Want to perform your own version of “The Little Mermaid”? These sisters will sell you a tail
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Disney’s live action remake of “The Little Mermaid” may have relied heavily on CGI and other technology to turn people into merfolk, but there is a rapidly growing industry to make people’s mermaid dreams a reality. The many businesses catering to that fantasy are hoping and preparing for the new attention brought to the industry, as the film introduces more people to “mermaiding” — and hopefully brings new customers, as well.
In Lincolnton, North Carolina, the staff at Finfolk Productions are gearing up for a busy summer, with plans to add more seamstresses to help churn out hundreds of fabric mermaid tails. Twin sisters Bryn (Roberts) Decker and Abby Roberts started the business out of a garage in 2012, and now have nine employees operating out of a renovated 1930s warehouse.
The whimsical space has walls with seascape murals painted by the Roberts’ sisters dad, plus several dogs milling among the sewing machines, work tables and boxes of colorful mermaid tails. There is a thousand-gallon tank in the basement and an even larger one outside the building, where professional mermaids model the tails for the company’s large social media following.
“It doesn’t sound like a real job. But I promise that it is,” Decker said. “Especially because when you when you go to tell people that you make mermaid tails for a living, they don’t see this whole warehouse building, that we have with an entire team of people that’s doing special effects level work, as well as a bunch of sublimation printing and sewing work.”
Finfolk is one of several companies producing swimmable mermaid tails, in what’s estimated to be a $143.3 million market for such products. The Roberts sisters say their slice of that is a seven-figure business already, and they are growing. The company currently has a 12-16 week waiting list for new fabric tails, which range from $215-$785. For their custom silicone tails — which start at about $5,000 — Finfolk isn’t even taking new orders while they clear their years-long backlog of orders.
“The wait time can be can be intense,” Decker said, “but we’ve done our best over the years to really keep up with the demand and kind of just felt like it’s always moving just one step ahead.”
The sisters expect that demand to increase with all the new interest in mermaiding generated by the Disney movie, as well as a new Netflix docuseries, “Merpeople.”
“It’s kind of crazy to see mermaiding getting all this attention, because this has been our life for the last decade,” Roberts said. “So everybody thinks it’s this new thing. But it’s actually been around for, again, a decade or more at this point.”
Roberts added Finfolk is planning to hire additional seamstresses for the summer to help process an anticipated increase in orders.
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