NEW YORK — Budding entrepreneurs Vanessa Schenck and Kate McCarthy know a fashion dilemma when they see one.
The duo launched the Girl 32 line of knitted winter hats with a special, yet simple, feature — a hole in the back of the hat for women to slip their ponytails through.
“I have always had long hair and I have always struggled with the fact that you can’t wear a knit winter hat if you have your hair up in a pony tail,” said Schenck, 34.
Faced with a particularly cold winter day, Schenck put her blonde tresses up, rummaged through her closet and picked out a knitted hat. She said the idea hit her like a “lightning bolt.” She took her scissors, snipped a hole into the back of the hat and safety-pinned it together.
“I thought, voilà, this is the idea,” she quipped. “I then decided, if I am going to do it and I am going to market it, I need to have a designer.”
Enter McCarthy, 33, who was Schenck’s roommate at the University of Oregon and became her best friend. Post-college, Schenck worked in event planning in Seattle while McCarthy immersed herself in Seventh Avenue, working for J. Crew, Calvin Klein, Abercrombie & Fitch and Tommy Hilfiger. When the two friends quit their jobs, got married and had kids at the same time, they knew that fate had intervened, so they teamed up for Girl 32. The pair applied for the patent and formed the company about a year ago.
The lambswool hats are finished with Swarovski buttons in the back, and come in bright colors, including pink, black, blue, purple and green. Wholesale prices range from $32 to $38, and first-year retail sales projections are about $100,000.
The collection is available on the company Web site, girl32.com, and Schenck and McCarthy are targeting specialty boutiques and sportswear and activewear stores.
As for Girl 32’s potential, McCarthy said: “The obvious progression will be scarves and gloves for next season. We want to keep with the concept, which is intelligently designed product. There will be a design element that will make it different from what’s out there.”
The line’s name has a particular significance. Thirty-two was the number of the college apartment they shared. “We are the girls from apartment 32,” McCarthy said. “It’s just reminds us of where we started.”