During some conversations, there’s a moment of clarity. Talking to Corinne Prevot, the founder and CEO of Vermont based Skida Headwear, I had such a moment. Like many other companies skilled in prototyping and working with fabrics, Skida — an advertiser with FasterSkier — has retooled to make cloth masks. That’s the story to tell – but the fact that Skida is positioned to help Vermonters acquire masks has as much to do with the legacy of Prevot’s positive energy as anything else. No Prevot – no Skida. Joy, positivity, beauty, and commitment to community were words Prevot used with precision and earnestness.
Times such as they are, the drumbeat of good vibes was good to hear. I had to interrupt Prevot during our call in mid-April to state that now I understood why her company has been a success.
Here’s the Skida origin story in 20 words: make hats at Burke Mountain Academy, craft more hats at Middlebury, build a burgeoning business in Burlington, Vermont upon graduation. Having never spoken to the under-30 entrepreneur before, I was struck by her sunny disposition. We were, after all, discussing how Skida went from hats to masks; part of our new Covid-19 avoidance protocol.
There was something there in Prevot that made you believe in the beauty of things. If a mask can be beautiful in the context of a pandemic, then Skida has pulled that off.
“For this project, every single team member on our staff has been a part of it which has been really fun to be able to pull this together really quickly,” said Prevot. “And do it in a way that is very Skida — we wanted the design of the product to be something that we feel is comfortable but still reflects the same joy and beauty that we fill our products with in our existing line.”
Skida prides itself on its in-house pattern design. Those thoughts-of-spring floral patterns or a whimsical fish-eye print are sourced from artists whose designs are then exclusive to the company. The masks they eventually brought to market are pure Skida. Which, when you consider it, might do wonders to the collective spirit if a mask projects joy rather than the clinical world we now inhabit.
Initially, as the pandemic worsened, Skida’s staff adjusted to working from home. Provet said she began drilling down on the new economic climate when the State of Vermont sent out a survey on how the pandemic was impacting businesses.
“You can imagine retailers are closing, ski resorts are closing, people aren’t going skiing,” said Prevot. “Events are being canceled, 5 k runs aren’t happening, marathons are canceled, fundraisers, any social gathering. So, very quickly all of our sales prospects for the spring faded away. That was happening at the same time as a lot of outreach and demand for PPE was being discussed. Originally, I really wanted to create a product that would be useful for what was being articulated as what was needed on the front lines.”
Front line PPE proved a vexing pivot. Skida settled on the concept of a cloth mask. Prevot spent time researching best practices when it comes to using cloth masks and sought out expert advice to determine if the fabrics Skida traditionally uses would be of benefit. What she came to learn, and this is critical, cloth masks should be washed after each use.
Skida has this advice posted on their website:
- Wash mask after every use with hot water and soap
- This mask is a step towards personal protection, but cannot ensure total protection from airborne particles.
- Please continue to practice social distancing, avoid touching your face, and wash your hands often.
- For additional information about how to wear a mask, please visit: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus
The supply chains for sourcing raw materials were similar to what Prevot and her colleagues knew. They also began surmising how to incorporate their near zero-waste philosophy when it came to cutting mask patterns.
“We have maxed out our production bandwidth,” said Prevot.
The masks came online and the initial run sold out: their next production run comes to market Thursday, April 23. Along with online sales Skida is part of a community effort to donate free masks to non-medical essential front line workers — like employees we interface with at grocery stores.
One of Prevot’s concerns is employing her staff – who in turn have their own families to support. She understands her role in the greater business ecosystem where her employees can take care of themselves and support other aspects of the local economy. It’s all a part of Skida’s commitment to community.
“Initially, it felt like scrambling, we were pulling together fabric from different years and different places, and we’ve seen it all come together,” said Prevot. That scramble included a product shoot in her backyard Prevot called “total triage photo mode.” Yet despite the blustering wind and her white bed sheet as a backdrop, she nailed it.
Jason lives in Bend, Ore., and can often be seen chasing his two boys around town. He’s a self-proclaimed audio geek. That all started back in the early 1990s when he convinced a naive public radio editor he should report a story from Alaska’s, Ruth Gorge. Now, Jason’s common companion is his field-recording gear.