Shapeshifters: Made to fit in Brattleboro (with VIDEO)
BRATTLEBORO — The owners of Shapeshifters have found a perfect fit here.
Eli K. Coughlin-Galbraith and Krista E.S. Coughlin-Galbraith started the company — which offers custom-sized fitted spandex shapewear to support or compress the chest — in 2014 in a Brooklyn, N.Y., apartment, then moved to New Jersey. The married couple and business partners settled in Brattleboro in April 2016.
The company has only grown since moving into industrial space inside the Cotton Mill in September 2017. Customers send in their measurements and products are made to order.
"In our dining room, we could only do so many of those at a time and our making time was pretty slow so we had a wait list," said Eli, noting that the waiting time has gone from about two months to two or three weeks. "And that's been one of the biggest benefits of moving into the Cotton Mill: The production capacity is so much greater."
The couple estimated Shapeshifters would surpass about 2,000 pieces in sales before the year was over. Krista said the company has expanded into other spandex gear including leggings and dresses.
Also, it was commissioned to create costumes for "The Flying Nut" production put on by New England Center for the Circus Arts. But "we won't give away what the characters are so you can be surprised," said Krista.
Eli and Krista have been married for four-and-a-half years. During Eli's gender transition, they tried out chest binders that were on the market and none of them fit so they took one apart and figured out how to make one of their own.
Eli identifies as nonbinary and uses the pronouns "they" and "them." Krista identifies as "genderqueer" and uses the pronouns "she" and "her."
Eventually, Eli put the homemade chest binders up for sale on etsy.com. Living with other artists, who likewise put stuff up for sale on the website, Eli was the only one who found traction there.
"Somewhere in year two, Krista said, 'I want a bra that fits,' so we started making sports bras," said Eli.
The couple's former roommates have since found success in different ways, according to Krista.
Prior to making Shapeshifters her full-time gig, Krista attended beauty school and worked in a salon for about two years.
"That didn't work," she said laughing.
Eli served as a Japanese-to-English translator in a law firm's immigration department. They would come home from work and start sewing.
About a yard and a half of fabric is needed to make a chest binder or sports bra at Shapeshifters. Two different fabrics are used on each piece.
In a 40-hour work week, the team of three makes about 60 pieces. The couple have another person on staff.
Eli's father has a place in Townshend the couple would visit during the summertime.
"Whenever we were feeling a little too isolated and needed more civilization, we would come down to Brattleboro," said Krista.
The couple could run their business anywhere and knew they loved the town.
"We had the rare chance to live where we wanted and we wanted to live here," said Eli.
Krista recalled it was snowing the weekend they arrived in Brattleboro. The couple attended the annual Cotton Mill Arts Open Studio and Holiday Sale and contacted the Brattleboro Develeopment Credit Corp. about leasing space in the building.
Eli said that for now, the space is "perfectly adequate" for the company's needs. And there's room to grow.
"We could put in another machine," Eli said. "We could put in another table. I still have hopes and ambitions for this space."
Products can be viewed and purchased at shapeshifters.co.
Reach staff writer Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
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