was shocked to get an email from Gabby herself, asking for my feedback on the fit and if she could help me find what I was looking for. I sort of expected the standard, well you aren’t a model so of course this won’t fit right, and was so happy to find that she really just wanted to understand how her line fit different customers and body types. That email led to a few more and this fall we met while I was in New York to talk about the line – which she has recently expanded to include the best cover ups and beach wear (can we talk about how good this bomber and this dress are? amazing.)

Gabby is incredible – she’s so passionate about her work and about keeping her production local and using sustainable materials (Giejo suits are made of deadstock fabric) and she also has a full time job managing PR for a huge label – it’s inspiring and motivating and I’m so excited to see what she does next!


The beach, travel, the world around me, my friends and street style.


The idea to create a swimsuit came about really as something that was initially just for me. I was looking to purchase a new swimsuit for my upcoming vacation to St. Thomas with my girlfriends to celebrate my birthday.


[gee-joe] interchangeable and multi-functional swim separates featuring versatile prints and figure-flattering silhouettes that can be mixed and matched for a unique look.

The collection is very reflective of my own personal style. I love to layer and mix and match patterns and textures when I dress and I really kept that in mind when choosing the fabrics and prints for my suits.

Another important aspect in my collection was to create multiple looks with a limited amount of pieces. This stems from my original design inspiration and the ability to mix and match prints. I love the idea of having options because not only can you get multiple wears out of say three pieces, you can also make something our own. You are not committed to a suit that is shown to you in the store. This really allows my client to create her own style, another key element to the giejo girl.



My passion for life. Knowing that I am living out my dream. Everyday I wake up and pinch myself that this is really it!


A smile


A killer bag and shoes. Also, my jewelry – each piece has a special story and reminds me of someone special in my life.


I would love to expand into mens and childrens.


I learn something new everyday – there is always a new challenge.


Listen to your gut and do what feels right to you – never lose sight of your vision.


In my head throughout the day. It doesn’t all just happen at once or at one time. I am constantly inspired by the world around me!

giejo-2014-made-in-americaWHERE ARE YOU MOST INSPIRED?

New York City. I could spend hours people watching. They are the real people wearing fashion. I always dreamed of moving to this city and I am grateful everyday to wake up everyday and experience what surrounds me.


giejo is proudly made in the USA. All of our materials are sourced locally in New York City’s Garment District and produced just across the Hudson River in New Jersey.


My absolute favorite place to shop is the Barneys shoe section!


To the islands – my parents have a place in St.Thomas and St.John, so I have grown up escaping there.


To address everything that was missing in the swim market. I tried to address everything that I felt was missing from the market that my friends and I were looking for, because honestly the giejo girl is me and all of my girlfriends too. We wanted swim that was fashion forward and that would make us stand out on the beach.


I think it is important to support the industry here. You also have a better understanding of the conditions and can be a part of the process by proximity.


It helps to support our economy and drive local businesses – I love having the personal relationships with the mom and pop stores in the garment district and my guys at the factory are like family.


I have more control and as I mentioned earlier can be more a part of the process. I can just drive through the tunnel and check-in to ensure that production is running smoothly and correctly – you have no idea how much can be lost in translation!


We support sustainable fashion by utilizing vintage and reclaimed textiles in our limited-edition designs.

Shop: Giejo | Barneys | ShopBop


Half United

I think that local businesses and companies that manufacture in America are incredible. But I think that small businesses that manufacture in America that also focus on doing good for others are incredibly amazing.

Enter Half United. Four years ago, Carmin Black and her brother, Christian, founded Half United as a way to merge their passion for style with their dedication to charity work and community service. With just $200, they decided to build a product line and donate half of their profits to ending the fight against hunger. Their expanding product line is built around the bullet necklace, symbolizing the fight against hunger. To date, they have donated 98,676 meals. 

I had the opportunity to speak with Carmin a few weeks ago and per usual, my notebook is a mess, with tangential notes written all over the margins. Always a sign of an interview where I connected with the person, and where I left with more ideas and questions than I had when I came in. Carmin is incredibly inspiring and so devoted to fighting hunger. Which is imperative – around the world, 925 million people are hungry (4x the population of the USA) and a child dies from hunger related causes every 13 seconds. This is unacceptable.

Read on to learn more about Carmin… and then please go check out and support Half United so that we can all help in the fight against hunger.



I love Olivia Palermo’s style and can really relate to the aesthetic she creates.
Leopard loafers, black coated denim with really loud flats, a great black v-neck tee. Really great quality pieces you can wear with anything.
I either wear simple jewelry ( a HALF UNITED fighting hunger piece) or one big statement necklace.


Coffee. I’m starting to embrace drinking my coffee without cream – you know you are an addict when you don’t need cream!
Journaling or reading a devotional when I wake up. I always have a better day when I do this.
Working out. I feel better and have more energy.
Sleep. I go to sleep early, I don’t care if it’s not cool.
Great music. I love Emili Sande, Lorde, Adele…
Really, having a balance is what matters!


Other designers – I love the Dannijo sisters, they ferociously advocate for themselves and have a no-excuses approach to their business. Finding fabulous new blogs. The Feed Foundation and the One Project.

The mentors I meet with on a regular basis – they are awesome people that challenge and push me in my business.

I read as much as possible – I learn so much by using Entrepreneur.com as my own personal business Google! There’s so much to learn from what others have already done and accomplished in their businesses, so I try to do that as much as possible.



At work: When I see my team working together and coming up with new ways of doing things that are more effective. When I see us working together towards our common goal – to fight hunger.

Increased sales – because this just means that we are increasing the amount of money that we give away!

At home: fun dinner parties, a great date, dinners with my friends, and spending time with my family around the holidays.


At first we made all of our products in-house. As we’ve expanded, we’ve had some really amazing experiences working with American factories and I love knowing that I can help revive these companies while we also fight hunger. That’s what it’s all about – helping our neighbors and our friends… helping their families. It’s amazing to know that you are providing a livelihood for your neighbors and to think that you can employ people you are also helping.


It takes a strong conviction to start a business and feel the odds are against you. Don’t be limited by your lack of anything – just believe in yourself and keep doing.

When you put your heart and soul into something, it pays back. When you half-ass something, you get half-assed results.

I hate when people say I can’t or I won’t. We have a list of words we’re not allowed to use at the office. These words are toxic. If you think these words, you’ve already shot yourself in the foot. If you want it, go after it, be relentless; I guarantee, you will get what you deserve.

half-united-officeThank you Carmin, for taking the time to speak with me and for all of your amazing work!

Photos via Half United:

The Edit: Gifts for Good

Did you know that if each American spent $64 on American made gifts this season (less than 10% of the average spend), we’d create 200,000 jobs? Now that would be a Christmas miracle!

Buying American-made is a no brainer for the holidays (and every day!), but I also like to find presents that help my money work harder… products that are not only made in America, but also have a charitable element. Just as with American-made, my standards are very high for these items – the items have to merit purchase in their own right, and the charitable aspects have to be legitimate and thoughtful.

Some of my favorite products… perfect options for last minute presents, hostess gifts and stocking stuffers!