The Valdosta Daily Times
When Lauren Dykstra met Samuel Clements at the Blue Sky Bar & Grill, she was wearing a bear jacket, complete with a bear head as a hood.
“When I started out, I didn't know how to make the jacket, much less the head,” said Dykstra.
Dykstra decided to build one after seeing a character on the television show Workaholics wearing one. Clements, a fan of the show, got the reference.
A few hours later, they decided to be best friends.
When she got a few requests for a bear jacket, Dykstra made a few more, teaching Clements how to sew and construct them.
“It took me two, three months to pick it up,” said Clements. “My grandmother made a living by sewing, so I had an idea of how it worked.”
They hit upon the name Cold Veil—“It just sounded good”—and started offering custom coats and vests, with customers able to decide on the colors they want, the lining, the pockets and the fit.
"We were just messing around; we didn't think there'd be many people who wanted these.”
But a posting on their Etsy page got 45,000 views. A posting a happy customer made on Internet site Reddit ended up with 15,000 “upvotes,” which is how Reddit users recommend a post to other users.
Now, they estimate they've sold 35 coats and vests. While the bear coat is their most popular item, having sold 15-20 of them, it's hardly the only thing they manufacture. They've made zebra coats, lion coats, tigers, wolves, owls, a zombie bear, even a sabertooth tiger that is in the middle of production.
All of the coats are hand made. The faux fur is ordered in the U.S.; for the glow-in-the-dark teeth and claws, they use a vendor who molds them from a grizzly bear jaw and claws. The rest is a lot of hard work.
“We want to make sure people love what we do,” said Dykstra. “Each coat takes about 16 hours, but when I started out, it was more like 20-24 hours.”
Dykstra and Clements research each animal, studying it to get the face and eyes right.
“We spend so much time in production, we don't get a chance to try out new things without an order,” said Dykstra.
Dykstra grew up around art and going to art festivals. Her mother, Lisa, is an artist, working with glass, painting, sandblasting, a little sculpture. Clements grew up with a love of the woods and the outdoors, with an interest in taxidermy.
With each coat/vest being custom made for the customer, customers don't have to worry about running into someone wearing the same thing.
“A lot of customers keep in touch with us, sending us pictures of our babies out in the wild,” said Dykstra. “We spend so many hours on each one, we're a little sad to see them go.”
Though they've been creating coats/vests based off of real animals, they've also had a request for a unicorn coat and a Pokemon coat.
“We're open to crazy ideas,” said Clements.
The word has been getting out, with Dykstra and Clements being invited to provide a promo for their work for the gift bags at the 34th annual Sports Emmy Awards.
Their orders ship out internationally, with custom orders coming from Canada, Australia and Guam, as well as the States. Even with being world-wide, they're still rooted in south Georgia, where they build the coats.
“Everyone has been really supportive of us,” said Clements.
“People see us around and say, 'Hey, you're the bear jacket guys,'” said Dykstra. “We try to support local businesses as well.”
On April 20, they'll be opening up Old Money, a half gallery/half store for art and local artists, which will feature their own work, along with many other artists.
The two of them run the company on their own, but they could see that changing down the road, hiring on more artists to aid in construction, offering more products: hats, snake-skin belts, even a line of bear jackets for kids. They also have plans for Game of Thrones/Spartacus inspired designs, working in leather, fur and possibly alligator skulls. Ultimately, they'd like to get into costume design, working for films and television shows to produce unique, custom pieces. But for now, they've got more orders and many hours of hard work and sweat in front of them.
“It's a great job,” said Dykstra. “I get to hang out with my best friend, listen to music, all while paying my bills.”