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Made In the U.S.A. – Poppy von Frohlich

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Haute couture is big business in San Francisco, the City by the Bay, a hip and with-it kind of place. Lots of money, lots of well-paid high-tech drones working for start-ups. Still, since haute couture’s business model revolves around super-expensive exclusivity that then trickles down to the masses by way of knock-offs and prêt-à-porter lines, even well-paid techies can’t afford the good stuff. The reigning business model either cuts them out of the running or relegates them to looking just like everyone else. Bummer!

Branding is essential to haute couture’s business model. The more exclusive the brand the more the lumpenproletariat lust for it. Everyone wants to feel special and be perceived as one of the elite. The appeal is emotional, which, as most marketing experts are quick to point out, is why people buy things. It’s what keeps businesses in business. Luxury car makers operate on the same principle – BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Infiniti, Ferrari, Tesla, ad nauseam. People want what they can’t afford or can’t have. It’s human nature.
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This means most people are doomed to unrequited lust. Unless they marry well or happened to invest in Google when it was less than $100 a share, it’s not happening. They should just resign themselves to shopping at Walmart, Target or Forever 21.

Maybe not.

Enter the mistress of mechanical advantage, whose name is Trudy Hodges. Ms. Hodges in not only a sorceress with needle and thread, she also has a happy knack for business. She created a unique business model for her own line of clothing, one that maintains exclusivity but doesn’t require customers to hock their first-born child or make a deal with the Devil or sell their body parts on eBay.

The company is called Poppy von Frohlich. And even though the name sounds like a cross between Pippy Longstocking and the Austrian army, the designs are anything but Teutonic. PvF’s clothing spans the spectrum from avant-garde to retro, including Italian wool coats with cotton flannel or thick satin linings and cotton crochet dresses. But no matter what, it’s just about fashion, always. And it’s green: no muss, no fuss, no waste; it isn’t a line in which half the garments are destined for the dump.

Von Frohlich’s distinctive business model is based on limited exclusivity. Every six weeks Ms. Hodges allows her Muse to envelop her. She designs her offerings and sews samples of them. The designs are posted on her website. One or two orders for each size – from 0 to 12 – are taken. The orders are taken to a local factory, where they are produced. That particular pattern is then retired, never to be produced again. Since each garment is one of, at most, 24 similar items, customers are guaranteed limited exclusivity. And they’re made in the good old U.S.A., in U.S. factories using homegrown labor. No outsourcing of jobs by Poppy von Frohlich.

As Ms. Hodges said, “I specialize in limited edition and quick turn-around times, so this format could only be accomplished by using domestic manufacturing. I enjoy the factories I work with and like to shake the hands of the people making Poppy von Frohlich. Working with factories nearby also makes it possible for me to run my business from home while being a full-time mom.”

The cost of Poppy von Frohlich’s limited editions runs from $90 to $500, with wool coats from $400 to $700. Techies can afford that. Plus, they get to support a local Mom & Pop outfit that invented a successful business model, thumbing its nose at the monoliths of haute couture.

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About Christopher Zoukis

Christopher Zoukis, a young writer currently incarcerated at FCC Petersburg (Medium), is an impassioned and active prison education advocate, a legal commentator, and a prolific writer of books, book reviews, and prison law articles. While living in federal prison at various security levels, retaliations for his activism have earned him long stretches in solitary, or "the hole." While in prison, he has earned numerous academic, legal, and ministerial credentials. Christopher is very knowledgeable about prison-related legal issues, prison policy, federal regulations, and case law. He is the author of College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014) and thePrison Education Guide (Prison Legal News Publishing, 2016). A regularly featured contributing writer for The Huffington Post and Prison Legal News, the nation's most prominent prison law publication, Christopher has enjoyed significant media exposure through appearances with the Wall Street Journal's Market Watch, Vice.com, Salon.com, In These Times, The Jeff McArthur Show, The Simi Sara Show,TheCommentary.ca, 88.9 WERS' award-winning "You Are Here" radio segment, and The Examiner. Other articles and book reviews appeared in The New York Journal of Books, the Kansas City Star, The Sacramento Bee, Blog Critics, Midwest Book Review, Basil and Spice, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, AND Magazine, Truth-Out.org, Rain Taxi, and the Education Behind Bars Newsletter, with content syndicated by the Associated Press, Google News, and Yahoo News. He established three websites: PrisonEducation.com, PrisonLawBlog.com, and ChristopherZoukis.com, and was a former editor of the Education Behind Bars Newsletter. In 2011, his fiction won two PEN American Center Prison Writing Awards for a screenplay and a short story. He taught a popular course on writing and publishing to over 100 fellow prisoners. Today Christopher is successfully working on a Bachelor's Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies (Business/Law) from Adams State University. Following his 2016 graduation, he plans on attending Adams State University's MBA program. He regularly advises fellow prisoners and prison consultants about legal issues and federal regulations governing the Federal Bureau of Prisons operations. Upon release he plans to attend law school and become a federal criminal defense attorney. Christopher will not allow incarceration to waste his years or halt the progress of his life. He began his prison terms as a confused kid who made poor decisions but is today determined to create a better life. "We can't let the past define us," he says. "We have to do something today to make tomorrow what we want it to be."