When her son began screaming and refusing to get dressed each morning before kindergarten, a Grand Rapids mom took a hard look at the clothes he was wearing and decided she could do better.
Karly Hiser is founder of Crann Apparel, a new children’s clothing line sold at crannapparel.com. Crann Apparel offers gentle and sustainable children’s T-shirts and boxer briefs on its website, ranging in size from extra-small through extra-large, with colors and names inspired by Michigan’s natural beauty. A full clothing line will be available later this year, including boys’ and girls’ jogger pants, sweatshirts and more T-shirt colors.
“Getting dressed in the morning was the biggest struggle because my kids’ clothing was irritating their skin,” Hiser said. “When I couldn’t find materials that would be good for their skin and good for the environment, I set out to create it myself.”
While researching solutions, Hiser discovered polyester is made of plastic and a major factor in sweating and skin irritation. She discovered gentle, plant-based alternatives such as TENCEL lyocell, organic cotton and hemp are perfect for children with eczema and other skin sensitivities. Busting out her grandmother’s 1957 sewing machine, she began playing around with different fabrics and patterns and made some soft and itch-free underwear for her son. Then, she added on T-shirts.
“My son has been very involved in the whole process,” she said. “He told us, ‘I just want to be dressed head to toe with super comfortable clothes.’”
Before long, her friends and neighbors were requesting she make clothing for their children, too, and Hiser knew she was onto something.
“This just started out as a labor of love for my own children and close friends,” Hiser said. “As the demand grew, I knew there was an opportunity to help more families with better clothing options, so I went all in.”
Throughout her research journey, Hiser also learned more about fast fashion and decided to create a children’s line with not only comfort, but sustainability and ethical labor at the forefront. TENCEL lyocell, for example, is harvested from eucalyptus trees in an area of Austria where the forests are sustainably managed.
Hiser incorporated Crann Apparel in October 2019 and then, like the rest of the world, experienced supply chain issues during the pandemic that slowed everything down.
“It’s been quite a journey, especially to launch with manufacturing during a pandemic,” she said.
Crann Apparel used a cut-and-sew manufacturing partner in Lansing for the first line of clothing and is using a manufacturer in India for the extended line coming out this fall so that she can offer more competitive pricing. Crann’s manufacturing partners adhere to the World Fair Trade Organization’s (WFTO) 10 principles of fair trade, which include fair payment, good working conditions, commitment to nondiscrimination and respect for the environment.
Hiser said the manufacturers she uses also operate in a closed-loop system in which the chemicals to process the raw materials are reused for multiple cycles to reduce waste.
The brand also ships every customer order in a reusable poly mailer made of 100% recycled material. Plus, Crann Apparel donates 1% of all sales to 1% for the Planet, a global nonprofit dedicated to funding environmental organizations that protect natural resources.
Crann Apparel has received feedback from mothers of children with eczema and sensory issues that the clothing has helped them, and the T-shirts so far are the best-selling item in the store.
Hiser still works as a pediatric nurse practitioner at Spectrum Health on top of running her business. She said she could see herself eventually hiring employees and expanding Crann Apparel to include adult clothing, but for now, the business will continue to focus on children’s apparel.
“We would love to scale someday,” she said. “Right now, we’re direct-to-consumer, so (the products are) available on our website. If you sign up for our mailing list, it’s 20% off your first order, and then you’ll be the first to know about new launches in the future.”
More information is at crannapparel.com.