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sustainable fashion

November’s Featured Sustainable Fashion Products

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

‘Tis the season for ethical shopping and in case you missed it, Market45 went live on November 1st!

Featuring 20 brands that have launched through the Factory45 program, Market45 is a platform to shop sustainable and ethical fashion, all in one place.

You can use code MARKET45 on all orders and receive 10% off your total purchase.

Now keep reading for November’s featured sustainable fashion products:

BE KIND VIBES | “TO THE SEA” T-SHIRT

Founded by Factory45’er Matt Hickey, Be Kind Vibes is ethical apparel for the conscious adventurer. What started as a message to be kinder to the planet, BKV has evolved into a lifestyle brand that promotes kindness, unity and positivity.

The “To The Sea” tee is made in the USA from 50% organic cotton and 50% recycled polyester. It’s a tribute to Mother Ocean and a reminder to think consciously about how we treat her.

You can shop clothing for the conscious adventurer here. Use code MARKET45 for 10% off your total purchase.


PURE COLOUR BABY | ALLIGATOR HOODIE & HAREM PANTS

PURE COLOUR BABY | ALLIGATOR HOODIE & HAREM PANTS

Pure Colour Baby was started by Factory45’er Lindsay Down, who handcrafts organic baby clothing in Canada. Founded on a “grow-with-me” philosophy, all Pure Colour Baby pieces last comfortably through multiple sizes.

My son is wearing their adorable alligator print hoodie that’s made of a medium-weight organic cotton jersey. The matching organic cotton harem pants make it the perfect set or can be worn separately.

You can shop the Alligator Hoodie, as well as other Pure Colour Baby pieces here. Use code MARKET45 for 10% off your total purchase.


LIZ RIDEN | SLIM WALLET & TALL TOTE2

LIZ RIDEN | SLIM WALLET & TALL TOTE

Factory45’er Liz Riden creates handcrafted leather goods, using vegetable-tanned leather that’s a byproduct of meat industry waste. This is above and beyond the standards of conventional leather goods brands.

Made by hand in Pennsylvania, you can also add custom monograms making these accessories the perfect gift this holiday season.

You can shop handcrafted leather goods from Liz Riden here. Use code MARKET45 for 10% off your total purchase.


To see the rest of November’s featured products (like La Fille Colette and Bokk Baby), come on over to Instagram by clicking here.

And don’t forget, you can now shop other sustainable and ethical fashion brands on Market45 here!

 

factory45 owner shannon

 

P.S. When you use the discount code MARKET45 I receive a 5% referral commission. I only promote products and brands that I personally wear and believe in.


Market45

October’s Featured Sustainable Fashion Products

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

As I mentioned last week, Market45 launches tomorrow, November 1st!

Featuring 20 brands that have launched through the Factory45 accelerator program, you’ll be able to shop sustainable and ethical fashion, all in one place.

You can sign up here to be the first to know when Market45 goes live.

Now keep reading for October’s featured sustainable fashion products (once again, they’re all Factory45’ers!):

THOM KELLY MEN’S & WOMEN’S BUTTON-DOWNS

THOM KELLY | MEN’S & WOMEN’S BUTTON-DOWNS

When Factory45’er THOM KELLY launched in 2017, it seemed like every person in my family bought a shirt. My mother-in-law bought one for my husband… my mom bought one for my dad… I bought one for myself…

Needless to say, we’re big fans around here. THOM KELLY is a collection of men’s and women’s plaid shirts that are made from 55% organic cotton and 44% tencel (a closed-looped fiber derived from eucalyptus).

Every shirt is ethically made in North Carolina where the husband and wife co-founders live. THOM KELLY is also part of the organization 1% for the Planet, so every shirt sold saves 30,000 square feet of threatened habitat.

You can shop men’s and women’s button-downs in multiple colors here. Use code MARKET45 for 10% off your total purchase.


SIXCHEL THE KATHERINE CROP PANTS

SIXCHEL | THE KATHERINE CROP PANTS

There are so many reasons I love these cropped pants from Factory45’er SixChel. To start, they’re high-waisted (flattering) and have pockets (convenient).

The fabric is made from hemp and organic cotton — they also come in a vegan leather option — and they’re ethically made in the USA.

I’ve also found them to be very versatile, as I wore them all summer and have since transitioned them into fall. If you’re in the market for a durable and flattering pair of trousers, these fit the bill.

You can shop The Katherine Crop Pants, as well as other SixChel pieces here. Use code MARKET45 for 10% off your total purchase.


PONYBABE THE PLEATED PANTS

PONYBABE | THE PLEATED PANTS

Speaking of pants, these are the pair I throw on when 8pm rolls around, the baby is asleep and it’s time to unwind.

Factory45’er PonyBabe makes organic loungewear that is ultra comfy and designed and manufactured in Brooklyn.

Using the softest eco-friendly fabrics, the entire collection makes up “The 24 Hour Outfit” for yogis, creatives, dancers, massage therapists and entrepreneurs.  

You can shop The Pleated Pants, as well as other PonyBabe pieces here. Use code MARKET45 for 10% off your total purchase.


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

You’ll also be able to shop all of these brands tomorrow on Market45!

 

factory45 owner shannon

 

P.S. When you use the discount code MARKET45 I receive a 5% referral commission. I only promote products and brands that I personally wear and believe in.


Market45

shannon Lohr factory45 maternity leave

On Maternity Leave Until April 11th!

Happy 2018! I hope everyone had a joyous and stress-free holiday season.

I spent much of December making (semi-successful) attempts at vegan baking, listening to way too much holiday music (guilty pleasure) and putting the finishing touches on my biggest creative project to date…

Making a human!

Our estimated due date is January 16th – keeping our fingers crossed we don’t have a blizzard baby! – so this is a quick note to let you know I’ll be on maternity leave until April 11th.

For the next three months, most of my time will be focused on spending quality time with Baby Lohr, so you won’t see as much of me on Instagram and there won’t be any new content on the Factory45 blog.

I will, however, be sending out a “Best Of” email series of the most-read / most-loved Factory45 blog posts from the past three years. If you subscribe here, I’ll pop into your inbox once a week with startup inspiration and advice.

For many of you, these will be posts that you’ve never read before so I hope you enjoy them (they’re also my personal favorites).

Once I return from maternity leave on April 11th, there will be brand new content and we’ll start to gear up for the 2018 program of Factory45!

Applications will open on Wednesday, May 16th so if you’re hoping to launch your clothing company with Factory45 this year, make sure to mark your calendar.

*This date includes international entrepreneurs who want to apply to Factory45 Global.*

If you have questions, I’ll periodically be checking email until baby’s arrival so send ‘em over : )

I’m wishing you all a productive and exciting start to the new year and look forward to reconnecting with you in the spring!

 

factory45 owner shannon

 

P.S. And no, we don’t know what we’re having! Almost all of our family and friends think it’s going to be a boy, though… (the old wives tales are endless!)

Photo credit: Joni Lohr

two fold, capsule clothing, sustainable fashion

Introducing Not-So-Basic Basics, Sustainably & Ethically Made in the USA

This is an interview with Factory45’er Morgan Wagstaff about the launch of her brand Two Fold. With the help of a Kickstarter campaign, Morgan is raising money for the production run of her first collection.

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

Two Fold is a womenswear brand of sustainably and socially-conscious designs made here in the USA. Two Fold aims to encourage mindfulness and simple living by offering minimalist and timeless silhouettes that flow perfectly into any woman’s wardrobe.

We are a small batch clothing label made in Charlotte, North Carolina. All of our clothing is made to order, created in house, and released in capsule collections twice a year opposed to the continual release cycle to ensure quality over quantity.

Why did you choose to launch your brand through Kickstarter?

I decided to launch my brand through Kickstarter because I was familiar with the platform and it’s such a great way to reach new people. When starting a clothing line, you have to have funds in order to fulfill the first production run.

Kickstarter is a great crowdfunding platform that allows you to put your idea out there and see if there is a want or need for your idea. I also love how easy the site is to navigate and interactive it is with backers.

Two fold, ethically made, capsule clothing, sustainable fashion

What was the most challenging aspect of creating your campaign?

One of the challenges I have faced has been finding my “sticky message.” There are a few brands out already that are similar and are doing well.

It’s so important to find what sets you apart and what makes your brand different. I recommend spending a lot of time on this to really hone in on it and tease through it.



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

I’ve had to continually remind myself of why I’m doing this. Keeping the “why” in the forefront of my mind has helped to keep me headed in the right direction. Also, my family and friends have played a big part in keeping me motivated. They’ve continued to support and believe in me and I couldn’t do this without them.

Two Fold, ethically made, capsule clothing, sustainable fashion

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

I have made some of the best connections throughout this campaign. I’ve had some amazing women style my pieces and they’ve had some great things to say about them. I’ve also had a few essays published in some great online blogs which has brought some exposure. I’ve also noticed that the emails I’ve been sending to my awesome tribe has been positive. They’ve loved seeing the pieces closer up with details about the fit and fabric and how to style them.

I tried running a couple Facebook ads and one did well, and the other two did not. I know a lot of people recommend them and I was glad I tried it out, it just didn’t work for me.

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

Oh, does self-doubt creep up! This has been one of the biggest struggles for me during the campaign. You are watching your numbers daily and it’s so easy to doubt what you’ve created. I love to spend time with the people that mean the most to me. There are people who support me and they have continued to keep me uplifted during the tough patches. I’ve had to learn to give myself some grace. Have a good cry, let out all my feelings and get back up and keep pushing forward.

Two Fold, ethically made, capsule clothing, sustainable fashion

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

My favorite reward is the Reese Dress. It’s the most comfortable piece I’ve ever worn while still feeling well dressed. It’s also the ultimate transitional piece – a knee length, easy, unfussy, slim fit accentuates the body without being too clingy. The comfiest thing you’ll wear all season. I promise you’ll never want to take it off. It’s made from a soft handwoven cotton and fits just right, not too tight, not too loose.

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

Shannon, you gave me some great advice early on and it’s stuck with me. You told me it’s called a ‘campaign’ for a reason. You have to campaign throughout the entire days of the Kickstarter. It isn’t easy and the only one that is going to make it happen is you.


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

 

 


the crowdfunding factory

 

Factory45 Success Stories

It’s been over two years since I started Factory45 and began working with entrepreneurs all over the U.S. and Canada to launch sustainable clothing brands.

In that time, I’ve done my best to introduce you to the designers who have come through the program, while sharing some of the success stories along the way.

I can easily get caught up in sharing the “how to” and “advice” articles, but I know how much value can also come from the inspirational — and the aspirational.

So, today, I want to share four success stories from past Factory45’ers who I’ve had the pleasure of working with to launch their brands. 


citizen-smalls-copySarah Davis, co-founder of CITIZEN SMALLS

When Sarah joined Factory45 during the Spring 2015 program she was already a seasoned entrepreneur but didn’t have a background in fashion or manufacturing. She was running a successful childcare service from her home base of Austin, TX but she was craving a different creative outlet.

From day one, Sarah was one of the most hardworking and focused people I’ve ever had the opportunity of working with. She meticulously followed each step that I laid out through Factory45 and went above and beyond to execute her vision for a children’s clothing line in six months.

In the Fall of 2015, Sarah launched Citizen Smalls, apparel for kiddos, through a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $20,000 to fund her first production run. In the past year, she’s been featured by Pottery Barn and has hosted pop-up shops all over the country. Every single piece in the Citizen Smalls collection is ethically made in the USA — you can shop both boys and girls items here.


sotela-copyHanna Baror-Padilla, founder of SOTELA

I love Hanna’s story because she’s a perfect example of how you can go through the Factory45 program at your own pace. One of the most common questions I’m asked by people who want to join Factory45 but aren’t sure if they can afford it, is how much money it takes to launch a fashion brand.

Hanna fully embraced the fact that she was working a full time job and didn’t have the savings to invest in patterns and samples right away, so she mapped out a launch schedule that better fit her finances.

As she gradually invested money into initial startup costs throughout the six months of Factory45 and after the program ended, she launched her womenswear company with a Kickstarter campaign a little over a year after starting Factory45.

Sotela, the last dress you’ll ever need, raised over $20,000 on Kickstarter in the spring of 2016 and Hanna just finished shipping out orders to her first customers. Every dress is ethically made in California from sustainable fabrics — you can shop all three styles here.



fair-seas-supply-copyTiffany Shown, founder of FAIR SEAS SUPPLY CO.

Tiffany has shared her story with us before (you can watch the whole video interview here), but I feel like a week doesn’t pass when there isn’t a new and exciting update from her.

Having started the Factory45 program with no idea about what type of product she wanted to create, Tiffany pretty quickly settled on the idea of round beach blankets and ran with it. Without a background in fashion or manufacturing, Tiffany tirelessly worked to set up a supply chain using organic cotton fabric while working with a cut and sew factory in California.

Having enough startup capital saved to self-fund her first production run, Tiffany launched Fair Seas Supply Co. just before the 2015 holiday season to an audience of raving fans. She has since produced a second collection, been featured in newspapers and magazines across the country and is selling her beach blankets in boutiques on both the east and west coasts.

You can shop from the California and New England collections here.


cause-i-run-copyAmanda Yanchury, founder of CAUSE I RUN

When Amanda started Factory45 she had recently moved from San Diego to Boston (where I live). I remember meeting her for drinks one night in the spring of 2015 and talking about her passion for running marathons.

She was getting ready for a big race and told me about the difficulty of finding running apparel that was sustainably and ethically made. It was this need she saw for herself that prompted her to launch her own athletic wear company.

Working a full time job at the same time as coming through Factory45, Amanda also built her company at her own pace and launched a year after starting the program.

CAUSE I RUN was fully funded through a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $15,000 to start production at a factory in Massachusetts. After her successful campaign, Amanda has continued offering pre-sales on her website as she starts production. You can shop sustainable running apparel from CAUSE I RUN here.


To read more success stories from Factory45, check out our Alumni Stories page.

 

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Using Your Voice When the Words Aren’t Perfect

Today I had originally planned to share the process behind creating a sustainable and zero-waste wedding.

But in light of everything going on in the U.S. right now, the idea of talking about ethically-made wedding dresses and locally-sourced food is not something I could stomach.

This place of paralysis is something I’ve been thinking about a lot in the past week.

How do we write, market, message and sell our businesses and brands when all of it seems so trivial to the very real issues that are unfolding around us?

Is it a betrayal to offer a sale, feature a product, post an Instagram, promote ourselves when so much of the world is grieving?

I’m not sure.

There are platforms like Design*Sponge that took a hiatus over the weekend from posting anything. D*S founder Grace Bonney shared a heartfelt letter explaining the decision for the two-day pause in content.

Other brands have continued with regularly scheduled programming but have also used their platforms to share posts of allegiance and words of support.

And then other companies have chosen to be silent, for whatever reason feels true to them.

Tragedy occurs all around the world, every day, and if we paused every time something bad happened, we would get nothing done at all.

But the past week has felt different. And I’ve felt different about what I wanted to say to you today.

As an American-born, white female, I not only have the privilege that came with the lottery of my birth, but I also have the privilege of being an entrepreneur with a modest platform to voice my opinions.

As fellow entrepreneurs, no matter what race or gender you are, you also have a platform in which to express your beliefs.

That doesn’t mean it’s always easy to figure out what you want to say.

Last week my good friend and I were texting back and forth about how to address the murders in Minnesota, Baton Rouge and Dallas, as business owners.

The conversation went something like this:

“WTF is happening to our country?”

“I feel guilty doing other things and not saying something, but I don’t know what to say.”

“Isn’t it better to say nothing at all than to say something uninformed?”

“I feel like anything that comes out of my mouth sounds like I’m trying to be a better white person than the next.”

“Agreed. But then it’s like, get over how it makes you feel. This isn’t about you.”

And so it went…

I fully recognize how unfair it is that my friend and I are able to have (and leave) this conversation at all. For many Americans, this is the life they’re living. They can’t escape it.

For the past week, I’ve gone back and forth about what to write and what to say.

And yes, I considered saying nothing.

But what I came to realize is that it’s not so much about having the perfect words as it is about having a voice.

There are writers far more articulate than I, who are far more versed on these issues, and my instinct is to tell myself, “Leave it to them. They know more. They’ll say it better.”

But that’s not the point.

As entrepreneurs, we hold the expectation and the responsibility of being the changemakers, the freedom fighters, the revolutionaries.

If you have a public platform, then you are privileged in a way that so much of the world isn’t. And I want you to know that bringing your voice to this conversation, despite how awkward or scary it may be, matters.

It doesn’t have to be perfect.

We can take action together towards fighting for justice and the fair treatment of our fellow humans — in a way that doesn’t sacrifice our brand, or go off message or lead customers astray.

Because when it comes to having a message, acceptance, tolerance and love are universal.

 

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Additional resources:

This is the best piece I’ve found on the tangible action steps that can be taken to create change via The Huffington Post

Why do we stay silent when racism is all around us? By Nisha Moodley

Code Switch is a podcast that explores race and culture.


Photo credit: Molly Belle

Introducing the Entrepreneurs of Factory45 Fall 2015: Part IV

It’s hard to believe six months have passed since Factory45 started and my third cohort embarked on this program. We will wrap up the Fall 2015 program on April 1st.

Before then, I want to introduce you to another batch of entrepreneurs I worked with this year (in no particular order). If you missed introductions to the other Factory45’ers I’ve highlighted, you can read those here, here and here.

And if you’re feeling inspired or motivated to start your own sustainable apparel company, make sure you’re on my list here.

gillian-nashGillian Nash is a bridal designer in the East Village of New York City. In addition to headpieces and hair adornment, Gillian creates gowns with three silhouettes: strapless, spaghetti and sleeved. She then overlays each gown with draped tulle and handmade silk flowers to make custom bridalwear. Each headpiece is handmade using traditional flower-making techniques that Gillians says are a lost art in the present day. Gillian Nash Bridal is “sustainably handmade with love” and will launch in Autumn 2016.

 

amy-rubinAmy Rubin is based in Indianapolis and is launching an active vintage-wear line called Polymath Apparel. Her first line, MODified, is a collection of contemporary, sustainable fabrics, as well as patterned vintage fabrics. The intention for the collection is to create looks with a “mod” touch inspired by bold colors and graphic lines of the 1960’s and 70’s. The Polymath mood board is live on Instagram and you can sign up for launch updates here.

 

ginamarie-chauntea

Ginamarie Georgees & Chauntea Foster came together as business partners in Southern California to launch Mharbana, a sustainable athletic apparel line that uses superior fabrics and embodies an empowered lifestyle. With fitness being a main focus of their daily routines, Ginamarie and Chauntea are appealing to the cross-fit and bodybuilding community that they’ve grown to know. You can sign up for launch updates here and learn more about the mission behind Mharbana on their blog.

 

heather-cucciaHeather Cuccia is the founder of Fairly Fauna, a cruelty-free and vegan boutique that promotes healthy living. As Heather was curating other lines to sell through her online store, she realized there weren’t many animal-free clothing companies to choose from. She’s now creating her own line to fill the hole in the market. Fairly Fauna works with animal rescue groups and is a partner of Being Pawsitive, an online magazine dedicated to pets. You can shop vegan and cruelty-free fashion on Fairly Fauna here.

 

Jason Ozenkoski

Jason Ozenkoski started his entrepreneurial journey one serendipitous evening when he was bartending at a community lake house. He saw a couple sitting by the lake and the man was to trying to keep his wife warm by draping a beach towel over but it kept falling down. Envisioning a better solution, Jason came up with a prototype for a convertible blanket / jacket that he later named The Thracket (throw jacket). From 2001 until now, Jason received both wholesale and direct orders, but wanted to avoid moving manufacturing overseas. He’s held out to set up manufacturing in the U.S. and rebrand the product. He’s aiming to start production in the Carolinas in 2016.

In case you missed it last week, Factory45’er VETTA is in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign for their five-piece capsule collection that can be mixed and matched to create a month’s worth of outfits. You can check out their campaign and order pieces for pre-sale here.

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apparel production

Preparing for Apparel Production: A Video Interview with Clothier Design Source

The question that so often comes up for new designers is about production. For anyone who is new to the industry, the apparel manufacturing process is something of a mystery.

With every production partner having its own way of doing things, this isn’t surprising. Production is one of those parts of creating a physical product that, until you’re in it, there’s no way to fully prepare.

Challenges will come up for you that won’t come up for your peers. Questions will go unanswered until you’re in the thick of the production line. And truthfully, the best way to learn is by going through it.

With that said, there are ways to prepare yourself, knowledge to obtain and lessons to learn before you dive in. The better prepared you are with the concepts, terms and order of production, the better off your first production run will be.

With this in mind, I interviewed Mindy Martell, the owner and president of Clothier Design Source, an apparel production house in St. Paul, Minnesota. In this 20 minute video interview, Mindy and I talk about:

  • Some of the early mistakes that new designers make in the production process.
  • A list of the 7 most important things you need in place before you can start production.
  • An explanation of what grading is, why you need it and what’s involved in grading a garment.
  • What a new designer should know about ordering labels.
  • How production cutting works, what “yield” is and how different colorways can affect your cost.
  • What to expect when you start production.
  • How to control your quality.
  • And Mindy’s most important piece advice for new designers.

Watch the whole interview here.

If you thought the interview with Mindy was helpful, we’d love for you to share — click to tweet here or use the social share buttons on the left.

To receive the Manufacturing Checklists mentioned in the interview, you can get CDS’ here and Factory45’s here.

 

 

Factory45 is one online program, lasting four months, that takes aspiring entrepreneurs from idea stage to launching an apparel product.

Introducing the Entrepreneurs of Factory45 Fall 2015

It’s that time again… I can finally start introducing you to the new products, companies and entrepreneurs who are coming through Factory45 this year.

The Fall 2015 cohort is made up of 35 companies from all over the continent and we’re working together to source fabric, set up manufacturing, create a launch strategy and raise money to fund production.

Today, I want to introduce you to a few Factory45’ers who are working on very different products and serving a variety of markets. If you see entrepreneurship in your future, inspiration is the first step in taking action. Read on and enjoy : )

cara-bartlettCara Bartlett committed to buying only ethically-made clothing over three years ago and she hasn’t looked back. She’s the brains and beauty behind the blog Bien Faire where she curates a meticulous selection of ethical fashion. As an associate buyer for Rue La La, she saw firsthand the environmental disaster that comes with fast fashion so she decided to quit her job and set out on her own. Cara is in the process of launching VETTA, an everyday capsule wardrobe for women.

brooke-and-tara-johnsonBrooke & Tara Johnson are the sister duo behind TAB Custom and are working from Boston and San Diego to launch a line of sustainable swimwear and wetsuits. They’ve already gotten their feet wet with a show during Boston Fashion Week and have worked on other projects together as third-generation, self-taught seamstresses. They also happen to be the two designers I’m working with to create a custom sustainable wedding dress for my May wedding!

Amanda-Koker-Face-shotAmanda Koker and I were connected through our mutual friend, Kathryn Hilderbrand, who is the owner of Good Clothing Company, a cut and sew shop on Cape Cod. Amanda runs Rose Riot, a line of ready-to-wear dresses and jackets for plus-size women. She hand-sewed her first small run of products but is looking to expand production with a local sew shop. Amanda will be working on a rebrand throughout our time together and will relaunch with a Kickstarter.

2016_01_20_Ponybabe_Botanical_Garden_390Rachel Fernbach is an artist and creative based in Brooklyn with a background in yoga, meditation and expressive arts therapy. Through Factory45, she’s launching PonyBabe, a line of versatile womenswear that transitions from workwear to yoga class to dinner. Filling a need for the clothes she wants to wear, Rachel’s line will be ideal for travelers, minimalists and stylish bohemians.

Michelle-Pare-Liz-Field1Michelle Pare & Elizabeth Fields are business partners based in North Carolina, the textile belt of America. Their product, JackWrapIt, originated as something for Liz to wear over an evening gown and as the idea evolved, became the fleece version that it is today. Having launched over four years ago, Michelle and Liz are ready to take their “side project” full time and develop a solid marketing campaign and sales strategy.

I’ll continue to introduce the rest of my entrepreneurs over the coming months. In the meantime, here’s what they’re saying about Factory45:

“I am loving the program — it is everything and more than you promised.” — Sarah-Valin B.

“I’m loving the course so far, and can’t wait to get into the next modules! You are so organized and have such a clear message…” — Cara B.

“Fan mail: I wanted to tell you how much I am enjoying the modules and the way you have packaged the information. It’s feeling super accessible, and very aligned with what I was looking for!” — Rachel F.

“If I had found you a few years ago, I would have saved tens of thousands of dollars.” – Alesya M.

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new designer, advice

What’s My One Piece of Advice for New Designers?

Whenever anyone asks me:

What’s your one piece of advice for new designers?

I always have the same answer. I’ve worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs over the years, and I warn all of them of the same mistakes that I made when I was first starting out in the fashion industry.

Let me take you back to the summer of 2012. I’m living out of a 1993 Chevy Conversion van on a three-month “sustainable fashion tour” of the Pacific Northwest.

Van-Roadtrip, new designer, advice

Six months prior, my co-founder and I had launched the highest-funded fashion project in Kickstarter history to fund the production of our first piece, the Versalette by {r}evolution apparel. We were on a mission to shake up the fashion industry, to prove that less is more, and to show everyone that conscious consumerism can change the world.

By working with a sew shop in the U.S., sourcing 100% recycled, U.S.-made fabric, and considering every tiny part of our supply chain, we had attracted the attention of 1,400 first customers, in addition to media outlets such as The New York Times.

But that’s not where we started.

My journey into fashion production began a year and a half earlier when my co-founder and I first came up with the idea to start a “sustainable clothing company.” We had no idea what that really meant, so we blindly began contacting any person we thought had the slightest chance of helping us.

We called organic cotton farmers in Texas, environmental studies professors in Missouri, eco-fashion models in Brooklyn, Merino wool suppliers in New Zealand and the list goes on…

Looking back at the emails I sent to suppliers, I know now that my inquiries surely got a swift click of the delete button. I didn’t know how to talk to industry veterans, I had no idea how to talk “the talk,” and it showed.

Eventually though, after a year and a half of trying, we found fabric and materials that fit our sustainability guidelines, a sew shop who would work with a fledgling startup, and that’s when we successfully funded our Kickstarter campaign.

If we thought sourcing was difficult, we couldn’t have imagined what the production process had in store for us.

sewing machine, new designer, advice

First hurdle, the organic cotton drawstrings we needed were on backorder and the sew shop couldn’t move forward until they had all materials in-house. We got bumped off their production calendar and couldn’t get back on until the drawstrings arrived.

By the time we began production, we were running four months late.

The backordered drawstrings, production delays and an additional shipping fiasco were rookie mistakes we had to live with and learn from.

But the next mistake we made was the biggest one of all — and it’s the only thing from this story that you really need to remember:

We weren’t at the sew shop when production started.

Sure, we signed off on samples and patterns, but the worst decision we made was not being with our production team when Versalettes started coming off the line.

We weren’t there to offer additional quality control, answer questions in person, build relationships with our sewers and get them invested in our project.

And it came back to bite us.

Our first shipment of Versalettes arrived and a third of them had crooked pockets, misplaced button holes, lost drawstrings or unfinished seams. We got a second shipment and it had the same problem. The sew shop was sending us batches of 40 units at a time and instead of being thrilled to open them, I was terrified.

At the time, it would have been easy to blame the sewers for being “unskilled,” but that simply wasn’t the truth.

Being completely new to the industry, we didn’t know how crucially important it was to a build relationships with our sew shop and be there at the beginning of production.

We had no one to blame but ourselves.

When you’re first starting out, trying to do design and marketing and media outreach and customer service and blogging and everything else yourself, it can be easy to take production for granted and assume someone else is handling it.

The thing is, no one is ever going to care about your product as much as you do.

new designer, advice

After we received our second batch of Versalettes, I flew to North Carolina to visit our sew shop and work out the “kinks.” I spoke to each sewer individually, shared the article about us from The New York Times, and showed them photos of our models wearing the Versalette.

Spending a few days with our team, I finally understood that relationship building in the manufacturing industry is no different than in any other industry.

Shortly after I flew back to the west coast, our third shipment arrived.

Not a mistake in the bunch.

 

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This originally appeared as a guest post on Startup FASHION here.

Photo credit: {r}evolution apparel