The pandemic has shifted most recreational patterns. As many countries went on lockdown, Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, etc. came to the rescue. We binged watched and ordered takeout to support our favorite restaurants. As cabin fever set in, we traded our couches for our sneakers for our hiking boots. Some of us had to figure out which closet we shoved said hiking boots into. But hiking was something approved that we could do outside the house. While out for a hike, we could feel the warmth of the sun on our skin and breathe the fresh air. Connecting back to nature is comforting during an uncertain time. And did we ever connect! With all this renewed emphasis on the great outdoors, there is one important thing we shouldn’t overlook- our skin. I'm a member of the fair skinned burn-while-sitting-outside during lunch club. I was intrigued when I interviewed Marlene Solis. She's based in Orange County, California and is bringing a new clothing brand to life.
Marlene works in the apparel industry. She learned about sun protective apparel from early adopters in her industry. She traded the world of SPF that many of us know for UPF. “UPF stands for Ultra Violet Protection Factor, which is a rating, similar to SPF on sunscreens. UPF is given to fabric textiles. The rating number shows the coverage value. It has more dense coverage as it goes up in scale, with 50+ being the highest rating given to fabrics. American rating standards include coverage provided for UVA and UVB radiation, or broad spectrum, as these are the types of UV light that make it past our ozone.”
After learning more, she wanted to begin buying clothing with UPF. Have you ever run into the problem of knowing what you are looking for, and then NOT being able to find it? “When I went on the hunt for this specific type of clothes, I found that there are no options for people my age.”
The more she learned and researched, the more the idea began taking shape. It’s hard to have a conversation about sun protection without considering Melanoma.
“Melanoma is the #1 diagnosed cancer among 25-29 year old’s. Because of this, you would think that more people between the ages of 20-32would know basic facts about sun protection. Through my hands-on research I found out that this is not the case. This validated the need to use education as a driving force. How do you protect your skin at Coachella? At your local farmer’s market? At the new normal outdoor happy hour?”
Thus was the spark to start Floresnt. In 2020, in spite of a worldwide pandemic, the time was perfect. Armed with knowledge of the apparel industry and finding a gap in the market, Marlene got started. Building a company from the ground presents a host of challenges. Having your product designed and the manufactured is one set of challenges. Figuring out the best sales strategy is a whole different set of challenges. Do you try to sell directly to customers through ecommerce? Do you try selling through retail for more exposure?
“From experience, I knew that it is difficult to sell out of your inventory early on. In fashion having left over inventory is not a sustainable practice. You end up creating more waste for the planet even before your product is cut and sewn. A significant reason for Florescnt's conception are the effects of climate change on skin cancer statistics. I am committed to contributing to environmental conservation efforts from the start. DTC retail allows me to be in charge of the pricing. I can play with the brand positioning before I target other retailers. I can also create a community to show retailers that I have a product that will sell. This is better than going to them without having a track record and expecting them to order product.”
Marlene launched her site early in 2021. As we wrapped up the conversation, I asked Marlene to reflect on what the most rewarding part of this journey has been thus far.
“Being able to wear my products in situations that I imagined wearing them in. I did go back to the Mojave after my first run of prototypes were in and was able to wear them in the desert heat. I went on a hiking trip to Idyllwild last week and wore my Heat Hat, a sun protective hat with a neck flap, on the trails. Reminding myself of the struggles I have gone through in the last year to be able to wear these products. It’s humbling and I’m patting myself on the back for it.”
As you gear up for more time in the great outdoors, checkout Marlene’s products at florescnt.com.