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Local accessory manufacturer exports worldwide

What started as a small business in a garage has turned into a worldwide sensation based in Sequim.

In 1997, Carol Rutledge and her daughter Lori Erickson started The Finest Accessories Inc. out of Erickson’s garage in Kirkland.

Their product? Hair accessories — clips, hair bands and barrettes.

Erickson had been in the business before, manufacturing and selling scrunchees (called “ponies” in the biz), but gave it up to focus on her children. About 18 months later, though, she called her mother on the phone asking if she didn’t want in on a new venture.

“Lori said, ‘Do you want to start a business?’ and I said, sure. She said there’s a niche in the market that’s being missed and that’s high-end hair accessories, so that’s when we flew to France and put together a collection, and at that time — and it may still be — we were the only people in the world to have done that,” Rutledge recalled.

The pair dealt primarily with hard plastic accessories that still are manufactured in France. The line is called France Luxe.

Business started booming and in 2000, the hair industry began calling for fabric-based accessories: scrunchees and twist ties and headbands made of silk.

Rather than continuing to commute between Kirkland and Sequim, Rutledge set up a small factory on South Third Avenue in Sequim to focus on manufacturing fabric-based accessories. The line is called L. Erickson U.S.A., named after her daughter. The factory employees 18 seamstresses.

The company ships products worldwide. They are Nordstrom’s biggest vendor. They also sell to Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Lord & Taylor, and receive orders from almost everywhere in the world, including countries in Asia and the Middle East. One of their biggest accounts is in Bejing, China.

“We’re real excited about that, we’ve been doing it for a couple years,” Rutledge said.

Ironically, they have yet to receive an order from anyone in Sequim.

Rutledge can’t say what her favorite accessories are. She loves them all.

“We work with silk. We just brought in a new silk from France that is really just exquisite and it’s very, very expensive fabric, so that’s kind of exciting because nobody else will have it. We’ve got to have something that’s different because we’ve got to pull that woman off the aisle,” Rutledge said. “It’s really exciting to be in New York and have a woman walk by me with a hair accessory that was made in Sequim. That’s really exciting.”

For more information about The Finest Accessories and its product lines, call 683-4777 or visit the Web site at www.franceluxe.com.

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