By Greg Carannante
City & Shore Magazine
Two apparel companies, two different styles. Both home-grown, both springing from adversity.
Cotton King Inc.
2501 NW 17th Lane, Suite B, Pompano Beach, cottonkinginc.com.
This promotional marketing and apparel company was born from a bad break. In a distinctly South Florida scenario, professional wakeboarder Weston Cotton was sidelined with a shoulder injury in 2006 when a friend asked him to create a line of shirts for his Palm Beach marina.
A graphics design student at Palm Beach Atlantic University, Cotton had the art part down but was clueless about getting it onto shirts. A referral from a previous sponsor, Island Water Sports, led him to Tom King, owner of OBU Custom Team Outfitters, which printed the surf shop’s private label apparel. Soon, the two began collaborating on printing shirts for other marinas and fishing companies.
“After about six months, we decided to have a business dating relationship,” says King, 53, who had started OBU in his garage five years earlier. Cotton King Inc. began as the sales engine for OBU’s products, and after Cotton graduated, the two companies were merged. Three years ago, King bought out his partner, though they are still close friends.
“Screen printing on T-shirts is by far our biggest income stream,” King says, but that may be changing soon. Recent equipment purchases have expanded the business into full-color digital and high-quality image printing on everything from car wraps to canvas painting reproductions to mugs.
“We produce 98 percent of what we sell in our 6,000-square-foot shop,” King says, which has a small showroom and in-house graphic designer. Most customers are local and pick up orders onsite. It’s that local business that keeps Cotton King Inc. in South Florida, King says, and customer service that keeps that business growing.
“We stand behind everything we do. Even when the customer makes a mistake, we will offer to help out on the cost of reprinting.”
3285 SW 11th Ave., Fort Lauderdale, belledamour.com.
Belle D’Amour lingerie is laced with a flounce of frilly history that, as designer-owner Nicole Travert tells it, traces back to the origin of the tutu.
Le Tulle Prilliez, her great-grandparents’ factory in the French lace capital of Tulle, found fame a couple of centuries ago when its gossamer fabric was discovered on the little skirt of a Parisian ballet dancer and became known as the “tutu,” a children’s word for “bottom” that became a diminutive for “tulle.”
“Sadly, it was all lost after the war,” she says of her ancestors’ company.
After several stops and starts, it was another loss that inspired the native Parisian to revive the family tradition in Fort Lauderdale and reimagine it into a luxurious line of lingerie.
“I have always loved designing, fashion and most of all, exquisite lingerie,” says Travert, who began Belle D’Amour in 2015 while grieving the loss of her mother. “The only thing that consoled me was drawing and designing down to the smallest details. It made me realize how fragile life is. She had not been able to do what she dreamed about. I decided that I had to do what I had always wanted.”
Since then, her “beautiful love” has grown, thanks to exposure at runway shows in New York, including the largest, CurvExpo, and at Fort Lauderdale Fashion Week earlier this year.
The website’s “Shop Instagram” page accommodates shoppers, and Travert says she plans to open a salon in the coming months. Ready-to-wear and plus-size collections are also in the works. Selling mostly to stores, Travert also reserves many one-of-a-kind pieces for exclusive specialty shops.