Clothing Line Update! From Crazy Idea to Today
Things are happening! It’s so exciting!!! But let me back up for those of you who haven’t been getting the ad nauseam blow-by-blow about this crazy clothing line idea since day one.
I have been searching for cozy clothes that meet my specific criteria every few months for years. The internet had enabled me to do an exhaustive search which always came up empty. Humph! I’d thought off and on about making the pieces myself, but it’s a big undertaking. One day, I was listening to Side Hustle School (one of my favorite podcasts) and heard a story of a woman who, with no fashion or apparel experience, launched a successful bra line. I thought, well, if she can do it…wait, how’d she do that? I went back and listened again. Her first step was to take an apparel production course. Well, sign me up! I couldn’t find one to take in person. Boo. But I did find the New Designer Program Startup Course online at Fashion Brain Academy. Here is the course description: “The complete “How to Start a Fashion Business” Course available immediately, at your own pace. It’s the step-by-step guide to starting a business the right way. It includes all the things I wish I knew before I started my clothing line presented in a clear, concise, real-world style.” Yeehaaaw! Just what I needed!
The instructor is Jane Hamill, and she is adorable. She is a fashion designer who owned a successful clothing shop in Chicago for 14 years. She sold her own line in her retail store as well as wholesale to big name department stores nationwide. She sold the shop to be home with her kids and started her online education and consulting business. She’s super down to earth and relatable. The class took me about three weeks between all of my chauffeur and household duties, dissues, and laundry quandaries, and I loved every minute of it. Each time I got interrupted, I couldn’t wait to get back to it. If I could have pushed pause on my life and binged through the whole thing at once, I would have.
The minute I decided to go for it, I started working on my designs. I sat each evening with a clipboard and pencil, sketching until each drawing was just what I had envisioned. I settled on five pieces which has now morphed into six.
By the end of the second class session, I had a US tax id and a Nevada business license. I also learned how to use Adobe Illustrator (not part of the class), designed my logo, and applied for a trademark! It takes six months to receive a trademark if all goes well, so I’m in a holding pattern for that. I should know by October.
The fun part, after coming up with the designs and logo creation, is finding fabrics, tags, and trim. I looooove fabric! If you’ve ever been to my house, you may know that I have a fabric problem. I could probably outfit my family for the rest their lives from the fabric stash I’ve developed. I might like buying fabric more than I like sewing. It’s definitely less time consuming. This part has been a little frustrating because to have fabric for a clothing line, it has to be reliably available for repurchase. That means all of the cute stuff at the fabric store is not an option. I love whimsical prints but also need fabric that feels cozy and holds up. Here is an early drawing that has the feel of the pattern combinations I’d like to incorporate. This design has changed almost completely, but it’ll give you an idea of the look I like. Keep in mind that it looks a lot more pro in my head. This drawing may make you feel like your equilibrium is off. Breathe through it.
Here are some pattern combos I’m considering. The main body of each style will be a stripe, solid, or dot, and the print will be the accent fabric.
Cute prints are surprisingly hard to find from these wholesale suppliers. I am eagerly awaiting a few more samples. I plan to produce each piece in a fun, crazy print and color combo and in a more sedate version for those who like things more subdued (that’s you, KAN). They will all mix and match, so I’ll have to commit at some point.
Here are all of the samples I’ve amassed thus far. These are from seven different suppliers.
I needed a prototype for the clothing line to experiment with construction. My sewing skills are barely up to the challenge (evidenced here), and I don’t have a serger, the preferred machine for sewing knits. Prototype #1 was a complete fail. Aaaaargh! It was uncomfortable and looked terrible. I tried really hard not to get discouraged. Scott was so sweet and concerned. He knew I had my heart set and hated to see me struggle. I soldiered on, learning from my mistakes and making some major corrections. Prototype #2 was a success and is exactly what I want to make. Cue the confetti! Here is a peek at my prototype. The fabrics are just some I had on hand. Aren’t the foxes awesome? The stitching isn’t great (no serger), but it’s good enough to be a starting point.
Once the designs are set, the next step is to find a professional to make the patterns the factory will use to produce the pieces. This has been the biggest stumbling block so far. The pattern maker is like the architect and the pieces are only as good as the patterns. And it’s so hard to know who to trust. The first pattern maker I contacted showed such a lack of attention to detail in our communications that I just couldn’t proceed. Two others weren’t taking new clients. I learned that the best thing to submit to a pattern maker is a simple line drawing. They are boring because they have no color or fabric print on them, but they best represent the items you’d like patterned. Here is a line drawing of the portion of the prototype I showed you above.
I finally found a firm in San Francisco, The DNA Group, that consults on multiple aspects of apparel production. We have had one in-person and many phone meetings. All six of my designs have been transformed into professional technical renderings, which are the real and professional version of what I have above, true in proportion and detail. Squee! See the difference?
My trip to San Francisco was really exciting. My friend Bryna and I hit the road bright and early. The night before, I made three sets of all of my drawings and notations regarding fit, details, fabric, etc. I packed my fabric binder and pieces of clothing from my wardrobe that I planned to use as examples for waistlines, sleeve silhouette, etc, and had them all carefully numbered to correspond to my notes. We hit some traffic but had built in a cushion, so no harm done. We arrived at the address, and the business name was not on the building directory. I had a momentary panic. I had vetted the business to the best of my abilities, but the insecure part of me immediately screamed, inside my head of course, “I’ve been had! I’ve been scammed!” I’d already sent them payment for the technical drawings. Bryna, looking as serene as ever but having her own little inner dialogue come to find out later, calmly asked me if I was sure I had the address right. Just then, a lady opened the door to leave, and we shimmied in, suitcase in tow and nerves ablaze. The sign inside was newer and included the DNA Group. I heaved a sigh of relief. In looking for the office, we strolled past a handful of factories. I had no idea that gigantic buildings existed that housed multiple full-on factories! There was a toy factory, a commercial bakery, and a granola company to name a few. When we found our destination, my fears were completely alleviated as we entered a commercial space filled with the things you’d expect to see in such a place. Fabric and samples and equipment everywhere and Dan sitting at his desk ready to meet. He listened well as I presented my designs. He’d seen them in email form before our meeting, but we got into the nitty gritty of details, cut, fit, etc. I felt heard. He got it. Phew!
The Next Step
We’ve gone back and forth on many versions of the technical drawings. They are dialed in, and I just contracted for the next step…the patterns! After the patterns are made and fit has been finalized, the patterns will be graded into all of the sizes I’ll offer, and I’ll have markers and samples made. A marker is like a big piece of butcher paper with all of the pattern pieces laid out to get the most out of each yard of fabric. A sample is a representative finished product to use for obtaining orders from boutiques and to show the factory exactly what to do in production. I’m hoping to offer small, medium, large, and extra large for the first season. If I can, I’ll do a few pieces up to 3XL. Once all of this is done, I’ll find a factory and get the show on the road! I’m hoping to find one in San Francisco or LA. It’s daunting, but each step is a victory!
It may not make financial sense to produce all six pieces I’ve designed, so I sent around a survey on Survey Monkey to get an idea of which pieces were most liked by my family and friends. I love data, so I’ve been eating that up. Thanks to all who participated! It’s so tempting to put the survey out for all to see, but I’ve been advised to keep the designs close to the vest for now, which is so contrary to my wear-my-heart-on-my-sleeve nature. When I have samples made, you’ll be the first to see them!
The DNA team is in Vegas this week at Magic, a fashion marketplace and fabric show. Hopefully they’ll find some super cute prints I haven’t been able to find on my own.
There you have it. As I tell Scott after I have given him way too much detail about something, “now you know everything about me.” Well, not everything. But you are all caught up on what has been going on over here. I still feel like an imposter when I say I am launching a clothing line. I wonder if that will ever change. I’ll keep you posted when major developments occur. Fingers crossed that the pattern making and fabric sourcing goes well!
If you’ve read this entire thing (thanks, Ma!), you deserve a big bowl of Ben and Jerry’s. Go get one! You’ve made my day!