Joan Ecker is full of energy, life and spirit -- just like the clothing she designs.
Ecker owns F.H. Clothing Company in Quechee -- shapeable, drapeable clothes that she says are easy for any woman to wear -- and love you the way you are. "It's sort of like camouflage dressing," she said. "I sell to women 40-80 or 90 and they don't have perfect bodies. They want clothing that makes them feel wonderful but not showing off what changes happened in their body."
All of the fabric for the clothing comes from socially responsible mills -- most of which are in the U.S. Most pieces cost around $110.
F.H. was once known as The Fat Hat Factory. It's this fat hat that she first designed in 1979 when she was single, with two kids and living on food stamps. She drove around the country in her car selling the one-size-fits-any head hat at craft fairs. The company took off.
"New York Times picked up on the hat -- did an article about someone in Vermont making funny, funky hats. I got calls from everywhere asking, do you wholesale these hats? I didn't even know what wholesale was," Ecker said.
Her Volvo may not have survived, but her business has thrived. "If I can make hats for whatever shape your head is in, I can make clothing for whatever shape your body is in," she said.
F.H. Clothing Company earns around $2-million a year. She manufactures around 30,000 pieces of clothing in New York City and around 2,000 custom pieces in Quechee each year. And yes, Fat Hats are still selling. Ecker always gave away the hats to chemo patients after her mother battled the disease -- and now that's a hat Ecker wears herself. "Tomorrow is my last day of chemo therapy," she said.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer in January. "I have also been known for my great wild silver hair. Well, this is only 30 percent of my hair," she said.
But it hasn't slowed her down one bit. Though she doesn't always feel her best Ecker is staying positive, working -- and of course still looking great.
"There's an enormous amount of enthusiasm for comfortable, easy to wear clothing that makes you feel like you look your best," she said.
A strong, charismatic woman -- designing Made in Vermont clothes to make everyone feel their best.
PO Box 4508