Jarfette's Unique, Adaptive Designs Combat 'Fast Fashion'

By Jolene Montgomery

Carol Ann Morse is busy. With her daughter's wedding rapidly approaching, she has the dizzying schedule of the Mother-of-the-Bride. She is trying to keep her daughter relaxed, sewing the veil and designing the cake and is rescuing the women in the wedding party from their dislike of their upper arms.
"Frustrated that I couldn't find dresses with sleeves, I designed the Jarfette jacket scarf to cover my arms. The original Jarfette jacket scarf converts into nine styles by using the combination of magnetic buttons and its sleeves.

"The first 20 jacket scarves sold to women who asked me to make them one. That's when I discovered that I wasn't the only woman sensitive about my wiggly upper arms!"  

As Carol Ann speaks, I reflexively lift my own arms, making a muscle and tweaking my skin below for tell-tale wiggles. Sure enough, even after 23 years of pushing a wheelchair, I've got big 'guns', but there is still flab willing to do a roly-poly dance adjacent to my armpit.

Jarfette's Unique, Adaptive Designs Combat 'Fast Fashion'

Jarfette Creates Adaptive Fashion for All Occasions

The idea for an adaptive line came when she found a soft plush fabric and realized she could sew the same style into what Carol Ann calls the Cozy. It lives up to its name. She put snaps on the arms to make them for women who are experiencing illness or are in the hospital. The sleeves can be unsnapped to accommodate pic lines and IVs.

"My daughter was really sick in high school and there was nothing comfortable and warm that we could fit around her IVs. I realized that the adaptive Cozy would give access for tubing while helping women feel comfortable and confident.

"There is no reason not to be stylish when you are feeling lousy. I'm big on it must feel good," Carol Ann says, firmly.

Recently the Jarfette line has expanded into an adaptive line based on the original jacket scarf. It has snaps on the sleeves but is not primarily for the hospital like the Cozy. These adaptive jacket scarves are made with fabrics that work with whatever you are doing—fancy to sporty.

"On those days when the muscles are so stiff, to have something that's more adaptable and easier to get into—that's life-changing. With the invisible diseases like MS, women still go to work, and they must look nice! That's not easy. The Jarfette makes it easier."

Carol is quick to point out that Jarfette is a social enterprise brand dedicated to providing innovative fashion solutions for all women while giving back to those experiencing illness.
"I dress a lot of Mothers-of-the-Bride," Carol Ann says, "their purchases and those of others who buy Jarfette are supporting the vision of helping women feel comfortable and confident while giving back to others."

Socially Conscious, Adaptive Clothing Sets Jarfette Apart

Morse refers to 'Fast Fashion' and sheepishly, I ask what she means. That term has never been on my radar, but Carol Ann is devoted to combatting it.

"Fast fashion is all about buying inexpensive clothing and discarding it. It is clothing made to be disposable, some last for only a few wearings. Most is made overseas and isn't made to last. It is also made on the backs of real people. There is this whole world of underage workers in sweatshops, unsafe conditions, and it is really kind of dark."

Jarfette Scarves

Innocently, I say that I thought inspections have put an end to this. Carol Ann corrects me: "That depends, if the inspectors are coming to your factory, do they do drop ins? Some companies do unannounced factory visits, those are the companies that are probable more ethical. When companies announce they are coming to inspect the factory, they have time to make everything look spotless, when they drop in unexpectedly, they have a much better picture of who is sewing and what the real conditions are."

"There was a huge factory collapse in India. The workers had been saying 'this doesn't look safe,' but they would lose their jobs if they didn't work. Over 1,000 people were lost in that factory collapse. Out of these tragedies have come building codes in some places, but many factories are still cleaned up for the inspections."

All of this passion had to have its roots in Carol Ann's past, so I wasn't surprised to find that she'd been a counselor in her early years. The experience of her daughter's illness, plus her training helps drive the mission of Jarfette.

Jarfette Scarf

"My counseling background helps me hear what people are saying instead of their words. The world makes all of us who aren't size twos feel terrible about themselves. When you aren't a reflection of the world's definition of 'Beauty' you might not like to dress up. What happens when the world then says that you've got get a headshot, or you've got to speak in front of people?

"The mission of the Jarfette is really, truly hearing someone, the personalization of it. I worked with a woman who was doing a presentation in front of a large audience, and she was so worried about it, but she took the time to share and be heard. After she chose her Jarfette, she stood taller and walked out a bit more confident and ready for her next step. She wore it and rocked every presentation!  It's not magical, but I work hard to hear what people say and what they need. What are the things that I would want? I want people to be comfortable and feel confident."

I have to know the roots of her mission, where fashion = confidence, and I smile at the picture Carol Ann paints: "My grandmother taught me on her treadle machine and if I didn't go fast enough with my feet, the bobbin would get stuck. She would stand over me, coaching me. I was only 4 at the time."

"Because I was tall for my age, I couldn't just go out and buy pants. I made my own clothes from the age of 7 or 8. I saved my money so I could buy patterns and fabrics. The design parts, the creative part is really what I'm born to do. I only make one or two of a kind because that combats Fast Fashion. There's a lot of waste in producing fabrics so I try to use the ends of bolts and only make 1 or 2 of each fabric design. I've also learned how to take images and digitally print them onto fabric. It's much more eco-friendly and it's amazing."

When I ask what she would do differently, looking back, Carol Ann laughs ruefully.

"What I've learned in the past 4 years, coming from the background of counselor, is that I didn't prioritize making money. I've learned that I must make money to stay in business."

"Eventually what I'd like to do—and I only produce in the USA—is to find an autism group or brain injury population to learn the skill set of putting the snaps on. This could go to support another group of people with different disabilities, helping them learn the skills to go to work."

I ask about the latest trend for big companies to enter the suddenly-popular adaptive clothing business. Carol Ann sighs. "A lot of the current companies designing in the disability market are not really unique at this time. Frankly, they are really boring, I've not seen a lot of stylish clothing. Selma Blair has been fighting MS for a couple of years. In an interview recently she said she'd love to work with designers who can make it easier to get dressed in the morning. That's what I do."

Jarfette Top

"Often I will hear about someone who needs the Cozy but can't really afford it. I was able to send an adaptive Cozy to a young woman heading into hospice. This woman snuggled in it, loved it, and when she passed away, she was wearing it. I can't change her outcome, but through the Cozy I am able to help someone feel cared for and comfortable."

Carol Ann sums up her experience thus far in this way: "I've learned a lot being an entrepreneur. I've learned that, while many are supportive, some unethical people see entrepreneurs as suckers to be taken advantage of! I've learned to say "no, that's not what I want," when people try in impose their ideas on mine. Being authentic, the whole company is about compassionate giving and compassionate care, wrapping women in comfort and confidence."

Carol Ann sums up her experience thus far in this way: "I've learned a lot being an entrepreneur. I've learned that to many people 'entrepreneur' translates as 'sucker'!  I've learned to say "no, that's not what I want," when people try in impose their ideas on mine. Being authentic, the whole company is about compassionate giving and compassionate care, wrapping women in comfort and confidence."
You can experience the Jarfette yourself, with its 9-way convertible jacket scarf and adaptive styles, at the Boston Abilities Expo. Carol Ann will be in booth 932, listening and offering options.

For more on Jarfette, visit www.jarfette.com.

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