Ida, Caroda’s director, walks the crowded factory floor, occasionally chirping guidance or direction.
“Mandarin or Cantonese,” she said of the languages used with the staff, “whatever the person speaks.”
At the moment, the factory was in overdrive. Retail came to a near halt in the Coronavirus spring, with would-be consumers stuck at home. But since the city reopened and retailers subsequently realized they didn’t have close to enough product on hand, contracts have come flying in with new demands.
“Standard production should be four weeks,” Ida said. “Now suddenly its a big rush. Every order that comes in they want it a week later.
“And that’s why right now we’re working day and night, night and day.”
That goes for everyone, including the floofs in question.
Siu Fa — a white Calico with an upper-lip beauty mark that befits the Fashion District — and Nabi — a gray tabby who maintains an especially portly sofistication — have their own critical roles as lifelong factory cats.
The former, whom Ida adopted from a Latinx factory, operates as the house receptionist, perching on a carpet cat tower in front of Ida’s office, daily, in her variety of fashionable outfits.
“As receptionist, Siu Fa needs to look the part,” said Ida, explaining the lime green tutu the Calico was strutting on a Monday.
Nabi’s role, she explained, simply doesn’t require the same sharpness. He labors as Caroda’s MCO — Mouse Control Officer — ostensibly frightening rodents into submission with his sheer size.
When Ida first adopted him, from a Korean factory (essentially the entire industry is run by Chinese, Latino and Korean factories, she said), he dropped a mouse in front of her office door after the first night.
“He wanted to show he could do the job,” Ida said, “and that’s why we hired him.”
As for Ida, she was born in Hong Kong and raised in Toronto, working as a traveling fashion buyer before landing in the Empire State.
“As far as working in the fashion area, New York is the only place,” she said.
Ida began working at Caroda a decade ago, reveling in the opportunity to speak her mind, avoid the corporate politics that accompany so many other careers, and of course, manage such gold-star employees as Siu Fa and Nabi.
She offered, in fact, to translate, any questions I had for them, as I don’t speak Mandarin, Cantonese OR cat. But while it was tempting, I settled for merely giving the whiskered employees ear scratches, and chatting with Ida instead.