Designer and entrepreneur Elif Ucan is making life easier for us with her brilliant little slips of washable fabric designed to “shield” you from sticky, messy, less than savory day-to-day experiences. Elif is an entrepreneur and education policy analyst based in NYC and Istanbul, Turkey, who studied law in Germany for her undergraduate degree, worked in the fashion industry, and recently earned her second master degree from Harvard University. Read all about why you need the Touche Pas “Universal Square” below.
RW: How did the idea of Touche Pas come to you?
EU: The idea to create this project came to me while I was working in the fashion industry in NYC prior to graduate school. I was constantly rushing around the city for production and being exposed to the dirty, sticky seats found in the city’s public transportation, whether subway, taxi, or bus. Hot, muggy NYC summers exacerbated this issue and prompted me to begin taking a scrap of leftover silk with me to sit on. It was such an easy solution to the problem. After friends began requesting scraps of silk, I decided to create the product.
RW: Will you take us briefly through the process of starting to manufacture the product.
EU: Coming from the fashion industry, it was important to me to create a product that was both attractive and functional. I wanted women to feel they could use the product without compromising their fashion integrity. Inspired by the design of the iconic Hermes silk scarf, I created the Universal Square using a natural silk-like fiber with more durability to better suit the use of the product and make it low maintenance to care for. I was careful to create a square large enough to be useful, yet small enough to fit into the compact pouch and easily in most handbags.
RW: What were your biggest challenges when starting the business?
EU: Touche Pas is a project I began while in graduate school. Juggling starting a business with another full-time commitment was not easy, but a valuable lesson in time management. One of the greatest challenges while developing the product was sourcing lightweight durable fabric that would create fashion appeal.
RW: What’s the most creative way you’ve seen the Universal Square used?
EU: I have seen people use the product in many great ways, such as in the park, as a mini-cover-up on the beach, or to protect their kids from surfaces in public settings, to name a few. The most creative way I have seen the product used was as a face mask while driving a four-wheeler through Mumbai, India.
RW: What’s the best way to wash Touche Pas products?
EU: The best way to wash Touche Pas products is to wash with like colors using the hand wash or gentle washing machine cycle followed by hang drying them.
RW: Do you have plans for more products?
I am currently building on the “urban shield” concept by developing Spoke, a new line of urban accessories. Stay tuned for our launch at spokebike.com!
RW: You’re a Harvard Square local, what are your favorite places to shop and eat?
EU: Aside from shopping at Forty Winks, I have a few local Cambridge favorites. Since I love to cook, Formaggio on Huron Ave. became part of my weekly routine. Their selection of organic produce, cheese, wine, and bread from Poilane is unsurpassed in Cambridge. For drinks, the bar at Harvest is a favorite. Bartender Kelly Unda makes the best drinks in Cambridge. No contest. For dinner, both Ten Tables and Central Kitchen are ideal for farm-to-table cuisine and good wine.
RW: Do you have any advice for ladies starting their own business?
EU: Be agile, be a phenomenal listener, cultivate a strong team, hustle, and finally, trust your instincts – they are there for a reason!
Touche Pas Universal Squares sell for $22 and available in a plethora of lovely colors here at Forty Winks. xoxo.