Editor’s Note: This story is part of Good Times’ annual Santa Cruz Visitors Guide 2019. Read the full publication here.
About five years ago, Kamala Allison bought a bamboo shirt for her husband as a gift, but she had no idea that shirt would lead to something much bigger.
“He would wear the shirt and comment on how soft it was,” she recalls. “I would hug him and be like, ‘That is really soft.’ The next birthday I decided to get him another shirt and some underwear. He just loved the bamboo clothing.”
It wasn’t long until her son got bamboo socks, which were his favorite. Allison says that at the time, she was searching for the next big project in her life, and bamboo just kept showing up. A longtime Santa Cruz resident, she says she wanted to engage with the community and help make a difference for the environment. When she found out about the sustainability of bamboo, and how bamboo clothes are hypoallergenic, moisture wicking and high-performance, she wanted to know more.
“It started to click that there was something there,” she says. “I wanted to create a brand around doing good for the planet without having to settle or sacrifice comfort and style.”
Allison opened Fybr Bamboo—a lifestyle store that sells bamboo clothing, linens and other local, eco-conscious beauty and home goods— in downtown Santa Cruz last September. One of the newest downtown businesses, she says she was particularly surprised by the community support she got from other business owners. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it without this community,” she says. But Fybr was a great fit for Santa Cruz, given it’s eco-conscious message and comfortable, laid-back style.
“When I was working on this concept and I would explain it to people, whether they were from Santa Cruz or not, their response was always like, ‘Oh, that sounds really good for Santa Cruz,’” she says. “But I want it to be good for everywhere, not just because Santa Cruz is a hippie town.”
Most bamboo clothing is made from moso bamboo, a giant timber bamboo native to China and Taiwan that can grow up to a meter a day. Moso bamboo is also anti-microbial, meaning it doesn’t require pesticides to grow, or even much water.
“I’ve heard that you can hear it grow, because it grows so fast,” she says. “It crackles.”
Despite her passion for bamboo, Allison admits that she doesn’t only own bamboo goods. Her closet is full of some bamboo and some cotton clothing. Allison says she hopes that bamboo will go mainstream one day, given it’s sustainability and comfort.
“We all have some sort of footprint, but how can we minimize the footprint?” she says. “We don’t necessarily all have to be zero waste. We just need more people to cut back and do what we can.”
Fybr Bamboo, 1528 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 423-3927, shopfybr.com.