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Freckled Sage quietly ramps up oilcloth exporting operation

Fashion is freckled. Sage, that is. In a few quiet years, a Philadelphia company called Freckled Sage has grown into an international exporter of colorful handbags, aprons and table coverings made of oilcloth.

"It appeals to a wide audience," says Anna Marino, who founded and operates the company from a studio in a Kensington warehouse. "Thirteen year-olds love the bright colors. Twenty somethings think it's retro, and baby boomers get nostalgic."

Oilcloth is a traditionally heavy cotton or linen cloth with a semi-waterproof, linseed oil coating, often used for brightly printed kitchen tablecloths. All of Marino's products are made in Philadelphia. She also keeps an office in her Wynnewood home, where the business got started, but she spends the bulk of her time at the studio, and is now seeking a larger space where she can combine the two.

Marino also started the spinoff company Oilcloth By The Yard to sell bolts of the shiny fabric and says she is now the largest supplier of oilcloth in the country. "There's not too many people that manufacture oilcloth products. I went directly to the source and lucked out. The company was looking for someone to represent them."

Marino funded the startup entirely from her own savings, and says her success is due to reinvestment of profit right back into the business. While Freckled Sage products are not known here in the Delaware Valley, Marino ships worldwide, and reports that her biggest exports are to Japan and Switzerland. She estimates she exported between 5,000-8,000 yards of fabric in her latest shipment to Japan alone.

Marino travels throughout the year to trade shows in Texas, California, Nevada and New York. She buys the fabric from a manufacturer in Mexico that's been making the same patterns since 1952, giving them that mid-century look.

Her first products sold to friends and neighbors at the Jersey shore "and it never stopped. It snowballed into something," says Marino, who kept up with demand by creating over two dozen items, many of which are for sale to consumers on Etsy.

She still sells her products at the Ocean City Farmers Market every Wednesday. You can purchase Freckled Sage locally at the newly opened Lodge 215 in Northern Liberties, as well as Kitchenette in Center City.

Source: Anna Martino
Writer: Sue Spolan
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