Michelle Parisou Manufactures Whimsical Fashions on Main
As you’ve walked down Main Street in Rutherfordton, your eyes were probably drawn to the brightly colored dresses in the window of Michelle Parisou’s storefront. Vibrant pinks, greens, yellows, and oranges in splashes of floral and patterned designs delight the viewer with beauty and fun. Michelle Parisou, the designer and creator behind the brand that shares her name, is here to share her love of color and beauty with the world. “We all could have a bit of color in our lives,” she says.
Rutherfordton’s economic history is firmly grounded in textiles and clothing manufacturing. And while most of what remains of the textile industry is a legacy, this small Main Street factory could indicate what lies ahead for the industry in the region. Michelle Parisou’s factory and store is part of a new generation of clothing manufacturing, with fresh designs, technologies, and product lines for a new era of consumers and producers. At first glance, their Main Street storefront simply looks like a women’s clothing boutique, but once you venture past the racks of dresses in the retail space, you see that there’s more to the space than meets the eye.
A giant printer looms large in the back corner, printing patterns with transferable ink onto a paper that will then be heated onto the specialized fabric for a vibrant color that won’t ever fade as its worn. The image that’s printing is straight from the designer herself, as she creates an image and then uploads it onto a software that can translate it to the printer in her shop. The fabric is custom made for Michelle Parisou at a factory here in North Carolina, and then shipped back for final production. All of their products are made right in their Main Street location by their talented staff. “People who come in to shop just gravitate towards the printer, and say, ‘wow, what is that?’” Michelle said, “and many don’t realize that everything we have we make right here.”
From their factory on Main Street, they ship the high-end resort wear dresses, skirts, and tops to their clients. The Rutherfordton-based fashion line is in stores in New York, California, Florida, the Caribbean, and other resort areas all across the United States and beyond. You can buy the clothes out of her Rutherfordton factory store on Main Street, or find her line of clothing at Classic Couture in Landrum.
Michelle Parisou’s clothing falls into the same category that was made famous by Lilly Pulitzer’s vibrant watercolor prints, but Michelle Parisou stands apart from other brands in the resort-wear genre for many reasons. “There’s nothing really like this out there, unless you start going for a bigger box brand. Our prints are extremely bold, and the fabric is different.” The custom fabric is ideal for warm and tropical climates: it is moisture-wicking, gives the wearer great sun protection, and is a wrinkle-free fabric that travels well. The colors, made so bold due to the chemical process that takes place during the thermal transfer from the paper to the fabric, will not fade with washing, wearing, or sunlight. The bright colors you see today will be just as bright years from now, and the fabric itself will not wear out or wear down over time. The sustainability and longevity of the garment is of great importance to Michelle Parisou. “It will be the same as you bought it now in 20 years,” she says. “Environmentally, our process is much better because we cut and make to order. We only print and we only make what stores purchase, so there’s no waste.”
Even though her love for clothing and fashion has been lifelong, Michelle Parisou’s brand is only four years old. “I went to the International Fine Arts School in Miami and originally thought I’d be working in fashion and events – I never thought I’d end up on this side of the process,” she said. “I had always wanted to work in clothing, my husband wanted a brand, so we decided to give this a shot.” Their journey to their shop space in Rutherfordton was a long one, and took them to far-flung corners of the world before they eventually found their way here. “We were trying to figure out how to manufacture. We had no experience in the industry and knowing from what we heard from other people how difficult it is, we thought we would never make anything in the USA. We thought we had to go overseas.” They took an empty suitcase and made their way across the globe to Turkey, to work with manufacturers in Istanbul. They assembled a team and got to work producing the garments they had envisioned, and it went well for a while. “We started noticing some irregularities and inconsistencies with the quality of what we were getting,” she said. It was clear to them that it was time to regroup. After several rounds of analyzing their methods of production and quality control, they ended up in Rutherfordton and set up shop to make their dream come alive right here. They were able to assemble the fabric manufacturers, the printing system, and the workforce to bring the business together and ensure consistent quality. In Michelle Parisou’s case, it made good sense to bring her business here because, “there are plenty of people around here who can sew and who do understand the industry. Even though the plants did shut down, the people are still here. So the skilled workers - they’re here.”
Michelle Parisou chose Rutherfordton for their factory location to take advantage of the Main Street storefront and the opportunity to have a real presence in the community. “My husband and I both liked Rutherfordton. We think it’s such a great Main Street, everything is so clean, and the people are so nice.” As their business grows, they will hire more staff, expand their online presence, and ramp up their production. We can be sure that their window displays, full of color, beauty, and whimsy, will keep delighting the eyes for years to come.