Funny Name, Serious Protection
Launched in February, Pang Wangle offers stylish clothing options that protect against pests.
In April our sales went up 283%, so that was our biggest month.
Jennifer John, founder of Pang Wangle
Swatting mosquitoes and scratching bug bites are so last season. And covering yourself with toxic bugspray can be harmful, sticky and an irritating mess. Local documentary filmmaker Jennifer John knew there had to be a better way.
An avid traveler and outdoor enthusiast, John came up with the idea of combining lightweight, eco-friendly insect-repellent fabric and chic, casual design elements in a line of stylish and functional clothing. Her new company, Pang Wangle (a verb that means to live or go along cheerfully in spite of minor misfortunes) was born.
“I came up with the idea for Pang Wangle in June 2017 and started selling our first product, the Journey Scarf (a hidden-pocket scarf with built-in Insect Shield bug repellent) in December 2017,” she said.
For two more years, John set about fine-tuning a line of wraps, scarves, accessories and more, before officially launching Pang Wangle in February of this year.
“We had a launch party at the Tchoup Yard Patio Bar in March, right before everything shut down,” she said. “So, you could say I had our ‘minimum viable product’ on sale while I was developing the brand and working on product development.”
Each piece in the collection is designed for hot, buggy climates, and is infused by Insect Shield, a product that contains a clinically safe and effective repellent called Permethrin.
“We partnered with Insect Shield to add bug repellent into our clothes,” John said. “Insect Shield was first developed for the U.S. military about 15 years ago, and the company licenses the proprietary technology to other private companies.”
Pang Wangle items can be safely worn by all members of the family, including kids, infants and pregnant moms, and is effective after more than 70 washes. Prices range from $34 for the Journey scarf to $64 for pants. While insect repellent clothing is not unique, for John, it was essential to make her line both useful and stylish.
“You can find the same Insect Shield technology we use in outdoor brands like Columbia and ExOfficio,” she said. “But we think bug repellent clothes aren’t just for safaris and backwoods camping anymore. In many climates, like New Orleans, they’re an everyday need. We just don’t want to wear hiking pants every day.”
The clothing is designed in New Orleans, manufactured in Los Angeles, and treated with Insect Shield in North Carolina.
“I have an idea of the look I’m going for with each product and then find the expertise to create the design and samples,” she said. “I drew the Journey Scarf on a piece of paper and then worked with Brianna Henry at NOLA DDM to iron out the details and get it made. I then worked with Jessica Osborn of the Privy label to finalize the designs for our wraps and scarves. I work with a team in Los Angeles to design our custom, eco-friendly fabrics, and I found a cut-and-sew manufacturer in Los Angeles to manufacture the products.”
Sales so far indicate a desire for fashionable clothing that is also functional. In addition to the Pang Wangle website, the clothing can be purchased on Amazon, and locally at Phina and Bywater Clothing. Other retailers are expected to be added later this summer.
“These products are so new, it’s hard to have an average month,” John said. “I can say that we have been steadily growing and increasing our sales each month for eight straight months. In April our sales went up 283%, so that was our biggest month.”
Pang Wangle has weathered the COVID-19 storm, as well, with online customers coming back for more, according to John.
“For people who get chewed up by bugs, like me, it’s so nice to have another option besides bug spray,” she said. “We get a lot of repeat customers who come back to buy products for their friends or family members. I actually put a lot of time into interacting with customers. I’ve had Zoom calls with some of our repeat customers just to hear more about why they chose our products and what other products they would like to see.”
Looking forward, John hopes to add new fabrics, clothing items and sun protection to the collection.
“We have an incredible new fabric we have been developing that is super lightweight, silky, almost cool to the touch, and it offers UPF 50+ sun protection,” she said. “We’re working on a tunic top for that fabric. Something you could wear by itself or layer on a hot day when the bugs are out. We also have pants in the works which will be out next spring, and we are adding several new colors to our wrap and scarf collections.”
Originally from Maryland, John moved to New Orleans in 1998 for a career in media, and said her skills that have helped her navigate the world of owning and running a small business of her own.
“I have become very familiar with contracts, licensing, hiring subcontractors, managing people, clients, grant writing, accounting — all the things that go into a small business,” she said. “With Pang Wangle, I had a big learning curve when it came to textiles and manufacturing, but I enjoy learning new things. I crave the challenge and I like a lot of moving parts. That’s kind of my natural habitat.”
Did you know?
Permethrin is an insecticide in the pyrethroid family. Pyrethroids are synthetic chemicals that act like natural extracts from the chrysanthemum flower.
Permethrin is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system.
The EPA deems Insect Shield® products safe for the entire family with no restrictions for use, even for pregnant and nursing women, infants and kids of all ages.