Weekly Briefing: Finding Resonance in Home Textile Business

Twenty-five years as a medical technician was enough for Debra Weiss, a single mother of three. So two years ago she decided to make use of her interest in textiles and created Rebe (rhymes with Debbie), a handbag, clothing and accessories line using colorful vintage and Asian-inspired fabrics. The pieces, which include cotton tank tops and bottoms, silk skirts, diaper bags, handbags, checkbook covers, wallets and cosmetic cases, are designed to complement each other. The goods are sold in L.A. boutiques Tres Jolie and Fred Segal Fun. Weiss runs Rebe out of her Woodland Hills home, and still puts in 15 hours a week as an ultrasound technician.

"Our look is to blend what is casual, practical and feminine. I take a lot of ideas from the '50s and alter it to current times, so it's functional. I recently started picking up old kimonos and am using the fabric for a clutch purse line.

"I still work two days in the medical field and do a lot of my designing in the car between appointments. I always think three-dimensionally, and ideas come to me in colors and patterns. I wander through swap meets and vintage stores I prefer that to magazines because I like to feel things.

"Our bloomers, which can be worn as yoga or exercise pants, retail for $72. One-of-a-kind checkbooks and wallets sell for $40 to $50. Handbags, also one of a kind, all have inside linings that are different from the outside and sell for around $140. Cost-wise, our products are a bit higher, but people get something nicer and more unique.

"Eventually I'd like to own a retail store. I'm in the process of obtaining a small business loan and have managed to survive my first year on low interest credit cards and a home equity loan. Last year I did $19,000 altogether. My goal this year is to do $10,000 a month. We've gotten $8,500 the last two months so we'll be pretty close to our goal. My next goal is to do $30,000 a month so I can live off it."

Samantha Lee

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