A lot of positive things are happening in the life of my company. Since my last post, I have a name, an LLC, an EIN, and the first prototypes of my white shirts. It has been so exciting to see the frame of the company coming together. But it hasn’t been all roses and butterflies; there have been a few bumps in the road, including my first samples coming out two sizes too small. My challenge has been to focus on the positive, even in the setbacks, and resolve to push forward and make progress every day.
I got some tough-love feedback on my last post about sustainability. I am passionate about this topic, but after seeing the blog traffic, email click-throughs, and number of survey responses, it was hard not to conclude that people don't really care about sustainability! To be fair, I posted it the same day as the final Presidential debate, and I didn’t provide a very good hook. But I also understand that the “s” word is a downer for a lot of people. It can sound preachy and nihilistic, and it’s overused. I can see how people would be thinking “fashion too?! Enough already!” We care but we don’t want to think about it, and in many cases it doesn’t affect our purchasing decisions. Clothing is supposed to be about fun and/or function, not saving the world.
In general, the 32 people who took my survey think the environment and people are important.
I am grateful to all of you who did read the post and respond to the survey, and also to those who didn’t. You have shown me that though I may be passionate about sustainability, it can’t be the main selling point of my products. Sustainability will still be a part of the company – the challenge will be to communicate it well. I think the best way to make an impact is to create a good product that you would buy no matter what, and hey! you can feel a bit better knowing it was made with environmentally-friendly fabrics, by real people working in fair labor conditions. First and foremost I have to make a great product.
Over 50% of people who took the survey said they were willing to pay more for almost all of these properties (except odor resistant). But these results are not significant because N=32 and selection bias.
Developing a fashion product is not easy; it’s all about relationships and clear communication, which is difficult at first when you don’t know the people you’re working with. To make my samples, I have chosen to work with a factory here in the garment district of NYC. This factory makes clothes for Theory and Helmut Lang, among others, and came recommended by several people for their high quality, fair prices, and willingness to work with new companies. I gave them my designs, and a couple of weeks later they handed me back the paper patterns and sewn fabric samples. Right away I could see that the collar was not how I had designed it – annoying because it’s a big part of the aesthetic, but easy to fix. I took the samples home and immediately my boyfriend Cody and I tried them on – I designed them to fit us so that I could understand how they felt as well as looked – but we could barely get them on! They were way too small. WTF?! I was so confused and angry, and honestly sad because I thought I wasn’t going to be able to work with this factory anymore. I was looking back and forth between the patterns the factory gave me and the design I had given them, thinking “how could they possibly have gotten this so wrong?”
The first sample of the men's shirt. Underneath = the size it was supposed to be. On top = the size it came out.
Then I saw it. Thinking I was being thorough, I had provided two sets of measurements: “body measurements,” meaning the measurements of the person wearing the shirt; and “garment specs,” meaning the measurements of the actual shirts. They had used the “body measurements” to create the patterns for the shirts. I could see how it would be confusing, and even though I wished they had called me to clarify I had to admit that it was partly my fault.
All of this was weighing on me and I was feeling really down in the dumps, until I got a text from my friend Sarmed. He said that he was shopping at a well-known fast fashion retailer and couldn’t bring himself to buy anything because of my blog post (and this John Oliver bit). It felt really good to know that something I did was changing someone’s habits – that I was making some small difference in how my friend buys clothing.
The first sample of the women's shirt. Although it is clearly too small, I ended up liking the slimmer fit.
The sample mix-up had an upside, too. I ended up re-doing the pattern for the women’s shirt myself, and I actually made it smaller than I had originally designed because I liked the slimmer look. I really enjoyed working on the patterns and the shape of the garment myself, but I am definitely leaving the sewing to the factory. They are very, very good at it; though I had a lot of problems with the fit, the samples were sewn beautifully.
This company is about beautiful, high quality things that you will love for years to come, created in a conscious way that honors the object and all of the people who come into contact with it. Creating products with meaning is not an easy endeavor, but it is totally worth it. Thank you for coming with me on the journey.