Isabel Garreton was a social entrepreneur before it was fashionable. Her company, Isabel Garreton, Inc., empowers through fashion. For over 20 years, her namesake upscale children’s clothing line has provided a dignified work opportunity for disadvantaged women from Ms. Garreton’s native country of Chile. She personally taught these women old-fashioned skills like weaving and embroidery and together they have made exquisite dresses, eye-catching coats and delightful special occasion gowns.
Ms. Garreton has impacted social change. The extraordinary women on her team support themselves and their families and have had a chance for happier and healthier lives.
Two decades into her social-impact venture, Ms. Garreton’s trusted team is helping her launch 2 new lines: Itsatwist versatile women’s accessories and handmade customizable dolls. All of the proceeds from her collection of women’s accessories, children’s clothing and handmade dolls go back to the women who created them, making each and every item a gift for 2. She enjoys her work and hopes that her customers do, too. “It matters to me that people love what they buy from us, that they will talk about it and that it brings something special to their lives besides a purchase,” she says.
With Itsatwist, Isabel offers a luxurious sensory experience with plenty of room for the wearer’s own creative expression. The hand-knit pieces highlight modern craftiness, soft opulence and surprising durability. From a playful wrap or sexy shawl to a warm hood or striking belt, Itsatwist can be whatever you make it and marks a chic alternative to traditional accessories.
What are you working on right now?
As usual, I am involved in several projects at once. I am always searching for new artisans that can benefit from our existing designs. At the same time, I am looking to bring new products to market that are meaningful in their construction and/or function.
It matters to me that people love what they buy from us, that they will talk about it and that it brings something special to their lives besides a purchase.
Where did the idea for Itsatwist come from?
It was during the process of putting together the Fall/Winter 2011 Collection for children. I was working with a group of talented women when we started playing with a knitted form that could turn into many different things and could be used in a variety of ways. I thought it was playful for children, but every adult who came in contact with it was fascinated by it, including men! As we discovered more and more possibilities for it, the enthusiasm grew and we tweaked it until…voila! Itsatwist was born. If you watch the video “How to Twist” on our website, we show how to get the most out of it. Size and age make no difference in how great it look. We made it a point to create beautiful packaging for it, as well.
What does your typical day look like?
We often deal with several countries at once, so every day is quite different. I have multiple responsibilities: sometimes I need to be extremely creative, while at other times I have to be very pragmatic. I am constantly switching gears.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Ever since I can remember, I have been transforming things and environments. The moment I understand that there may be a better way of doing something, it is hard for me not to take action. I can be inspired by almost anything: a person’s thought, a combination of colors, even the way someone hangs a coat. Every aspect of life and nature motivate me. Then the moment comes when I stop and try to articulate all these influences into something tangible and meaningful.
3 trends that excite you?
There is 1 trend that excites me enough for 3. I have noticed that today’s youth feel empowered and make a point of traveling the world. People are searching for lifestyle options that have personal meaning. They carry values that will make this a better place for themselves, their parents and their children. I do not see indifference, I see passion and curiosity. I love it.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
It was not a job, it was a volunteer program I participated in. We visited older people in retirement homes where they were barely provided enough to survive. It was difficult for me to see that. I want to help everyone, especially those who are less fortunate.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Talk! I did not do any networking for a very long time. I managed my companies and searched for answers myself. I worked hard to balance raising 3 girls and running 2 corporations. I did not learn how generous people are with their knowledge and experience until recently. I am so impressed by how much my life, both personally and professionally, has been enriched just by being open and talking to people about what I do. Networking is a wonderful resource; I should have done it sooner.
What is the one thing you did/do as an entrepreneur that you would do over and over again and recommend everybody else do?
I have only involved myself with products that I believe would benefit those who make them as much as they benefit those who use them.
Tell us a secret.
More than everything I have done in life , and I have done a lot of things, I have enjoyed being a mother to my 3 wonderful girls.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
There are so many – I see ideas everywhere. One that comes to mind is a bed I designed when my girls were born. It satisfied their sensory integration and neurologic needs for development. Friends and family loved the idea; I know my married daughter plans to use the bed for her first child. I was encouraged to market the idea, but I never did it.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
If you weren’t working on the company’s growth, what would you be doing?
It is hard to say. What I do defines so much of my time and motivation.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
I would be dishonest if I responded to this question since I do not follow anyone on Twitter.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
A moment ago I was arriving home to California from Chile. I had one of those bags with 4 wheels, and my driveway has a steep incline. I turned for a moment and what do you think? The bag had taken its own trip. I ran after it as it rolled faster and faster down the street. I looked like a cartoon character as I chased it down the hill.
Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?
Anyone with a great idea who is willing to share the motivation behind it.
Do you think you have done a good job?
Because everyday I invest myself in improving every aspect of what we do, sometimes I have to stop and force myself into thinking all that we have done well.
Who has made the biggest difference in the success of your endeavor?
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