The Silicon Review
For every person on the planet, textiles are a part of the fabric of our every day life. In any one person’s life, there will be clothing, bedding, window coverings, upholstered furniture, rugs, shoes, and handbags, just to name a few examples. These fabric materials are composed of a range of fiber contents, from natural fibers like cotton, silk, wool, and leather, to synthetics such as nylon and polyester. These fabric items are not only decorative, but functional, and over time are often exposed to different environmental stressors that may result in damage. When this damage occurs, having an expert or specialist in fabric restoration to repair the damaged textiles is crucial for preventing these goods from ending up in landfills. Sadly, today 85% of used clothing is being discarded into landfills, and Textile Restorations is a company on a mission to reduce this massive environmental impact. Textile Restorations is currently working within two major industries, property insurance restoration, as well as with retail major apparel distribution channels to renew and extend the lifespan of fabric items. They help insureds get their lives back together who have experienced a property loss in their home, by restoring their clothing and household fabric textiles, and they work with multibillion dollar apparel wholesalers and retailers to refurbish used clothing, as well as refreshing store returned clothing that would have otherwise been discarded.
Most of us might be well versed with the retail dry cleaning process, but today’s textile restoration is far more sophisticated than that. Modern techniques require specialized equipment, experienced personnel, and a scientific approach towards the work. Textile Restorations is an award-winning company that specializes in the restoration of apparel and fabric goods that are affected by fire, smoke, water, or mold contamination. The company is a dedicated textile restorer based in Atlanta, Georgia. Initially, the key executives joined their small family fabric care business in 2003, which at the time consisted of 4 retail dry cleaning locations, a wedding gown preservation division, and an insurance restoration division that restored clothing that was affected by fire or smoke damage. Two years later, the executives had grown the insurance restoration business by over 1200% and continued on this path of incredible growth until 2013 when they shifted focus beyond insurance restoration, to working with multinational apparel distribution companies. They grew this business from a small mom and pop company with 12 restoration clients, to the largest independently owned fabric restoration business in the world, with thousands of clients, across 5 continents. They now operate under two divisions, Textile Restorations (textilerestorations.com) for the insurance restoration industry, and Renewal Logistics (renewallogistics.com) for the retail apparel industry.
In conversation with Courtney Folk, President of Textile Restorations
Q. What motivated you to reinvent the textile/fabric restoration procedure?
I think there was never a day that
we just decided to ‘reinvent’ the processes. Still, It was more a gradual shift, that developed over time from just looking at what we were doing today, and seeing what could be improved today to keep the same issues or mistakes from happening tomorrow. So, just continual improvement, like performance engineering. You just keep tinkering and tweaking and measuring results. If you do that consistently over the course of time, evolution happens so quickly that you become unrecognizable compared to what you were in the past. Big changes were driven by need. New problems came along that couldn’t be addressed with old solutions, and we recognized major opportunities were there if we could just find a way. So we found a way. And while that sounds simple, it took a lot of very concentrated focus and bandwidth and patience to be tenacious and stick to it until a real solution was born. It would have been so much easier just to give up. But we just don’t give up.
Q. What is your greatest professional achievement?
Breaking into the retail apparel industry, by taking an $8B company, who did not believe we could help them at all, from thinking we were crazy for approaching them as such a small business, to where we are now- wonderful partners who work really closely together, attached at the hip, where they lean on us to solve their problems. After consistently and forcefully advocating for our solution to address one of their issues, they gave us a shot. They saw what we could do, and began to trust us more and more, and ultimately asked us to put a location beside theirs to be better positioned to work together. It’s a profitable relationship on both sides, based on trust, communication, and mutual respect. And it’s an ever-growing, ever-evolving relationship.
Q. What exactly happens behind the scenes to garments and other fabric items during the restoration?
The restoration of garments and fabric items is a very complex process if done right. With any fire or water loss, there are varying levels of damage, garments come to us with varying degrees of preexisting wear, and every item has to be treated somewhat stand alone. Generally speaking, in a restoration dry cleaning facility, a garment will pass through about 15 processes. So inventory control and garment tracking are critical. In our facilities, everything is barcoded, and there are scan points at multiple locations and at each step of the process so that we can quickly locate a garment no matter what track it was on. From a cleaning and restoration perspective, after barcoding, items are sorted by material, color, the severity of the damage, and very often odor is a big issue with items affected by fire/smoke damage. Our sorters have a trained eye to know how each garment will best be processed. We have the standard Dry Cleaning, Wet Cleaning, and Laundry equipment, plus specialized equipment, including our deodorization equipment (patented), and at the same time, these ‘standard’ processes are tweaked or kind of souped-up for use with restoration.
Q. What are the factors that affect the longevity of the textiles?
For one, fabric content. Inorganic fibers such as polyester will last longer than cotton, wool, or silk. Cotton is not colorfast by itself and shrinks badly, so now you will see a lot more cotton/polyester blends, which prevent these issues. The fragility of the garment- if it has loosely woven beading, tassels, or appliques, is more vulnerable to breakage. With household textiles, sunlight plays a huge role in the life span of draperies. Other factors that aren’t quite so straightforward are how the item was manufactured. The most significant factors from a cleaning perspective are all based on intimately understanding the above and knowing how to apply this understanding in the context of cleaning and restoration. It is very easy to damage a garment if you treat every item the same.
Q. Can tell us in brief about your patented service?
Our patented process for odor removal uses ozone, a natural gas in our atmosphere. The standard in the industry is to expose garments to ozone in a very ambient manner. Items are hung on a rack, ozone is gassed into a sealed room where it floats around the garments, and a chemical reaction occurs to neutralize the smoke odor molecules. Items maintain exposure for 12-24 hours per cycle, and then they’re aired out and then repeat. This process is time-consuming and not uniform. If you put a suit jacket on a hanger and expose it to ozone, the exterior will receive more exposure, as opposed to the lining, which will get very little exposure. Our process tumbles the garments in ozone, forcing the ozone through the garment in a much more uniform way, and as a result, the cycle time shrinks from 24-48 hours per cycle to 3-4 hours per cycle. So efficacy is increased by a measure of 12.
Q. Please talk about your pricing model.
For our fabric restoration division, Pricing is set by the industry, and it’s a per-item price. With our 3PL division, Pricing is set based on how long each set of steps takes to complete.
Q. How do you market your services?
We are still very B2B, however like everyone else in this COVID Crisis, we’re learning to do a lot digitally when in the past, these things were unheard of. There’s a lot of value to be able to record meetings to use for reference or forward them to other key decision-makers.
Meet the leader behind the success of Textile Restoration
Courtney Folk is a mom, wife, and business person. She is the President of 2 organizations, Textile Restorations and NARD (North American Restoration Drycleaners), co-founder of a third- Renewal Logistics, and owner/business partner of a fourth – Beam Electronics. Courtney loves to do business and she is very good at growing organizations and growing things in general. Even on the most intense day, where everything has gone wrong, she always loves what she does, and thinks of business as a game that is just so fun to play. Courtney is an excellent leader, and she loves to see people grow.