“I think we make really useful, beautiful products that are fun to use. But we’re also supporting so many local American workers as well,” Immodest Cotton founder Shira Entis says.
Back in 2009, Shira Entis saw the devastation brought to the American manufacturing sector by the Great Recession and decided to do something about it. With so many workers out of a job, especially in her hometown of New York City, “we thought that it would be important to do something – even a small contribution – to support American workers, especially in our local area,” Entis said.
In the years since then, her company, now known as Immodest Cotton, has done precisely that.
Originally launched under the company name Fleabags, Immodest Cotton specializes in “creating sturdy, useful bags and accessories that bring joy in their everyday use.” While their canvas items source fabrics from small, family-run operations in India, all the leather goods are assembled and made in the United States. Immodest Cotton’s designs originate in their studio, based in New York City, while their manufacturing takes place in a factory located in New Jersey.
“I really love knowing personally the people I work with,” Entis said. “It feels like a collaboration. It feels like I’m part of the process. It’s not happening at a satellite [factory abroad, where] you don’t know what’s going on. I go to my factory often and we’re in constant contact.”
“There’s nothing like face-to-face time,” she added. “It’s why I enjoy this business, because I get to work with so many people and talk to people and meet people – that enriches your day-to-day life and experience.”
Enriching your day-to-day life is a big part of Immodest Cotton’s business model as well.
“They’re simple goods,” said Entis, “but they’re not that kind of canvas bag that you use and put in your closet as soon as you get home.”
Quite the opposite, in fact. Immodest Cotton’s line of products includes everything from tote bags to wallets. (They’re even working on creating a leather moccasin with a factory in Minnesota!) What is notable is the sheer amount of thought and effort put into every aspect of their products.
For example, the leather handles on Immodest Cotton canvas bags are all removable so that you can toss the bag in the washer when it gets dirty. All the hardware, down the very rivets, were developed by Immodest Cotton to ensure that it works the way they are designed to work.
The leather used to craft Immodest Cotton’s leather bags very nearly deserves a profile of its own.
“From the beginning, it was really important to us to be as environmentally sustainable as possible. One way [of doing that] is using leathers that are minimally processed,” Entis said.
More specifically, Immodest Cotton uses a type of leather known as undyed vegetable tanned leather. One of the benefits of using this leather is that the leather patinas over time as it absorbs your skin’s natural oils and gains exposure to the sun.
“Basically, it’s like if you go out and you’re not wearing suntan lotion,” Entis explained. As customers use their bag, then, the leather ages, becoming darker and shiny. The resulting look is one unique to each customer’s lived experiences.
“And so not only do you kind of have this different-looking product, but it also contains your personal history. It looks like what you’ve done, your oils, where you’ve gone — that beach vacation, that time that you were out to dinner here or wherever.”
That said, Immodest Cotton sees some seasonal changes in customers’ interest in their bags. While their tote bags and canvas products tend to dominate the warmer months, there is a noticeable increase in the sales of leather goods in the winter months.
You can find Immodest Cotton’s products located in several small boutiques and larger stores, mostly located in the United States. The company also works with West Elm. But, at the end of the day, “I’m a big proponent of direct to customer,” said Entis – which explains why the bulk of their sales come from their online shop.
Looking at their primary customer base, “I would love to get a bigger audience in the Midwest and the South,” said Entis. Currently, Immodest Cotton sees a majority of their sales from customers located on the East and West Coasts. “Usually it’s an urban customer, woman, around 25 to 45 or 50 years of age,” Entis said.
With the quality of their products and the personal drive of the team behind Immodest Cotton, we have no doubt that their customer base will continue to grow. As a women-owned, small business, sometimes Entis feels as though “there are assumptions about…what we’re good at, what we excel at. Like oh, we’re good at design but we don’t have a knack for business. Or that we’re good at schmoozing or socializing, but not necessarily the numbers or the legal element.”
But with Immodest Cotton, Entis is here to prove those assumptions wrong. Offering customers American-made leather goods and American-assembled canvas goods, Immodest Cotton continues to contribute toward the fight to keep the American manufacturing sector alive and well.
“We wanted to be a part of the process of maintaining what was still left here,” said Entis, “and hopefully it’s bringing some of it back.”