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Santa Cruz Sentinel 9/5/97

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From the original six, she expanded her palette of colors to 36, picking from nature, classical art, current fashion, and client requests. Among them are: "purple heart", "wasabi", "Oklahoma", "brick path", and "lava"—all colors she named herself.

The clothes aren't dyed on the premises; they're sent to three different commercial and professional dyehouses, a process with a several week turnaround time. Smilo works closely with the dyemasters in regards to the fabrics and colors.

Her business now averages about 100 pounds a week. Black is the most requested color—and the most practical for covering stains, says Smilo. It's also a big market for her; maids' uniforms, bartenders' uniforms, and hotel workers' uniforms all tend to be black. "Instead of spending $75 for a new uniform, it's $8 or $9", says Smilo.

Johnny Cash, with his wardrobe of black, would love her. "He's my dream, too", quips Smilo. For an "elegant" look, Smilo overdyes black items with eggplant or dark purple. For best results, it's easier to go from light to dark colors. The dye works best on cotton, linen, rayon, and hemp. Polyester/cotton blends produce a heather effect. (The polyester thread retains its original color.) In dyeing, the items go through a hot water wash and a hot dryer process. In other words, beware of shrinkage.

Smilo charges by the pound; a pound is $13.90 and requires a one pound minimum charge. It's not just single moms trying to save money who bring clothes to have recycled in a new hue. "My clients arrive on the bus and in Jaguars", Smilo says.

Keller, with her bathrobe, says, "Sometimes I'll find an item brand new in the store and love it, but doesn't go with anything I have", says Keller. She even takes her socks in to get dyed. "All the layers, whatever it takes", says Keller.

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