Vivian George is a singer-songwriter who splits her time between Canada and Detroit. She also works behind the scenes on TV and film sets and, more relevant to our 2013 Gift Guide, she has a company called Toast that specializes in making fashionable apparel that keeps the wearer toasty warm — perfect for those who spend a lot of time outside, but still want to look good … like news and sports reporters for example.
“The skirts are Polyfill this year, so they’re less expensive and they’re water-resistant,” George told us. “They’ll keep you warm, and they’re very slimming. That’s primarily what I have coming out, but I do have something called bum sweaters. They’ll be available for Christmas. They’re little hipster scarves for your butt. You wear them like a skirt, but they’re made out of old sweaters. I’ve been wearing prototypes for a number of years but now they’re actually in production.”
Bum Sweaters — what a name — but it’s the “Love You Long Johns” that really have George excited. “Those are exciting because they have a four-way stretch,” she says. “[It’s] made from bamboo, so it has antimicrobial properties, which means it doesn’t hold onto moisture and actually pulls moisture away from you. It has an anti-fungal [compound] that grows in the plant. It makes perfect long underwear because you don’t get swamp-butt,” George explains. “They’re a huge hit with the bartenders in the Cass Corridor. They keep the heat down in those places, and they heat up when it gets busy and they’re running behind the bar. They don’t overheat you when you get hot but they keep you warm when you’re cold.”
George says she scaled down her company intentionally by removing her product line from retail stores, which, she says, has worked to her benefit. By selling direct to consumers, she both avoids the middleman markup and waiting for remittance from stores.
“I sell at wholesale prices because of the way the Internet has allowed people to sell direct to the public,” she says. “My company is actually stronger than it was when [I] was in retail … when I didn’t get paid for two years — or ever. It’s a delight to deal with customers one-on-one.”
Recently, she gained a fan in Fox Sports reporter Erin Andrews. “Jimmy Kimmel had Erin Andrews on the other night and she was complaining that she does all these college games and the Super Bowl is going to be in New Jersey,” George says. “She’s so concerned that she’s going to be super-cold the whole time.”
Sensing an opportunity, the entrepreneur reached out to the reporter and offered to outfit Andrews for the game so she would remain toasty. “I’m going to hook her up with an outfit,” George declares.
For those curious to touch and feel George’s products, the Park Bar will be selling the Toast Skirts and Third Street Saloon will have her Love You Long Johns. For a gander at them, see her website, toastskirts.com. George has a few new ideas coming soon too.
“I really want to make muffs, the old-fashioned muffs,” she says. “It’s all about getting the right size and portability. The design is still being tinkered with.”
For more information on the Toast line, see metrotimes.com.