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sustainable fashion

September’s Featured Sustainable Fashion Products

This is the third part of a multi-month photography series, featuring sustainable fashion products on Instagram. You can see July’s products here and August’s products here.

I started this project to help integrate more ethical and sustainable fashion into the multi-million dollar Instagram shopping scene.

It’s also in preparation for the upcoming launch of Market45, an ethical fashion marketplace.

Featuring 20 invite-only brands that have launched through the Factory45 program, this online marketplace will be an easier way to shop sustainable and ethical fashion all in one place.

If you’d like to request early access for holiday season 2018, click here.

Now keep reading for September’s featured sustainable fashion products (all of them are Factory45’ers!):

DALLAS DAWS DESIGNS SLOAN JACKET

DALLAS DAWS DESIGNS | SLOAN JACKET

With what began as a creative outlet, Factory45’er Dallas Daws started experimenting with minimalist silhouettes that aimed to be both timeless and multi-purpose.

She wanted to create clothing that her customers could throw on to run errands, but still look put together for work. Over the years, Dallas has refined her aesthetic and developed the business she runs today, Dallas Daws Designs.

The Sloan Jacket that I wore for this month’s shoot is part of the new Linen Collection. It has pockets (win!), three-quarter sleeves for multi-season wear and is perfect for layering.

All Dallas Daws Designs are thoughtfully designed, sustainably sourced and handmade to order in the USA.

You can shop the Sloan Jacket, as well as other Dallas Daws pieces here.


FAIR SEAS SUPPLY CO. THE SAN CLEMENTE ROUND BLANKET

FAIR SEAS SUPPLY CO. | THE SAN CLEMENTE ROUND BLANKET

Inspired by the beaches of California, Factory45’er Tiffany Shown launched Fair Seas Supply Co. in 2015 with a collection of organic cotton round beach blankets.

Over the past three years, she’s expanded her product offering, added new collections and built a brand that’s been featured by The Boston Globe Magazine, Elle and other media. The Charleston Collection was also one of the featured products in CauseBox this summer.

One of my favorite things about Tiffany’s story is that when she joined Factory45 in 2015 she had no idea what she wanted to create. She only knew that she wanted to start a business, so when she landed on the idea of Turkish towels she ran with it.

Fair Seas blankets can now be found in retailers across the country, including the Four Seasons Hotel in Hawaii.

You can shop organic cotton Turkish towels and other accessories here.


MILO + NICKI THE SIESTA DRESS

MILO + NICKI | THE SIESTA DRESS

With a mission to empower women to go after their dreams, Factory45’er Nicki Patel started milo+nicki, an ethically-made, cruelty-free womenswear line.

The brand got its start in 2016 with a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $20,000. Launching with a six-piece capsule collection that was ethically made in NYC, Nicki has continued to grow her product line.

The Siesta dress (pictured above) is made from handwoven banana fabric (yes, that kind of banana!), hand-dyed with plant-based dyes and has GOTS-certified organic cotton lined pockets.

milo+nicki has been featured in the print version of Vogue, as well as Darling Magazine, Eluxe Magazine and other notable press.

You can shop the Siesta Dress and other milo+nicki pieces here.


REGENEROUS DESIGNS | BIG BRAIDED HEADBAND

REGENEROUS DESIGNS | BIG BRAIDED HEADBAND

During the production process of making your clothing, pounds and pounds of perfectly good fabric goes unused and is thrown away.

Factory45’er Alyssa Bird started Regenerous Designs as a way to use this discarded designer fabric, before it’s thrown out, and make versatile accessories.

Each piece is handmade in the USA of high quality fabric remnants — that means everything is limited edition and made to last.

You can shop all Regenerous Designs accessories here.


To see the rest of September’s featured products, come on over to Instagram by clicking here.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 

P.S. I am not an affiliate of any of these brands and do not receive any financial gain if you make a purchase. My only goal to bring more sustainable and ethical fashion options to your wardrobe.

August’s Featured Sustainable Fashion Products

I mentioned last month that I’ll be featuring a series of sustainable fashion brands and products here and on Instagram.

This is all in an effort to help integrate more ethical and sustainable fashion into the multi-million dollar Instagram scene where, for the most part, fashion bloggers and “influencers” are touting fast fashion and cheap deals.

But it’s also in preparation for the upcoming launch of the newest Factory45 project:

Market45, an ethical fashion marketplace.

Featuring 20 invite-only brands that have launched through the Factory45 program, this online marketplace will be an easier way to shop sustainable and ethical fashion all in one place.

If you’d like to request early access for holiday shopping 2018, click here.

And then keep reading for August’s featured sustainable fashion products below:

VESTA STUDIO HALF MOON WRAP DRESS

VESTA STUDIO | HALF MOON WRAP DRESS

In 2017 Factory45’er Kendall Wilson launched Vesta Studio, a collection of 100% vegan womenswear.

Born out of a love of high quality, luxurious textiles — that are also cruelty-free and eco-friendly — Vesta Studio is inspired by the philosophy of “buying less, but better.”

Each piece is made one at a time to reduce waste, lessen sitting inventory and to offer an affordable price point to customers.

Vesta boasts “versatile clothing for a life of simple beauty,” and the Half Moon Wrap Dress has been exactly that for me.

I wore this dress when I was seven months pregnant, and I’ve continued wearing it in the months after giving birth. It’s incredibly comfortable, very flattering (if I do say so myself), and I absolutely love the drape, texture and color of the fabric.

You can shop the Half Moon Wrap Dress, as well as pre-orders for the new collection here.


BOOB DESIGN ‘CHARI-TEE’ MOTHER

BOOB DESIGN | ‘CHARI-TEE’ MOTHER

I was first introduced to BOOB Design when my web designer gifted me with one of their maternity shirts for my birthday last year.

The Scandinavian company puts sustainability at the forefront of their business model, and I ended up purchasing several other maternity garments throughout the course of my pregnancy.

The thing that sets BOOB above and beyond other maternity wear (besides their fabrics and manufacturing) is that almost all of their garments convert into nursing wear.

So when BOOB reached out to ask if I’d be apart of their “Chari-Tee” campaign I jumped at the chance.

For every one of these tops sold, they donate 5 percent of proceeds to Every Mother Counts, a non-profit dedicated to making pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother, everywhere.

You can shop the ‘Chari-Tee’ and other sustainable maternity and nursing wear here.


GOOD ON YOU ETHICAL SHOPPING APP

GOOD ON YOU | ETHICAL SHOPPING APP

So, this isn’t a sustainable fashion product you can wear but it’s an amazing product you can use the next time you ask yourself: “How do I know if a brand is ethical?”

Good On You is an ethical shopping app that rates over 2,000 brands so that you know exactly where they stand in ethics and sustainability.

The app uses a five-star rating system to assess the sourcing practices of each retailer or brand using the following labels: “We Avoid,” “Not Good Enough,” “It’s a Start,” “Good” and “Great.”

If you’re just starting out in your ethical fashion journey, this is a great tool to keep in the palm of your hand.

You can download the Good On You app and install the desktop plug-in here.


To see the rest of August’s featured products, come on over to Instagram by clicking here.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 

P.S. I am not an affiliate of any of these brands and do not receive any financial gain if you make a purchase. My only goal to bring more sustainable and ethical fashion options to your wardrobe.

sustainable fashion

July’s Featured Sustainable Fashion Products

If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you know that I’ve been rolling out a new project in collaboration with Boston photographer Joyelle West.

Each month I’m featuring a series of sustainable fashion brands — some that were past Factory45’ers — and others that I wear, use and love.

This is all in an effort to help integrate more ethical and sustainable fashion into the multi-million dollar Instagram scene where, for the most part, fashion bloggers and “influencers” are touting fast fashion and cheap deals.

As part of this project, I’ll send out monthly emails to highlight some of the brands that I’ve featured, as well as the stories behind them.

(If you’re a sustainable fashion brand that would like to be featured in this project, you can get in touch with me at shannon@factory45.co)

So, without further ado, here are the July products:

SOTELA | REMY DRESS

In 2016 Factory45’er Hanna Baror-Padilla launched Sotela, a body-positive womenswear brand, with a fully-funded Kickstarter campaign.

In the past two years, she’s grown a loyal customer base by championing body appreciation, natural beauty and focusing on fit rather than size labels (the brand never references small, medium or large).

All Sotela garments are made of eco-friendly fabrics that have minimal environmental impact, such as tencel and modal. And every piece is handmade from start to finish in their California studio.

Hanna recently announced that she’s opening her own LA-based factory so that Sotela will operate under a vertically-integrated production model. And the factory will manufacture for other independent brands with similar business values.

My favorite thing about the Remy Dress (pictured above) is the button-down front that is breastfeeding-friendly. This dress is my go-to when I’m out with the baby and need to look put together.

You can shop the Remy Dress and the newly launched Sand Collection here.


VETTA | THE SHIFT DRESS

VETTA is another Factory45 brand that was founded by Cara Bartlett in 2016. With the help of a Kickstarter campaign, Cara launched “The Ultimate Capsule Collection | 5 Pieces = 30 Outfits” and raised nearly $90,000 to fund her first production run.

Since then, VETTA has gone on to release five more capsule collections in colors and styles that can be mixed and matched to make an easier, more thoughtful wardrobe.

The woven garments are sewn by a family-owned factory in New York City and the sweaters are knitted by a production partner in Los Angeles that runs on 70% solar power.

VETTA has been featured by Vogue Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, Who What Wear, The Wall Street Journal and has won the Sak’s Fifth Avenue Emerging Designer Showcase.

My favorite thing about The Shift Dress is the versatility of creating multiple outfits. As pictured above, it can be worn as a dress or you can unbutton the top from the skirt so the top can be worn alone.

You can shop The Shift Dress and all of the past capsule collections here.


NISOLO | SMOKING SHOE

I’ve been wearing Nisolo footwear since the brand first launched in October 2011. Back then it was a lot harder to find ethically-made shoes than it was to find clothing.

Nisolos are handcrafted by artisans with a lifetime of experience in shoemaking, having been raised in the center of the shoemaking capital of Peru. According to the company’s impact report each shoemaker earns 27% higher than fair trade wage requirements, as well as health care and a safe working environment.

All of the leather is sourced as a byproduct of the meat industry, which means that the leftover hides are being used instead of wasted. It also means that no animals were killed for the sole purpose of creating the shoes.

Nisolo is committed to a transparent supply chain by introducing each of their factory partners in detail and publishing an annual impact report that can be read here.

My favorite thing about the Smoking Shoe is how high quality it is. I knew as soon as they arrived in the mail that I would be able to wear them forever. It was a timeless investment purchase that I could feel good about.

You can shop the Smoking Shoe and other Nisolos here.


To see the rest of July’s featured products, come on over to Instagram by clicking here.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 

P.S. I am not an affiliate of any of these brands and do not receive any financial gain if you make a purchase. My only goal to bring more sustainable and ethical fashion options to your wardrobe.

factory45

Here’s What’s Happening in September

I’ve got three bits of news for you and because I know this is a busy time with summer winding down, kids going back to school, college classes starting, I’ll make it quick.

Here’s what’s happening this month: 


FACTORY45 IS FEATURED IN HEMISPHERE MAGAZINE BY UNITED AIRLINES!

september

That’s right, Factory45 is in PRINT and circulating at cruising altitude across the world.

If you happen to be on a United flight this month, check out the September issue featuring a five-page spread on sustainable fashion.

It’s a big, big deal to have this conversation go mainstream, and the article covers common problems in the industry and what different sectors are doing to create solutions.


JOIN STARTUP FASHION & FACTORY45 FOR A LIVE EVENT IN NYC

factory45 startup fashion September

New Yorkers, I’ll be back in the city on September 14th for another collaboration with Nicole Giordano of StartUp Fashion.

We co-hosted a similar event in May for emerging designers at Flying Solo, and we’ll be offering another one this month.

We’ll feature three startup fashion brands (including current Factory45’ers Deklan & Active Joy!) and address current challenges and solutions as a new company.

It’s free to attend but space is limited, so RSVP here – refreshments will be provided by Harmless Harvest Coconut Water : )


GOING BACK TO MY BARTENDING DAYS…

factory45 bartending september

While in NYC, I’m teaming up with my web designer and original partner-in-crime Emily Belyea to guest bartend at Coup NYC.

Coup is a “politically-motivated bar” that donates 100% of its profits to organizations that are either being defunded by the current administration or need money to fight the current administration.

In light of the recent events in Charlottesville and the ongoing demonstrations of white supremacy and hate-speech across the country, Emily and I will be donating all of our proceeds and bartending wages to Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that advocates for civil rights, justice and equality while fighting hate and bigotry.

If you’re in NYC or have friends in the city, join us on 9/13 for a night out that’s worth your time, money and attention.


Have a great week, everyone!

 

factory45 owner shannon

How to start your own fashion mastermind group

How to Start Your Own Fashion Mastermind Group

Raise your hand if you’ve been given this advice:

Build a community.

Network, network, network.

Success is about who you know.

We’ve probably all heard at least one of those mantras at some point in our lives.

And while I agree with them, there is one piece of advice that’s missing:

Find your inner circle.

I don’t mean it in a Regina George kinda way, I mean a few key people who you can go to about your business.

Your entrepreneurial peers, if you will.

Because let’s face it, your mom or boyfriend aren’t always going to get it.

And as someone who has been in the game for a while (experiencing entrepreneurship with both a co-founder and without), I can confidently say this:

You have to get out of your head.

When we run our own businesses it’s easy to think that the sun rises and sets on it. We get so caught up in the day-to-day grind of keeping things afloat that we often forget to come up for air.

And that’s where your “inner circle” comes in.

About six months ago, I started a “mastermind” group with Lorraine Sanders of Spirit of 608 and Nicole Giordano of StartUp FASHION.

We meet once a month to discuss our businesses — what’s going well, what’s been challenging, new tools and resources we’re using, people we’ve connected with, etc.

And tomorrow (Thursday, 4/27), we’re going to show you how to start your own.

fashion mastermind

But, here’s the deal. This is not like a normal webinar where you sit and watch slides — and it’s not even like Factory45 LIVE when I interview people on camera.

This is a live example of how we (Lorraine, Nicole and I) run our own mastermind. So, basically, we’ll be having a candid conversation – discussing different topics – as a live example of how you can create your own.

And we’ll walk you through how to apply it.

This will be totally unscripted and will give you a first-hand look inside our businesses.

So.

If you’ve ever wondered what we talk about behind the scenes, how we support each other and why creating an “inner circle” is a business’ best kept secret, then this is your chance to join us.

There are 100 spots available on a first come, first serve basis and there will not – I repeat, will not – be a recording!

Please only register if you know you can join us live.

This is all happening tomorrow (Thursday), 4/27 at 3:30pm EST / 12:30pm PST.

Register to attend LIVE here.

And don’t worry, you won’t be on camera, but you will be able to ask questions — so bring them : )

Hope to see you there LIVE (no recording) tomorrow!

 

factory45 owner shannon

 

Introducing SproutFit: Thoughtfully Designed with Growth Spurts in Mind

This is an interview with Factory45’er Whitney Sokol about the launch of her brand SproutFit. With the help of a Kickstarter campaign, Whitney is raising money for the production run of her first collection. (She’s already reached her goal but is still taking pre-orders!)

Please give us a brief overview of your brand and the pieces you’re pre-selling.

Hey there! I’m Whitney, the working mom behind SproutFitAnd as a mom, I can tell you one thing for sure: babies outgrow clothes fast! Every parent experiences those pangs of guilt from wasting time and money buying and replacing adorable clothes (that may, or may not, ever be worn!).  This simple fact inspired me to create a smarter approach to clothing babies.

SproutFit is a size-adjustable, eco-friendly collection of better baby basics — thoughtfully designed with growth spurts in mind, and responsibly cut-and-sewn in America.

Sustainable in both design and fabric composition, our  bodysuits and reversible leggings fit up to a year through growth spurts – 4x longer than most baby clothing brands! These pieces come in two simple sizes: 0-12 months and 12-24 months. Gone are the days of sifting through baby’s closet trying to figure out what fits and what doesn’t, mourning the adorable outfit that never got worn! Also included in the flagship collection is our stylish, functional bandana bib in one-size-fits-all through 24 months, and our essential blanket that works overtime as a swaddle, car seat cover or nursing cover.

Bodysuits, leggings and essential blankets are made from 100% bamboo jersey knit, and the bandana bibs use the same bamboo fabric on the front, with a super-absorbent and anti-microbial recycled polyester fabric on the back.

leggings, bibdana, body suits, children clothing

Why did you choose to launch your brand through Kickstarter?

While sustainable fashion has made incredible strides in educating the general public the past 7+ years, being a startup fighting for mindshare proves difficult on a national scale! But, that’s where Kickstarter was a perfect fit. Committed to lifting up the creative entrepreneur, this platform has been a jump off point for countless sustainable brands. There was no question in my mind that SproutFit would have the best chance for success by utilizing Kickstarter.

What was the most challenging aspect of creating your campaign?

I started building my Kickstarter page in October 2016, about 2 months before my F45 class ended. From October to December, December to January, and even from January to mid-February, the scope of my campaign changed as I adapted to the challenges that came with developing the collection. So, my biggest challenge was staying true to my core message, while discerning what I could be flexible on.

You’ve done months of prep. What helped you keep up your momentum and motivation?

Factory45 taught me to talk about the campaign well before it launched, and that worked out to be a self-perpetuating motivator! Getting constant emails from moms asking when the collection is launching, and if they could be brand ambassadors with “prototypes, I don’t care, I just want to be the first to rep this brand!” were exciting moments pre-Kickstarter that helped keep me motivated.



Can you give us a little insight into your campaign strategy? What has been working and what hasn’t worked as well?

Building rapport with bloggers/influencers prior to Kickstarter has been great from a credibility and reach standpoint. I’m also glad I took the time to create social media content to align with when interviews, spotlights, and guest blog post were set to go live. I’ve learned that it’s much better to be over prepared and pull back when you need to adjust, versus reacting to every little bump in the road.

I’ve been experimenting with giveaways, so from an ROI standpoint, it’s hard to quantify those right now. But it’s been a blast to tinker with Facebook ads, Google Analytics and the Kickstarter analytics page to see what moves the needle.

children clothing, leggings, ethical fashion

What do you do when self-doubt starts to creep up?

Having a supportive tribe early on was key for me. I don’t have a fashion or design background, so my F45 class has been an immeasurable source of support. Beyond support, having the tools to build myself back up when need be has also been crucial. Early on in my corporate career, I built a folder that I store personal and professional “wins” in. Some wins are huge, some are microscopic. Now, that folder is an evolving reminder of where I’ve been and how I’m making a positive impact in my own life, or someone else’s. I’ve even taken screen shots of texts and sent them to that folder!  It may seem a little cheesy, but I’m telling you, it comes in handy when you need to read something positive and re-set. 

What’s your favorite reward being offered in your campaign?

I love the Mini-Capsule Collection. Just 8 pieces can create 60 unique outfits, truly bringing to life a less-is-more approach for that time in life that desperately needs simplification. Parenthood is taxing enough without sitting in a closet sifting through baby’s clothes kicking yourself for buying too much in one size and not enough in another.

If you had one piece advice for someone considering launching a Kickstarter, what would it be?

Don’t take the planning part lightly! Bounce 10 versions off a trusted group of people in your target market before hitting that submit button.


To check out Whitney’s Kickstarter campaign and the pre-sale of SproutFit, click hereTo read more about Whitney’s experience in Factory45, read her alumni story here.

 

 


crowdfunding factory cat

Introducing The 24 Hour Outfit, Sustainably & Ethically Made in Brooklyn

This is an interview with Factory45’er Rachel Fernbach about the launch of her brand PonyBabe. With the help of a Kickstarter campaign, Rachel is raising money (update: has raised money) for her first production run of The 24 Hour Outfit.

What are you pre-selling on Kickstarter?

PonyBabe is a line focused on creating ultra comfy, versatile wardrobe staples for women. The clothing is made from premium super soft eco-friendly fabric and manufactured in Brooklyn, NY.  

The 24 Hour Outfit, now available for pre-sale on Kickstarter, is a collection of 4 pieces: a large wrap, a racerback tank top, a cardigan, and a pair of delicately pleated pants. Meant to be mixed, matched, layered, and worn on repeat – the 24 Hour Outfit is ideal for creative professionals, expecting/new mamas, yogis/meditators/dancers, minimalists, and travelers.

ponybabe-1-copy

Why did you choose to launch your brand through Kickstarter?

I started PonyBabe with personal savings, and did not have the cashflow to fund my first production run. I needed to raise money to get that going, and also wanted to make sure there was a demand for the clothing before getting any deeper into the process. As a new label, Kickstarter is an ideal way for me to raise money while also testing the waters, and it’s an effective way to spread the word about PonyBabe.

What was the most challenging aspect of creating your campaign?

Oh my goodness. I’m not going to lie: If I had known how challenging this all would be, I… still would have done it, but at least I would have been emotionally prepared for the insanity of doing so many new things for the first time!

I would say that what has been most challenging is simply the fact that I came into this industry with very little knowledge, and have had to learn so many new things, on a constant basis. (How to get samples and patterns made, how to produce a photoshoot and video shoot, how to use social media, how to build a website… the list goes on.)  It’s tiring, exhilarating, exciting, and also super cool to learn new things — but some days my bandwidth runneth low…

ponybabe-2-copy

You’ve done months of prep. What helped you keep up your momentum and motivation?

I started building my email list very early, and though it has grown slowly, having a supportive circle of dedicated and caring people has been priceless… each time I sent out an update (even if it was to say that things weren’t going as planned), I received back an email here and there encouraging me to keep it up and make those clothes. Those little love notes really kept my spirits up when things were hard.



Can you give us a little insight into your campaign strategy? What has been working and what hasn’t worked as well?

The clothes I’m making are a great fit for a lot of different lifestyles. With that in mind, I honed in on a few niches – yoga, dance, minimalism, eco-fashion, American-made, and maternity – and researched blogs, boutiques, magazines, and influencers who might have an interest in seeing PonyBabe get funded. It’s pretty early in my campaign, so I’m still waiting to see what winds up working best!

What seems helpful is connecting through my networks – i.e., friends of friends seem much more likely to want to help… but I’m not letting that stop me from reaching out to others as well.  As in all arenas of life, relationships are key: it’s important to make personal connections, and make offers to give instead of just making requests to receive.

ponybabe-3-copy

What do you do when self doubt starts to creep up?

Notice it, allow it to have some space, then choose to focus on the positive. I actively shift my attention to what is going well, while also acknowledging that this is a stressful experience, and it’s normal and healthy to feel a little nervous or worried from time to time.

My nerdy self-encouragement mantra right now is “People love me and want me to succeed.”  It’s surprisingly motivating! 🙂

What’s your favorite reward being offered in your campaign?

The Whole Outfit, of course! Each piece is great on its own, but putting on the whole outfit is pretty much a perfect recipe for instant comfy cozy bliss. I love how it makes me feel like cuddling up with a mug of tea and a good book.

If you had one piece advice for someone considering launching a Kickstarter, what would it be?

Go for it! And ask for help from people, because it’s a lot for one person to take on.

You can check out Rachel’s campaign for The 24 Hour Outfit by PonyBabe hereTo read more about Rachel’s experience in Factory45, read her alumni story here.

 

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fashion brands

6 Fashion Brands Weigh in on “What I Wish I Had Known Sooner”

One of the reasons people become “serial entrepreneurs” is because of how much you learn through the process of starting your first, or second, or even third company.

It’s easier to say what you should have known or what you wish you had known when you’re looking back.

I started Factory45 with this in mind — after going through the process of starting a sustainable clothing company with my co-founder, I realized afterwards that there were so many things I wish I had known sooner. I wanted to impart those lessons learned on other aspiring entrepreneurs so they wouldn’t have to make the same mistakes I did.

On that note, I’ve asked six designers running established fashion brands to share what they wish they had known as a young fashion startup:

 

katie-rock“I wish I’d known that, no matter how much you love the product, you absolutely have to ensure that: (a) you can get it produced fairly simply/easily (to avoid loss of time/sleep and potential burnout); and (b) the margins are healthy enough that you can not just sustain, but actually grow, the business (or you at least see a clear path to get the margins to that place).  

I also wish I had understood that startups often take time! We thought we’d be an overnight hit, and we took it hard at times when we realized it would take longer than expected. Definitely be hopeful and excited and all of that good stuff, but also be realistic.”

— Katie Rock, co-founder of Activyst

 

tara-st-james“I wish I had known that fashion is about breaking the rules, not following them. That theory is applied to design all the time, but the business of fashion should also be about challenging the status quo, not following the calendar, not following what everyone else does and not doing as we’re told. That’s the only way change will happen in this industry and I wish I had known that sooner.”

— Tara St. James, founder of Study NY

 

colette-chretien“I wish I had known which parts of the sampling and manufacturing process would be good for me to figure out on my own and which steps are vital to have carried out by an experienced professional. There were some things I realized I should have done myself, and a few things that would have saved me time and money in the long run had I outsourced.

I also wish I knew that everything takes so much longer than you think it will. Both in terms of developing a product, and establishing a brand. Patience is important, but complacency is dangerous.”

— Colette Chretien, founder of La Fille Colette

 

taylor-gamine“I wish I had known how much clarity I had starting off—that I felt content and confident knowing what I was setting out to do and who I was trying to speak to. Had I taken stock of this intuition at that early stage, it would have been much easier as my audience grew to know when I’m being true to myself and the narrative I am trying to tell. Even now, as I slowly start to roll out new work, I realize that the hardest thing I have to do in this (post) post modern, socially nomadic world we live in is to just fiercely be myself.”

— Taylor Johnston, founder of Gamine

 

BrassClothing_©HOGGER&Co._web_013“I wish I had known just how important it is to have an audience to launch to. If you want a product-based business, first start by generating a following. This could be through a blog, via Instagram or Twitter. Build up a community of people that is in-line with your future product. When you’re ready to launch you’ll have an invested group of people you can turn into customers.”

— Jay Adams, co-founder of Brass

 

Delta+Leather+Tote+Bag“I wish I had known that finding great US manufacturing is kind of like speed dating. If it doesn’t seem like it’s going to work out, make a polite exit, but move on. Their existing operations shouldn’t have to adjust much at all to achieve the product to be produced. It should be a very close fit from the very beginning.

I’ve realized over the years that in spite of a manufacturer’s best effort and enthusiasm, sometimes it wasn’t enough to get a good product at the right price point in the end. Their capabilities sometimes just didn’t match what I was trying to achieve. And as a designer I had to learn how to recognize the pitfalls early in the game to avoid a lot of wasted money time and effort.”

— Matt Mahler, founder of Skye Bags

Know someone who would benefit from reading these six lessons? Use the social buttons on the left of your screen to share on the platform of your choice.

 

 

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Why Isn’t Anyone Talking About the Most Frightening Part of Amazon Handmade?

This month, retail behemoth Amazon.com launched Amazon Handmade, a new online products store touting wares from invite-only artisans and makers.

Since the announcement, the only thing anyone seems to care about is how much competition it will bring to Etsy, the reigning king of crafts sites.

In the wake of Etsy’s April IPO and the public knowledge that it’s bleeding money ($37 million in its first quarter, to be exact), a competitor as big as Amazon is certainly newsworthy.

But it’s not the only story.

If you are a maker, artisan or designer selling on Amazon Handmade, there seems to be a lot to benefit from the platform at first glance. Amazon is the world’s largest retailer, attracting 244 million active users. It would be next to impossible to try to duplicate that kind of traffic for your own eCommerce store.

But much of the benefit ends there.

To begin unraveling what you could gain and what you could lose by selling on Amazon Handmade, you have to first look at the risks of building your business on a platform that you don’t own.

It’s nothing new for Amazon to “partner” with small businesses. Since 2012, Amazon Marketplace has invited Third Party Sellers to sell anything from pillows to jewelry to clothing that is mass produced in factories around the world.

Over time, though, these sellers have seen Amazon increasingly use its Marketplace to undercut third-party sellers using their own sales data, as reported by The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal. Many of these seller have been driven out of business in the process.

Joanne Nelson of Nelson Beads has been a seller on Amazon for 15 years. She developed a profitable business selling overstock books until Amazon purchased from the same suppliers and created their own Bargain Book section. They could buy the books for less and offer them at steep discounts, undercutting the prices third-party sellers were asking for and thereby lowering their margins.

“Amazon has made it possible for I-don’t-know-how-many people to create businesses or just bring in a little extra cash,” said Nelson. “But make no mistake: if you list on Amazon, you are essentially a drop shipper for them. You are selling to THEIR customers, not your own. Bottom line, don’t ever build you business on someone else’s platform.”

So that begs the question:

Why should we expect anything different from Amazon Handmade?

What’s stopping Amazon from using this platform to track the newest trending products by emerging artisans and designers, as they’ve done to other sellers in the past?

Do we really expect them to sit on that data, instead of using it to immediately offer copies or near-copies of bestselling products at a lower price point?

As someone who works with entrepreneurs and makers, I know firsthand that copies and counterfeits are rampant in this industry — it’s an unfortunate part of doing business.

But combine that with offering Amazon real-time, firsthand access to your sales data, as well as direct communication with all of your customers, and you’re virtually handing over your business on a silver platter.

Sarah Resnick, the artist and maker behind Advah Designs, considered applying to sell on Amazon Handmade and ultimately decided against it.

“As an artist who runs a niche business creating Jewish prayer shawls and wedding canopies, I have little concern that my own work would ever reach Amazon’s radar or be worth their effort to copy and sell,” said Resnick.

“But as a consumer who thinks a lot about how to support small businesses that nurture my community, I am sad at how much we are willing to give up for the siren call of free shipping, or the convenience of ordering toilet paper, extension cords and a new painting from the same online shopping cart.”

We know that Amazon’s policies are bad for its workers, bad for writers, bad for local businesses — and now, it’s bad for artisans and designers, too.

We don’t need the world’s largest retailer to control access to the ideas and designs of some of our most creative people. They already own enough of everything else.

I originally wrote this article for The Huffington Post. If you’d like to join me in educating artisans and designers about the realities of selling on Amazon Handmade, please like and share here.

 

The Reason New Designers Get a Bad Rep

I’m in the business of working with startups and new designers. A lot of the people I work with don’t have a fashion design background. They’re entrepreneurs with a cool idea, but other than that, they don’t have much knowledge on how to get started.

One of the reasons I started Factory45 was because I know there aren’t many industry veterans who want to “deal with” new designers. I’ve had three people in the past week say, “Oh yeah, so-and-so doesn’t even attempt to work with college grads / newbies / design students / etc.”

The fact is, new designers have a bad reputation. If you’re starting to squirm a little, just hear me out.

I’m not saying that you are necessarily to blame for the bad rep, but there are other people who have “spoiled it” for others.

For the most part, suppliers would rather not work with you, sew shops would rather not work with you, factories would rather not work with you. And this is why fashion startups have such a hard time getting started.

Manufacturers in the States have been doing this long enough to know that 9 times out of 10 it just isn’t worth their time to take on the additional baggage of someone new to the industry. They have a responsibility to the construction and production of a product, but they don’t have a responsibility to educate you.

Let me give you an example of an all-too-common email that the vast majority of project managers have probably received:

“Hello – I have a patent for an innovative new apparel product. I’m looking for a production partner to work with – do you do apparel? Are you willing to sign an NDA? What next steps do I need to take? Thanks, [name]”

If you don’t see anything wrong with this example please keep reading.

I want to break this down because there are few different pieces that we should look at:

“PATENT”: If you are trying to patent an apparel product, you are wasting your money. The only person who will tell you otherwise is a lawyer (for obvious reasons). There are .01% of apparel products in the world that are unusual enough to legally protect. Even then, someone else could come in, rip off the design, change one button and your product is no longer protected.

I know the warm and fuzzy feeling you may get from “legitimizing” your company, but trust me, you’re wasting valuable time and money that could be spent on finding out if your customers even want your product.

“INNOVATIVE NEW APPAREL PRODUCT”: This says nothing. There is no sew shop, factory, manufacturer or supplier that is going to take you seriously (or even know how to respond to you) if you don’t give a description of the product you’re trying to make. Ideally, you will be able to tell them the type of garment, the type of fabric you’re using, how many units you’re looking to produce and what your timeline is.

“SIGN AN NDA”: Asking a manufacturer to sign an NDA is akin to writing “amateur hour” on your business card. If your product is good enough to be ripped off or stolen, it won’t be your production partner who does it. Many of the manufacturers in the U.S. have been in this industry for decades. If they were in the business of screwing over designers, then they wouldn’t have lasted this long. I don’t know anyone who would sign an NDA, so please, don’t shoot yourself in the foot by asking.

“WHAT STEPS DO I NEED TO TAKE”: Oh lordy. This has to be the biggest pet peeve of all. And it’s probably the most common question asked. I’m just going to go ahead and put out a PSA for every manufacturer out there: Again, it is not your production partner’s job to educate you. If you don’t know what the next steps are, then you need to go back to the drawing board, do some research, read some blogs, books or hire someone to help you. (I have 30 people coming through Factory45 this spring, because they were smart enough to do that.)

If this all sounds a little harsh, I know you would never do this — I just want to make sure you know why ; )

The thing is, I really want you to succeed. We need entrepreneurs creating products that solve a problem for people. We need new designers working with manufacturers in the U.S. and keeping the momentum up.

But there’s a right way and a wrong way to make that happen. I want to make sure you’re doing it the right way.

Here are the things you need in place to approach a potential production partner:

  • A sample
  • A pattern
  • A spec sheet
  • (A good head on your shoulders)
  • (Good communication skills)

Some will require more than that, but at the most basic level, that’s what you need before you should even send out an inquiry email.

If a production partner agrees to take your project on, then you’ll also need:

  • Fabric (don’t wait to source it, but wait to purchase it)
  • Materials
  • Capital

Production will not start until you have all of those items and can pay 50% upfront.

 

I remember reading Kathleen Fasanella’s book several years ago, and she went so far to say: Because designers have a bad rep, don’t call yourself a designer — call yourself a manufacturer.

So now you know — it’s not just me saying it.

 

 

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Are you an aspiring entrepreneur or designer who’s new to the apparel industry? Get the free “Manufacturing Checklist” from Factory45 here.

Photo courtesy of Chelsea Francis