FHS Alumna Launches Cold Weather Denim Line

Class of 2010 alumna Salvia Lani is celebrating the launch of her new denim line, Arctic Denim! We couldn’t be prouder. We recently caught up with Salvia to talk about her new business and her experiences as a student at Fairhaven School.

Congratulations on your launch! It’s been nearly ten years since you graduated from Fairhaven School. Can you fill us in on what you’ve been up to?

Thanks! After graduation I took community college classes for a year, then moved to CA to attend The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco. I graduated top of my class with a degree in Apparel Design. Since then, I have been working in the apparel industry. About three and a half years ago I moved to Minnesota (otherwise called “the Bold North”) and began working in textile sourcing for a local clothing manufacturer. I had always been fascinated by textiles, but this position really solidified what role I wanted to have in the apparel industry. After three years of working with textile mills and vendors within the US and overseas, I decided I wanted a bit more. I wanted to develop new textiles, so I got a job with a sun protective clothing company where I now design and develop UPF 50+ sun protective textiles from the fiber level to protect people from sun damage.

How did you go from designing sun protective textiles to your new Arctic Denim jeans?

Well I am originally from Hawaii and don’t like the cold, but when I found myself in the Bold North freezing, I thought I would put a stop to cold butts everywhere. As a fashion designer, I always like to look fashionable, and jeans are a staple. Arctic Denim was inspired by the want to look fashionable but also stay warm in our harsh winters.

Salvia at the stream, 2006.

How much did you have to teach yourself when you wanted to branch out into designing your own textiles?

Being a textile designer, the first aspect of a garment is the fabric. I finally came across a fabric that combined the denim look with the functionality of snow pants. I started to create a prototype in my art studio at home and tested them in the cold. I wore them while walking the dog, shoveling snow, going out, and to work. The jeans are waterproof and windproof but still breathable, so they keep you warm outside. They don’t let the cutting cold wind through, but you can also sit at a desk all day without sweating! After testing them out in the minus 60-degree weather we had last winter, I felt that everyone needs a pair of these! After that it just kind of snowballed.

Salvia and friends beneath the “Fairy Tree”.

Do you think growing up in a school where you had so much independence helped you on your path towards creating a business of your own?

Definitely! Attending Fairhaven School was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I thank my mom for recognizing my learning style and enrolling me in a school where I was free to learn whatever I wanted, at my own pace. Attending Fairhaven helped me learn who I was as a person and how to achieve my goals. Being able to spend time learning anything my heart desired and being allowed to figure out how to teach myself what I desired to learn majorly affected my life today. I have created every aspect of my company by myself, from teaching myself how to code the website, designing all the custom trims on the jeans, patterning and prototyping the fit, to figuring out how to get an LLC and apply for business licenses.

Salvia in costume during production of “Peter Pan”.

It seemed like you spent a good chunk of your early years “just playing” all the time. Looking back on your time, what value do you find from your years of playing for hours on end?

To be honest, I wish I spent more time playing! Adulting is hard. Learning does not just happen in the classroom; it occurs every minute of every day in adults as well as children. I played in the woods and stream a lot, and I learned about plants, bugs, and water. I also played with art supplies and shop tools. I learned how to sketch my fashion illustrations and how to build things. Those skills have come in handy both at work and when I’m fixing things in my house. Playing as a child also teaches you about yourself, and about others, as well as how to interact with one another. It teaches you how to speak up for what you want and what you believe in. If we took every classroom away, there would still be learning, and in my opinion, it would be more beneficial learning for our youth. Fairhaven helped me learn who I was, what I wanted, and how to get what I wanted through play, freedom, democracy, accountability, and community. I wish I could go back and learn more from Fairhaven!

Fairhaven also taught me how to speak up for the things I believe in without feeling like my opinion didn’t matter. This self-confidence has significantly aided me throughout my career and business. I know who I am, and what I’m worth, and I can advocate for myself with confidence. Being treated as an equal and having a voice in large decisions even though I was a kid had a profound impact on how I view the world. Most children do not get to have a say in most things, let alone budgets and staff hiring. I believe in fairness and strive for equal rights and safe working conditions for factory workers everywhere.

Have you applied those values you learned at Fairhaven to Arctic Denim?

Absolutely. A lot more goes into the clothes everyone wears than they realize. One of the things I am very passionate about is sustainability in textile production and garment manufacturing, as well as factory worker rights. That’s why the jeans at Arctic Denim are designed and manufactured right here in the Bold North! They are sewn by a team that makes their own hours and has clean, safe, sunlit working conditions.

Very cool! It’s been great catching up. Please pay us a visit sometime.

I’d love to! I miss Fairhaven. I wish I could just go be a muddy kid in the woods again.


You can check out Salvia’s company, Arctic Denim, at www.arcticdenim.com and follow her on Facebook and Instagram @ arcticdenim.mn. Pre-sales for the first production run begin today!