Under The Hood

Providence-based Cleverhood keeps folks dry all over the world

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The Cleverhood design looks like a lot of things – a poncho, a cloak, a shawl – and at the same time, there’s nothing quite like it. Each item is sleek, ergonomic, and smartly zippered. Reflective lines are invisible during the day, but they glow urgently at night. The fitted hood is often compared to Sherlock Holmes’ deerstalker cap, shielding the face from drizzle. All versions are unisex, and perfect for fall.

“We’re the only business really committed to rain capes,” says Susan Mocarski, founder of Cleverhood. “And Providence is a really great hub for us.”

The company is turning eight years old, and it’s come a long way: They ship to countries as distant as Estonia, and they make appearances at trade shows all over the world. They’ve released a line of dog hoods, called Cleverpup, as well as CleverFur, which looks like animal pelts but is actually waterproof poly nylon. The apparel is especially popular in rainy, bikeable cities, such as Brooklyn and Seattle. And although California isn’t known for its precipitation, Cleverhood has a big following among Silicon Valley startups. Repeat customers are common, and many people will pay for the capes with long-collected bundles of cash.

Cleverhood apparel is sewn and cut in three different factories – in Fall River, Philadelphia, and Oakland, California – and the sealing process is surprisingly technical. Because industrial buildings are always in danger of closing from lack of use, Cleverhood has started the unusual practice of sharing those manufacturing sites with other companies.

The company is headquartered in a cozy, well-lit building in Federal Hill. Despite its success, Cleverhood is still a niche market, and the company only has four employees; the most recent hire was Isaac, Susan’s son.

“People call in and ask to talk to customer service,” says Emmett Conway, co-owner of Cleverhood, “and they don’t realize it’s just us.”

The latest creation speaks to their environmental concern: The green-tinted cape is covered in little boxes and numbers. Look close, and you’ll learn that these numbers are statistics about U.S. national parks, which Susan describes as “data art.” Environmental awareness never looked so cool.