Made in Michigan: Hugrz - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Made in Michigan: Hugrz

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(02/05/14) - It's become a must-have fashion item among many A-list celebrities - and it's Made in Michigan.

"When you get a call saying Miley wants to give out Hugrz as a special present to her sister's party attendees, you're like 'wow.' It kind of blows you away," said Debbie Thelen Miller, Hugrz president & CEO.

Nicole Kidman, Faith Hill, Stevie Knicks and Kelly Clarkson are just a handful of well-known names that have been wrapping their feet in Hugrz, a line of faux fur products that can convert any ordinary boot into a piece of high-end fashion. They've become a staple in celebrity gift suites at film festivals and award shows.

"Taylor Swift has these. These are actually our best seller. They're the rabbit," Miller said.

Hugrz was created by Grosse Pointe resident Debbie Thelen Miller - a hockey mom who wanted to keep warm at the rink, and look cute, without spending a ton of money. Each pair sells for between $30 and $49, with accessories ranging from $10 to $20.

"Christian Dior put out a boot this season for $2,000. It looks just like this, or you can spend less than $50," she said.

Hugrz has been featured by Martha Stewart and the Today Show, but it was a 2011 appearance on ABC's Made in America series that really made the fur fly.

"Within minutes of the airing, our website was just blowing up, and then messages from retailers. The sales just skyrocketed," Miller said.

As a result, Hugrz is now available in 200 U.S. retail stores and can also be found in Canada, Germany and Austria. Since launching, more than 35,000 pairs have been sold.

Miller has been working hard to find for more investors to help her keep up with the demand.

"I got a call from someone at Disney, from someone who said 'we want to talk to you,' and they flew me out and they said we want to do a custom princess line," Miller said.

While Hugrz is stored and shipped out of Troy, it's been manufactured in Imlay City and Burtchville Township near Port Huron - made by workers and equipment that you wouldn't necessarily connect with the fashion industry.

"We were able to take upholstery machines and repurpose them to sew Hugrz. When the auto plants started closing down, there were machines just sitting there, and then you had trained seamstresses, machine operators. We were able to take them and cross them over to sewing Hugrz," Miller said.

During peak production season, Hugrz helps provide more than 30 jobs.

"There were some families up there that couldn't easily travel to work, but they could hand-sew, bead, tie knots in their home, and two of those families pulled their homes out of foreclosure, just by sewing in their living room," Miller said.

While Miller knows she could cut costs by out-sourcing overseas, it's those stories and families that has her determined to continue making Hugrz in the mitten.

"That's exactly what makes it worthwhile, and when I know that we're creating jobs and we're doing something here in Michigan, it really keeps me going on those tough days," she said.

Later this month, Hugrz will be featured in People Magazine's Style Watch section.

If you'd like to get a look at Hugrz products, click HERE

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