It's Been A Long, Bumpy Road Launching New Fashion Sun Protection Designs

Hi Heli Community,

I hope you all are well. I am feeling better - I've definitely had some ups and downs over the last six months as a solo woman entrepreneur, and I'm ready to share the challenges with you regarding all that's been going on with our new and existing designs.

In this article I'll give updates on our entire UPF50+ fashion sun protection clothing line: the UV Sun Gauntlets Collection (sun gloves and arm sleeves), reintroduction of our signature Sol Escape sun protection cape, and launch of two new designs the Sun Shrug and Sun Dickie, plus the Sun Bolero which is in the design idea phase. I'll also cover issues that occurred regarding my heat press, fabric labels, fabric manufacturing and production set backs (there was a fire!).

I hope this gives you some insight into what it's like running a small business and dealing with seemingly small challenges that upend the process of launching new designs and getting product back in stock on our store.

My Stahls Hotronix Heat Press Broke.

It started with my heat press which is a piece of machinery used to apply trims, logos, film and transfer artwork to fabric. I was preparing to debut our new prints for Spring season. (I have beautiful fabric in pretty prints and lovely colorways I think you will love!) As you may know, for the time being the UV Sun Gauntlets Collection (sun gloves for hands and long gloves or sleeves that cover arms and hands) is being produced by hand by me.

To prepare for production I made a mini-marker (if you sew, it's like laying out all your pattern pieces in various sizes on the fabric like a puzzle - optimized to reduce fabric waste), then batch cut the pieces for the UV gloves and arm sleeves. I added to the marker a new design I've been testing and wearing around town (it's called the UV Sun Bolero). I wanted to make a few and see what you think of it; decide if it's worthy to carry the Heliades name and be added to our fashion sun protection clothing collection.

The next step in production is applying the trim and labels. Our fans know we like tagless products when possible to optimize comfort particularly for sensitive skin, and the placement of the trims help distinguish right and left gloves. My heat press was working brilliantly until suddenly it just stopped working. Fortunately, my Hotronix heat press is made in the USA and while out of warranty (of course it is), Hotronix has a robust tech support program. However, it still took Andy (tech support) and me about 8 weeks to diagnose and solve the problem.

Along the way, I bought a nifty infrared laser thermometer and dusted off my dad's old Fluke multimeter (still works). I learned how to use these tools as well as how to completely dismantle the heat press and check connections for the temperature probe, test the controller, how to calibrate and a bunch of other thingys that probably are boring you right now. I also got a refresher about OHMs and polarity, and learned how to test and read a multimeter. At times it felt like I was in school and failing my class project!

Heliades Clean Fashion Sun Protection-Behind the scenes heat press repair, testing with two multimeters

Left and Right: Three hands testing heat probe connections. Center: Texting with Andy, my repair technician.

Ultimately I had to replace the temperature probe with a new one and reattach it to the controller board (a green motherboard), learn what Red n' Tacky bearing grease is, buy it and apply it, and re-calibrate the temperature AND the pressure again. Andy was great - a very patient soul who understood the urgency of getting the heat press operational. After running tests, I believe the heat press is fully functional.

The New Fabric Labels Weren't Adhering Properly To Fabric.

Despite diagnosing and repairing the heat press, I still had issues with some fabric trims and labels adhering entirely to the fabric. These were sample trims and labels we ordered to coordinate with our new fabric prints for our UV Sun Gauntlets Collection.

(The first step in ordering new labels is to do a sample run. A sample run is a very small order of 20 or so labels to test colors and positioning. After you test the samples with the fabric, you can evaluate the quality and determine if you want to move forward with bulk production.)

Some of the sample labels were not adhering properly to the fabric despite the calibrations I'd made to the heat press. Since our apparel is made to last and will sun protect your skin for years, we'd like all the components to last as well. You know what a cracked or peeling logo looks like on your favorite t-shirt; we'd like to avoid that if at all possible.

Heliades Clean Fashion Sun Protection Clothing-Applying fabric labels

Left: Label properly adhering to fabric. Center and Right: Labels improperly adhering to fabric.

Our fans know I'm particular about all the materials we utilize to make a piece of Heliades fashion sun protective clothing. Like our fabric, our trim and labels are also OEKO-TEX Standard 100 Certified (an international standard certifying our fabric, labels, buttons and thread are harmless to human health -- click on the link to review all the chemicals and heavy metals tested!), and made in a BLUESIGN Partner facility which monitors social responsibility for chemical and emissions management as well as occupational health and safety for employees. Our Italian supplier is also REACH compliant because, well, you can't have enough close monitoring of chemicals so they don't end up on your skin, in the air or in our rivers and oceans.

Why am I telling you all this? Because when I had the issue with the fabric labels, I couldn't just run to Joann Fabrics to find a replacement. There are many label manufacturers out there, but it takes time to find a manufacturer that meets our premium criteria and is willing to work with small businesses (read: small minimum order quantities).

Because the fabric and label composition have not changed since my previous production, we hypothesize the film backing used on the labels was the issue. We decided to move forward with producing the new labels which should be ready in a few weeks -- so strictly speaking this issue is not 100% resolved yet. I won't know if this is still a problem until I receive the new labels and test it with the newly repaired heat press.

Getting New UPF 50+ Fabric For The Sol Escape Sun Protective Cape Made.

Last October I started the process of ordering new UV fabric to reintroduce our bestselling design, the Sol Escape sun protective cape. I was unable to verify all the standards and certifications of the fabric we used previously (OEKO-TEX and BLUESIGN) and decided that if Heliades is going to talk the talk about safe clothing for your skin and being a socially responsible, sustainable fashion brand, we need to be certain our actions and decisions are all in.

Our fans know the Sol Escape has been sold out for a while. That's partly because it took a long time to source fabric partners with the proper standards and certifications in line with the Heliades brand. Like, it took a few years. After identifying potential partners that meet our criteria including the weaving of TiO2 into the fabric to make it permanently UPF 50+ sun protective -- yes, permanent as in the sun protection will not wash out in your laundry. Nor will it wash down the drain and into our oceans and waterways - you see our theme of what's good for you is also good for the planet, right? Because a garment that will functionally protect your skin from more than 98% of UVA and UVB rays for the lifetime of the fabric is not only a good investment, it is better for the planet.

Where were we? Ah yes, so now we've whittled the potential partner list to only those with OEKO-TEX, BLUESIGN Partner certifications, GRS (Global Recycled Standard) and REACH certifications where applicable, and produce sun protective fabric made with TiO2 woven in with a UPF 50+ certified rating of either AATCC 183 (American Standard) or NZS 4399 (Australia/New Zealand Standard). Phew! I should draw you a kissing circles diagram.

The next step in our fabric sourcing after qualifying our potential partner list to adhere to the above standards and certifications is to determine if the textile mills are willing to work with small businesses and will produce in small order quantities. Many won't. The mills that will charge surcharges and additional fees.

Fortunately I found a textile mill to partner with that champions small businesses and was willing to work patiently with me. We've gone back and forth for months to approve colors and I'm happy to report that the Sol Escape will be back in limited colors like light blue, pink or purple plaid, and grey. Many of you love the charcoal grey Sol Escape because it coordinates so well with the modern wardrobe and has an elegance that makes it easy to dress up as well as pair with your favorite jeans. We'll be approving the charcoal gray fabric sample soon which means the fabric will go into bulk production soon!

Trials And Tribulations With The Pattern And Sample Making Process (this is the part about the fire).

This phase of refining the patterns and samples has been going on for so long; I have to tell you I feel so embarrassed about it.

My goal is still to reintroduce the Sol Escape and debut new designs: the Sun Shrug and Sun Dickie. (I've shared updates with our fans, if you missed them go here to get our updates delivered to you.)

However in doing so I wanted to be more efficient with using the fabric in order to eliminate fabric waste. So I worked with a series of pattern makers and sample makers throughout this time. That in itself is a long process to identify local pattern makers and sample makers with expertise in the type of clothing I design and the type of fabric used.

It is often trial and error as you need to engage and test to see if the quality of the product is in line with your brand vision. There are all kinds of setbacks and sometimes we forget that the clothes we are wearing were made by humans. And these people making the clothes have lives and families to care for.

You may recall that a previous pattern maker I was working with fell and broke her shoulder. She had a long recovery period and I unfortunately had to wait until she was well enough to send me my pattern files so I could have my patterns finished elsewhere.

A sample maker I was working with, her husband fell ill and was hospitalized for weeks. A little while later, her fabric cutter had a health issue (gout) which prevented him from standing up - this delayed their manufacturing, so I had to look elsewhere for both a pattern maker and a sample maker.

But every once in a while, the stars align and you find the diamond you were searching for - and this happened when I reconnected with Lynn and she was available to work on both my patterns and samples. In short, Lynn understands my aesthetic and she has mad sewing skills. The work she does is beautiful and refined. And I am close to convincing her to do my small batch production! (Otherwise I will need to search for another Bay Area sewing factory that is willing to do small batch production.)

About two weeks ago I checked in with Lynn as the last round of pattern changes and samples were due for inspection. I could see the light at the end of this long tunnel and oh it was so bright! I knew something was up when she responded to my email and told me to call her right away. My heart sank into my stomach as she told me there was a fire in her building and the sprinkler system flooded parts of her unit. I was relieved to hear no one was hurt. There was no smoke damage. Most of her fabric, patterns and materials were up off the ground and did not get wet. But her computer, plotter and the sewing machines did get wet. As did the big cutting table. And worse, there was water damage inside the walls as it flowed from the floor above down to her unit. 

It's going to take a bit of time to get the insurance sorted and building management in to remove and replace the drywall. In the meantime, her business is at a standstill. No work means she cannot pay her employees and it's a lot of stress with the back log of projects waiting for completion.

Honestly, last week I was stunned and hit a low point. My optimistic, entrepreneurial spirit was dashed and for the first time in a very, very long time I wondered if this was all worth it. I dejectedly went to my SF Made small business mixer and was able to commiserate with other women entrepreneurs dealing with their own roadblocks. That was so very helpful.

I realize I could've gotten these new designs and products to market much faster if I'd lowered my standards or skipped some certifications or cared less about fabric waste. But I wouldn't feel good about it and that would be a very different business and not the Heliades way.

So thank you for reading all of this, in many ways it has been a cathartic process to lay this all out for you, and I feel better. I hope to have another update for you soon and especially hope to be in production soon.

Until then, please know how much I appreciate you and all your support of Heliades. Our mission remains unchanged: to help stylish, skin-conscious individuals like yourselves defend your glow - maintain healthy skin and a positive self image, and raise awareness about the importance of skin health as it relates to your overall health by protecting skin from UV sun exposure.

Thank you and talk to you soon.

Be well,


We are a woman-owned brand and emails are a crucial way for us to contact our readers and fans. We regularly provide store offers, tips for keeping your skin healthy, how to's for staying stylish and sun smart, and updates on what it's like to run a small business. Sign up to receive our updates and get 10% off your first order. Give us a try, you can unsubscribe anytime!


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About our founder

I started Heliades with the intent to combine fashion with function by designing sun protective apparel with an elevated look that doesn't scream beach, resort or activewear. My goal is to create stylish options to protect our skin every day, for every occasion.

Clean clothing Values