The goal of the “Sew Shop Talk” series is to bring a voice to the factories and sew shops based in the U.S. Finding a production partner can be one of the most elusive parts of trying to start an apparel business, so these interviews will shed some light on the faces and personalities of the people who make our clothes.
I first came across Grace, Laura Lee and Irma of Silver Lining Productions during their May Kickstarter campaign to raise money to open a sew shop in Eugene, OR. I was drawn to their similar message of bringing manufacturing back home while asking the question, “Where was your shirt made?”
Silver Lining Productions is a breath of fresh air to the oftentimes “old school” industry of domestic manufacturing. I spoke with the founders about their mission, the “Made in America” movement, and their advice for new designers.
F45: Tell us a little bit about Silver Lining Productions. How did you get started? What was the catalyst for starting a cut and sew facility in Oregon?
Silver Lining Productions was launched by three female partners in April of 2014 with overwhelming community support as the first garment production facility in the area. We have produced fashion shows for years and witnessed a disconnect between local designers and local boutiques/businesses. With our combined experiences in different areas of the industry, we’re providing a solution to producing goods locally.
F45: What is your advice to designers for finding a production partner in the States?
Start as close to home as possible. Local resources can exist just below the surface and word-of-mouth can lead you to great connections in your own area. Get out there and start asking questions about how others are getting their goods made!
Ask for honest lead times and fully understand the importance of approving samples. Ask if the manufacturer charges for samples and if so, if there is any way to wrap those costs in with an order. Without an approved sample, you might as well throw your money away! Always remember: a sample may or may not be sellable. Even though sample production may be a high cost, it is an imperative part of the process.
Give yourself a realistic budget and timeframe. You want to have the funds available to support your production. Bring EVERYTHING that the manufacturer needs to complete your production run. Any time they have to stop production to wait for you to bring materials costs time and money.
Ask if the manufacturer can help you source your materials/notions/screen printing/tags etc., as they may have very valuable information for you. Ask about payment terms, upfront costs (deposits) and partial payments or shipments.
F45: What sets Silver Lining Productions apart?
Apart from being the first garment production facility in the area, we are innovating manufacturing techniques based on sustainability and upcycling. We are committed to creating as little waste as possible, paying fair wages to our employees, and working with customers/designers to find ways to work with dead stock, remnants and scraps that not many other manufacturers would be interested in. We also produce local and regional fashion shows to showcase designers we work with (and bolster the local fashion industry). Oh, we do leather-work as well!
F45: Why do you believe the “Made in America” movement is so important?
There is a need and a want for USA made garments. Simply put, it adds value to your product if it is made in the U.S. There are environmental, humanitarian and economic benefits to making and selling your product in the U.S. Sewing, patterning and manufacturing are nearly dying arts in America and by supporting this field in any way (whether you make, buy or sell US goods), you become part of a larger community and connected to the very fiber of this country.
F45: Anything else you’d like to add?
Keep it local, support yourself and help your community, city, state and country by producing here at home!
If you’re based on the west coast, consider Silver Lining Productions as a viable option for manufacturing your product(s). You can find Grace, Laura Lee and Irma on Facebook and through their website.
If you know of a sew shop or garment factory in the U.S. that would like to be part of the “Sew Shop Talk” interview series, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.