Recently, we shared with you some of our favorite new Om Shanti prints. Today, we are so excited to introduce you to Joel Strauss: owner of Om Shanti Clothing, fabric expert, vegetarian of 38 years, and just one half of a lovely husband-and-wife team.
Jenni and Candice got the pleasure of meeting Joel for lunch in Santa Barbara back in February, and they found their conversation with him so fascinating that they needed it to continue so they could share it with you.
We love Om Shanti leggings for their fabulous fit, the fact that they are US-made, and their gorgeous, eye-catching art that turns heads wherever we go. We're sure after reading this article, you'll want to browse our Om Shanti selection. Now, to the interview!
Thanks so much for talking to us about Om Shanti, Joel! First things first. How did you get into the apparel business?
“Where should I start? I graduated textile college in '66, and I was in the fabric manufacturing business for 40 years. After that, I did it all – I had my own companies, and worked for several large companies in New York over the years.
Wow – awesome! That must have been an amazing experience.
“Well, it was, in many ways. I learned a lot about fabric and fashion. But at times, I had to deal with… how shall I say this? Very 'un-yogi' type people. In that industry, we called them 'garmentos' – people who were unpleasant to work with, temperamentally. As a result, I felt a lot of pressure to become unlike myself.”
You seem like an easygoing, gentle person. That harsh environment must have been hard on you.
“It definitely was. I knew I needed to find a kinder customer base in order to survive. So I got into the apparel business… oh, about six years ago. I knew some people who were doing yoga. At that time, you know, there was a strong trend towards the yoga clothing industry. Yoga itself was becoming mainstream. You started seeing it in TV, ads, movies, all over the place.”
Oh, we remember! Drishti started a good while before yoga and yoga clothing were mainstream. So of course, we were pleased to be part of that cultural transformation. Now, everybody does yoga, and you can live in your yoga clothes.
“That's right. So, I saw the window of opportunity, and I started making printed t-shirts with the help of a very talented designer and printer.
So, how did you transition into making your awesome leggings?
“I made some friends who were selling printed leggings out of their yoga studio at the time. They asked if I possibly knew how to make them. I knew instantly how to make the fabric, because of my background in the fabric industry.”
You mean the 4-way stretch fabric?
“Exactly. Four-way stretch, long-lasting, high-performance. First I found a friend with a large knitting mill and high-tech knitting machines. Then, I found the right yarn – 82% recycled polyester, 18% spandex. And of course, it has the anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, anti-odor, moisture wicking properties. It really does wick your sweat away.”
I'd love to hear more about the actual process of crafting the leggings. It's something I hadn't much thought about, being on the sales end of things, but I now find it really interesting!
“It requires ultra-fine yarn on a fine gauge knitting machine. That's how you get such 'recovery.' In other words, the pants will never bag out, unlike cotton. But for that, you need tight, small stitches to create the 4-way stretch capability. It's a similar process to what your other printed yoga legging lines, Onzie and Teeki are doing.”
Cool! I'm also curious about the “eco-friendly” aspect of the leggings. That's something our customers love, and we do too.
“It all just comes down to the original material used to make the yarn. With the eco-friendly leggings, we buy plastic pellets that are made from recycled materials. Then, we extrude them into yarn filaments to yield a soft fabric. The more filaments you intertwine, the softer the yarn.”
I think that's super interesting. You know what else I loved learning about? The printing process. Could you tell me a little more about that?
“For our leggings, we use a style of printing called sublimation. The heart of the sublimation printing industry is actually where you are – in California. It's basically a paper heat-transfer process. We create the design using a computer. Then, we print the design with special ink onto a piece of paper. We place that paper on top of the fabric. Heat turns the ink that was printed on the paper into a gas, which penetrates into the fabric.”
Yes! We loved learning about that. Let's talk about the designs! We love the latest designs – Rainforest Palms, Unicorn Galaxy, and Birds of Paradise, just to name a few.
“Thanks. You know, what's great about designs, is that it's really limitless. ANYTHING your mind can think of, you can create. And that's exciting for me. We originally started out with 24 designs, which was a lot for a couple years ago. That was when the printed legging business was at its peak, and that was enough to get us noticed. Now, we have a lot more designs, and we're evolving with the times. It's a great business. I think there will always be a customer base for printed leggings. What's the alternative? To go back to boring old black?” [laughs]
We love working with you. You own a small business, you create a US-made, eco-friendly product, and you're Joel :). How many employees do you have?
There are just five who work at the Om Shanti headquarters. My lovely wife, Jacqueline, is my muse. She's been very involved with the production, the quality, and the sense of family.
That's really sweet. Drishti also has a family feel, and we only have about six employees at any given time. We love supporting other small businesses, and seeing them grow.
Well, it's mutual. Jenni is the best. You all have it good over there. And we deeply appreciate the support you've given us over the years.
You can check out the latest and greatest Om Shanti printed leggings over here. :)