The first time Amanda John glimpsed a Barefoot Dreams blanket, she was watching “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” “Khloé was wearing her little leopard blanket and I was like, ‘What is that?’ Then, when I Googled it, I had a little bit of sticker shock,” mentioned Ms. John, 32, who lives in Atlanta and whose weblog, Strawberry Chic, focuses on “sharing style for the everyday girly girl.”
Ms. John acquired a present card, then waited for a sale, to lastly purchase her personal. Now, “I have two or three of the blankets, maybe. I have a robe. I think two cardigans,” she mentioned. “I’m pregnant right now with my first, and I’ve even got her first Barefoot Dreams blanket ready to go.”
To take a look at the unassuming blob of oatmeal-colored fuzz is to not perceive why celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Kate Hudson and Chrissy Teigen swaddle themselves in Barefoot Dreams; why the blankets constantly promote out throughout Nordstrom’s massive annual sale; why bloggers, influencers and YouTubers painstakingly weigh the $180 price ticket with their followers.
But after a brutal winter, closing out Year 1 of a pandemic, many have sought reduction within the nubby cloth: a nation of Linuses with blankets unfold throughout laptopped laps, grasped tight in anxious fingers.
“It is the ultimate comfort lifestyle brand,” Melia McGee, the merchandise director of dwelling items at Nordstrom, wrote in an e-mail of Barefoot Dreams. “We see a lot of repeat customers for the brand who may start out by purchasing an entry item like pair of slippers, and expand their collection to include multiple throw blankets for every room in their house.”
“That’s obviously where I’ve spent more of my money — having this sense of feeling comfortable and cozy during a time that is kind of traumatic,” mentioned Kelsey Boyanzhu, 29, who blogs for Blondes & Bagels in San Francisco. “I make money from affiliate links on my website and I’ve absolutely seen a shift. I saw traffic to some of my most popular fashion posts plummet off a cliff.”
But her December 2020 publish, “Are Barefoot Dreams Blankets Worth It?” is now one in every of her hottest. “We’re not necessarily looking for a handbag in the same way that we’re looking for a blanket,” she mentioned.
‘It’s Very Spongy’
While Barefoot Dreams solely not too long ago appears to be in all places, it was really based in 1995 by Annette Cook, a mom of younger youngsters who began a line of child garments and merchandise from her storage in Burbank, Calif.
She traveled to commerce exhibits in Las Vegas and boutiques across the nation, and he or she trademarked the time period “CozyChic” in 2002. In 2003, Oprah Winfrey named the gown one in every of her “favorite things.”
Ms. Cook died in 2012 from most cancers, however her husband, Stan, has remained on as C.E.O., her brother-in-law Steve serves as gross sales director, and her son Grayson, 25, has joined the enterprise.
“She put her whole life into this,” Steve Cook mentioned. “She hasn’t seen what it is today, but she had a pretty good idea of what was happening and where it was going.”
Thanks partially to the corporate’s P.R. agency, Rogers & Cowan, a parade of celebrities now publish Barefoot Dreams blankets; right here’s Kate Hudson’s teenage son, Ryder, sprawled on a white throw, or Chrissy Teigen’s toddlers with creamy leopard print puddled at their ft.
“I use mine 365. It stretches and wraps over your shoulders and feet and nothing else compares,” Ms. Teigen tweeted about her blanket in 2019. She has additionally touted a full outfit, high and bottoms, from the road in Instagram Stories.
“She even said, ‘Oh, if you make a scrunchie, I will wear a scrunchie, too,’” mentioned Frederic Barrouquere, the gross sales supervisor at Barefoot Dreams. “Well, we’re going to do some scrunchies!”
QVC reported sturdy gross sales of Barefoot Dreams attire within the pandemic, particularly the wrap and cardigans, and Mr. Cook mentioned that with “everybody dressing down and wanting to get comfy,” the corporate did exceptionally properly final yr and vowed “this year, we’re going to be double that.”
The Hollywood stylist Rachel Zoe mentioned she has been “a forever fan” of the corporate, particularly the ponchos. “Their robes also make the best gifts,” she mentioned.
The distinctive softness of the polyester microfiber cloth is what appears to make followers at first contact. “The hand feel is definitely unique. It’s very spongy,” Ms. Boyanzhu mentioned. “I haven’t felt a fabric quite the same as that.”
‘The Coastal Vibe’
“This is not your father’s polyester,” mentioned Deborah Young, a textile historian and professor on the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, of the material used to make Barefoot Dreams. “Microfiber is incredibly fine, like silk. We never managed to imitate silk chemically, but ultimately came closer by making one finer than silk.”
Of course, Barefoot Dreams isn’t the one producer of artificial fluff. Its rivals have equally dreamy names. Urban Outfitters affords a “Stargazer” knit throw in nubby grey, whereas Target’s “Stars Above” line has a velvety cream chenille gown. Even Sam’s Club has discovered fuzz followers with its Crafted by Catherine throw, a steal at $30.
“I know I personally have tons of fuzzy socks and blankets around my house, so we wanted to add in something that we were really shopping for,” mentioned Tori Gerbig, the C.E.O. of Pink Lily, an organization that sells a $94 leopard print blanket. Pink Lily began providing extra mushy “stay-at-home basics” final fall.
Many of those merchandise echo the dusty palette or immediately recognizable animal sample of Barefoot Dreams. “It really goes with the Malibu vibe, the coastal vibe,” Mr. Barrouquere mentioned of the colour scheme; the model distinguishes colours like “graphite,” “stone,” “pewter” and “beach rock,” all refined variations on gray-taupe — or dishwater, if feeling uncharitable.
As bloggers breathlessly catalog the perfect dupes, the corporate has started operating a banner on its dwelling web page warning clients of unauthorized sellers.
“Wash it! That’s where the others fall apart,” Mr. Cook mentioned.
The recognition of those fluffy merchandise — and that very machine washability — scares environmentalists, who in recent times have noticed the horrors of sure artificial materials on the worldwide water provide.
“Polyester in general and microfiber especially are really under scrutiny right now because of their environmental impact,” mentioned Patrice George, a professor of textile growth at FIT, who cringes at Barefoot Dreams’ beachy web site and aesthetic. “All those little tiny microfibers go into the waters and they’re polluting the ocean.” It’s the very delicacy of the artificial textile that makes it extra more likely to shed and shred within the washer, she mentioned, “but they do feel great.”
The impact could be mitigated by washing the blanket or attire inside a microfiber-catching gadget, just like the Cora Ball or Guppyfriend bag. Later this yr, Barefoot Dreams will launch EcoChic, a brand new product line made with 70 % recycled cloth.
“Textiles have always had that dichotomy of protection and revelation,” Ms. Young mentioned. “On the one hand, what you’re wearing reveals who you are, but on the other hand, when we go home, we always crawl under the blankets. There’s something so secure about that.”
“Security” is a phrase Mr. Barrouquere returns to as properly. “You know when you’re a baby and you’re carrying one everywhere?” he mentioned. “That’s why people get really addicted to our product. You want the sweater, you want the socks, you want the slippers. We’re just taking you throughout the day.”
Ms. Boyanzhu understands that Barefoot Dreams might not be achieved, and even desired, by everybody. “The reality is, I don’t know that there’s ever going to be a way for me to say that a $180 blanket is worth it,” she mentioned. “So I want to acknowledge that. Do I regret my blanket purchase? No.”