Marylou Ozbolt-Storer has spent a lifetime creating beautiful textiles and impossible to miss apparel. Her wool coats and other fabulous jackets with their delightfully bold, color-infused appliqués, braids, buttons and embellishments are difficult to forget.
Working out of a charming old farmhouse in rural western Washington, Marylou is that rare combination of consummate artisan and savvy entrepreneur. Self-taught in weaving and sewing, and college-trained in patternmaking, she has had a love affair with apparel and fine textiles since childhood. To a point, her resume is that of many talented and committed craft persons. Yet along with noting her years spent as a professional weaver, and the dozens of prestigious juried art and craft fairs in which she has participated – including many American Craft Council venues around the country and the Smithsonian Craft Show in the nation’s capital – Marylou’s resume also highlights her experience and success in business.
Like a designer in the commercial fashion industry. Marylou stays tuned to the twists and turns of fashion, even though the whims of the fashion season are never directly translated into her work. Like a good commercial designer she tries to keep her line fresh by designing new apparel each year. Unlike a commercial designer, she makes each design in a limited edition."The women who buy my coats do not want to see them everywhere they go,” says Marylou. "So for their sake, and for my own energy, I don’t do the same design for very long.”
She refuses to compromise on quality. Her coats are made of top-quality wools and other fabulous fabrics and many braids and other embellishments, much imported from Europe. As a button lover, she used to buy up beautiful vintage buttons for her garments. But as the supply of those has diminished, she has started designing her own buttons and having them made. The ones she designs are every bit as tantalizing as the vintage buttons she once hunted down. "My customers are drawn to unusual things,” she says. "They love these buttons.”
Marylou’s coats, which come in various lengths from ankle sweepers to cropped jackets, are generally brightly colored and always cheerful. "My customer is a confident person, obviously, who is willing to wear strong combinations of colors,” Marylou says. Her garments also appeal to women with an appreciation of art and design.
Her many loyal customers are evidence that you can make a business out of making art. "Women send me letters all the time saying, ‘you can’t believe how happy this coat makes me feel.’ One woman said it changed her life. That’s an awfully big statement, but I know what she means about beautiful garments making you feel special. What a win/win position to be in. I feel so blessed to have found something I love to do and that also makes people happy.