Dreamers into Doers: Feel-Good Fabrics

Martha Stewart Living, August 2010

If you think it takes years to get a start-up going, think again. Gina Pantastico, left, and Michelle Engel Bencsko, right, conceived and launched Cloud9 Fabrics, their eco-friendly textile company, in just three months.

The friends, garment-industry veterans, noticed a lack of organic options for crafters and sewers. "We wanted to bring organics to the foreground, so everyone could understand why they're better," Engel Bencsko says. "We believed strongly enough in the project to say 'Let's just do it.'"

From their homes in northern New Jersey, Engel Bencsko (who handles design) and Pantastico (who oversees production and sales) introduced Cloud9's first collection in April 2009. Called My Happy Garden, the eight prints feature fluffy clouds and cheerful birds and were created with nurseries in mind. Beyond the Sea, their second collection, is still playful, but a bit more grown-up, with renderings of coral, sea urchins, and sand dollars.

The founders, both parents, wanted their fabrics to be as ecologically responsible as they are good-looking. All are 100 percent organic cotton printed with low-impact dyes. (Cotton is one of the world's most chemically treated crops.) Pantastico recently used the fabrics to decorate the nursery of her 7-month-old daughter. "This company is my baby as well," she says. "Knowing we're offering this to other moms makes me feel good."

Fabrics: Sand Dollar (polka dots), Urchin, Sandpiper, Pearl, and Pod (on top), cloud9fabrics.com.

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