DandyLion creates artisanal goods from fashion industry scraps
“Sustainability is huge to this business. Every decision is based around how that decision is going to impact the environment.”
— Ashley Farland
STARKSBORO — Ashley Farland has spent much of her life making things, either curating colorful bouquets at a Brooklyn flower shop or whipping up fine cuisine in a world-renowned kitchen.
More recently, the Starksboro residents has been working with textiles and wood, crafting home and kitchen products and creating her own business, DandyLion. Farland aims to make household goods with an eye for detail and quality, much like the sharply-dressed, 18-century Englishmen after whom her business is named.
“That’s kind of our whole shtick, function and uniqueness. It has to have an artisan touch,” Farland said of her offerings. “We’re not looking for just volume, we’re not looking for this to be pedestrian. I want people who are at the professional level to look at our products and say, ‘Oh, they’re not taking shortcuts.’”
STARTING FROM SCRATCH
Farland kicked off DandyLion this past November, though she’d taken the first steps toward starting her own business at the start of the pandemic. The business owner had been previously working as a private chef in New York City, splitting time between Vermont and the Big Apple.
Born and raised in the Green Mountain State, Farland had hoped to eventually move back to Vermont fulltime. The pandemic presented the perfect opportunity to do so.
“I worked half of the week in New York and spent my weekends here in Vermont. During the pandemic it just wasn’t possible to fly, and it was something that wasn’t going to work,” Farland said. “I took it as an opportunity to take a deep dive into a real makerspace, I had been a chef for 20 years and I was ready for something new.”
With a passion for textiles and home furnishing, Farland began making pillows. She figured she’d make the soft goods out of suits, or more specifically, leftover material from high-end suit makers.
“I thought, ‘Well, no one’s going back to the office now.’ There were these designer brands and they had some of the nicest quality fabrics,” Farland said. “I started making these pillows and people really started liking them, so I kept going into that arena.”
But she wasn’t going there alone. Farland said she got her business off the ground with the help of Middlebury resident and seasoned sewer Pat Santer.
“That’s where it all started, making one pillow with Pat,” Farland said. “She trained me in that, and she’s trained me in all sorts of things — doing blankets and doing all sorts of textiles for the home.”
DandyLion now offers a variety of handmade, luxury pillows, made from cashmere, wool, linen and other fabrics sourced from high-end manufacturers. The material Farland finds for DandyLion’s products is gathered from deadstock, or a manufacturer’s leftover inventory that’s unused for one reason or another.
“A lot of times it will just sit in their warehouse and collect dust until it becomes so dated that it just enters the landfill,” she said of the fabric.
Farland repurposes the material into DandyLion’s pillows and uses her own leftover fabrics for new projects or takes the remnants to Fabscrap, a Brooklyn warehouse that recycles textiles.
“Sustainability is huge to this business. Every decision is based around how that decision is going to impact the environment,” Farland said. “That’s something that’s important to us, not only are we producing from a wasted product but that while we are in the process of producing, we’ve found a solution so that it is full circle.”
DandyLion’s wood accessories are made with an eye for sustainability as well. The rolling pins, carving boards and other wood products DandyLion offers are sourced from responsibly managed forests throughout the state. Leftover wood scraps are used for firewood, and unused shavings get donated to local farmers to use for animal bedding.
All of DandyLion’s wood products are made in collaboration with Jeremy Ravelin of South Burlington’s Treehouse Hardwoods & Millshop. Farland said the pair has been working on new wooden offerings, such as a coffee table set to launch this summer.
DandyLion will also begin offering other new products in the months to come, including a blanket collection, aprons and a toolkit. Farland said partnerships with other artisans like Santer and Ravelin have been an essential part of starting and running her business.
The business owner has enjoyed working with other makers and said she’s thankful to those who have taught her the ropes of making quality textile and wood products.
“I cannot compliment enough the mentors I’ve received,” Farland said. “Like-minded people kind of find each other, so I would say that is another benefit (of the business), building on these relationships, building a community.”
Farland’s community got a bit bigger this month, when DandyLion was one of eight Vermont startups chosen to take part in the Lake Champlain Chamber’s LaunchVT 2023 Accelerator Cohort.
LaunchVT provides business development support to selected startups through workshops, coaching and access to a variety of other services. Throughout the 12-week program, participants receive mentorship tailored to their needs and have the opportunity to connect with other entrepreneurs.
This year’s program kicked off April 12.
“I’m overwhelmed with so many different facets of business. That’s probably what I’m most excited about, is being able to touch on areas that are maybe not my skill and learning how to work with them and where the resources are,” Farland said of the program. “I’m only a week into it and I’m already blown away, my mind is racing with ideas.”
The founder of DandyLion said she’s also enjoyed getting to know Vermonters who are also starting a business.
“I’m really building a network of strong business advisors, so that’s a really fun thing that leads you into thinking about things you never thought of before,” she said. “We’re all looking for that next growth and we can pull a lot, we can extract a lot, of knowledge from one another. I already see that happening.”
Farland sees the months ahead as a time for DandyLion to really begin blooming. She said she’s looking forward to the rollout of products she’s worked with other artisans to create and getting to interact more with her customers.
Next month, Farland will move her headquarters into the Ma & Pembum storefront in Hinesburg. DandyLion will share the space with the custom leather and jewelry boutique.
Farland said she’s excited to grow alongside another business, and for the opportunities a physical store will offer.
“For the first time, we’re actually going to have people be able to come into the store, I can meet them, they can see the products,” she said. “That’s going to give me a pulse on where we are, what people like about this, because it’s all about the customer. I’m going to learn a lot from the customer base.”
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