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If you’re like most of the entrepreneurs I work with, then you know this:

  • You want to start a fashion brand that’s socially-conscious
  • You want to do something to combat the “fast fashion problem” 
  • You don’t want to be just another fashion brand

In your heart, you are committed to building a sustainably-made and ethically-manufactured brand, but where do you even start?

While I run an entire six-month accelerator program to help with exactly that, I want to get you started with the first four things to consider right now.

In today’s episode of Factory45 TV, I’m sharing where to begin when you’re building a sustainable fashion brand from scratch.

These four things are not generic answers like, start a business plan or research your competition or trademark your business name.

Click the button above and in four minutes you’ll have four steps to building your sustainable fashion brand right now.

Enjoy!

 

 


manufacturing kit

Want to know how fun I am at the ripe old age of 34…? 

I spent most of the past weekend live-streaming an entrepreneurship conference.

Party. Time. Amiright?

While this isn’t something my 21-year-old self would ever understand about who I’ve become, this is genuinely my version of a rip-roaring good time.

I just said “rip-roaring,” so yeah.

Anyway, of the entrepreneurs on stage at this conference — all of whom we’d categorize as successful — there seemed to be one common thread of advice.

The vast majority said something like this:

“I wish that I had invested in my business sooner.”

And they weren’t talking about hiring or outsourcing or seeking VC money.

They were talking about education.

One of the business owners said she’s spent tens of thousands of dollars on courses, programs, masterminds, digital products, coaches and mentors over the years and only wishes she had done it sooner.

Because every time she made a single investment in her knowledge, her business improved.

As someone who is a huge advocate for online education (for obvious reasons), I also spend a significant part of my own revenue each year on learning something new about my business.

I’ve taken courses on digital advertising, email marketing, Instagram, media outreach, YouTube, business law and a multitude of other topics at different times over the years.

And what I’ve noticed is not only does this investment in your business give you the inspiration to learn, but it also gives you insight into what you’re capable of doing yourself and what makes sense to outsource.

After the digital advertising course, I knew I wanted to hire someone to do it for me. (Numbers… do not compute…)

But email marketing, Instagram and YouTube? Those programs empowered me. They made me feel like I could conquer those important parts of my business on my own.

And that’s what The Factory45 Shop is all about — it’s why I created it. 

Because if you’re ready to start now, then I want you to feel empowered to take action.

If you’re waiting for Factory45 applications to open in May, then The Fabric Sourcing Kit is for you.

If you’re getting ready to go into product development and production, then The Manufacturing Kit is for you.

If you’re ready to start building your brand with the goal of a pre-sales launch campaign, then The Crowdfunding Factory is for you (enrollment closes tonight at midnight ET!)

And if you’re facing a specific challenge that you just can’t seem to conquer, then I’m offering 1-on-1 strategy sessions until December 20th.

The chance to invest in your own business education is here for you.

And according to over a dozen seasoned entrepreneurs speaking to a packed audience, you won’t regret taking it.

 


Crowdfunding

To the person hustling through nights and weekends to launch their brand,

To the person waiting for applications to Factory45 to open,

To the person not knowing where to start…

I made something for you.

The Factory45 Shop is a new platform exclusively created for startup fashion entrepreneurs.

Over the past 5+ years of running Factory45 once a year, from May to December, I kept getting the same requests…

“I’m ready to start now!”

“I don’t want to wait until May of next year!”

“What can I work on while I wait?”

And now I have an answer.

I’ve created three digital products that offer immediate access, so you can start working on your fashion brand right now.

Whether you plan on applying to Factory45 in May 2020 or not, these three resources will answer some of those immediate questions you have about starting a fashion brand.

Not feeling confident about reaching out to fabric suppliers?

The Fabric Sourcing Kit is for you.

Want to avoid costly mistakes in product development and apparel production? 

The Manufacturing Kit is for you.

Need to raise money to launch your brand — without giving up equity? 

The Crowdfunding Factory is for you.

There is also an opportunity for established brands to connect with me for a 1-on-1 strategy session through December 20th.

It’s all here.

Read through the details and if you’re not sure which kit or course is right for you, then just email me at shannon@factory45.co — I’m happy to offer recommendations.

Wherever you are in your fashion business, this is an opportunity to take action. Grab onto it.

I’m cheering you on,


Factory45 Shop

In the last episode of Factory45 TV, I shared five ways to find a clothing manufacturer for the first time. If you missed it, you can watch it here.

Moving forward, you’ll eventually come to a point when you think you’ve found the right factory partner and you’re ready to start production… 

What questions do you want to make sure you ask?

What mistakes do you need to avoid?

What questions should you be prepared to answer?

And what do you really need to be able to start production?

In this video, I’m going to answer all of those questions for you (and more), so that you don’t end up wasting money on the wrong things, or turning off a factory from working with you or realizing that you sent a factory inquiry too soon (that happens all the time).

Click the video above to watch Cut & Sew Manufacturers: How to Work with Them.

Enjoy!

 

 


Manufacturing Checklist

How do you find a manufacturer for your clothing line?

…especially as a new brand without many industry contacts?

In today’s episode of Factory45 TV (!), I’m sharing 5 tips to finding a clothing manufacturer for the first time.

My best tip — that I haven’t shared before — is saved for #4 so make sure you watch all the way to the end.

It’s never too soon to start making a list of potential production partners that you can contact when you’re ready.

This video will help you begin (or continue) your search. Enjoy!

 

 


clothing manufacturer

Note from Shannon: This is a guest post by Savannah Fender who is currently a Master of Science candidate in the Department of Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management, College of Textiles, at North Carolina State University. 


When you think of fashion and apparel what are some of the top cities that come to mind?

The majority of people would probably identify with New York and Los Angles or Milan and Paris. However, it is what’s hidden under our noses that can help entrepreneurs thrive.

Against popular belief, the sewn goods and textile industry is alive and well within the United States.

Many times the facilities are a lot closer to home than you think. Perhaps they are even your next-door neighbors.

Today, we are going to be touring Apparel Prototyping and Design Solutions, LLC (APaDS) in Pelzer, SC. With a population of just below 100 people, you probably weren’t taught about Pelzer in your eighth-grade geography class! Pelzer is about a 20-minute drive south of Greenville, SC.

There I met with Darlene Martin, the senior pattern maker at APaDS with 28 years of experience; and Elroy Pierce, Founder of APaDS with over 38 years of experience in apparel manufacturing.

Before we got started with an in-depth discussion about domestic production, I took a tour of APaDS. The facility was established in May 2014, as a result of Clemson University making a decision to shut down Clemson Apparel Research (CAR). APaDS, where Darlene and Elroy are today is located at 6931 Hwy 29 N, Pelzer, SC, with six office spaces, a digital patternmaking room, and an open floorplan sewing/cutting room.

Darlene got started in the industry when she was in her early 20s. She had taken a home economics course in high school and discovered her passion for sewing. Darlene went to work  at a local “blouse plant” and from there, her mentor taught her pattern work straight from fabric draping.

They worked for clients like Victoria’s Secret, Sears, and Coldwater Creek. As CAD (computer-aided design) programs became more popular, Darlene’s company encouraged her to go to Atlanta for a two-week program to learn digitizing and grading. Darlene hasn’t stopped working in the industry since.

Even in shutdowns she managed to keep pushing.

apads, sew shop talk

Today APaDS is working with about 150 different clients, including Reese Witherspoon’s brand Draper James.

When you enter APaDS you can see firsthand the passion the employees put into their work. For the people at APaDS, domestic manufacturing was what they always knew, so why move away from it?

They understand the industry has changed drastically and are willing to adapt everyday.

When asked what trades-off companies have to take to stay domestic, Elroy responded:

“There is still a large skill set in the States, it is diminishing very quickly… companies are going to have to look to semi-automation… produce smaller qualities on a faster turn time, than what they did in old production… ”

APaDS is very optimistic about the future of American manufacturing, although it will take time, they feel they are doing their part to promote domestic manufacturing and help entrepreneurs grow.

APaDS is passionate about what they are creating.

If you are looking for someone in the same time zone (or even just a few hours off) that is willing to work with you face-to-face to produce outstanding quality, this is certainly a place your products can be developed.

apads, sew shop talk

Breaking it down:

  • What can APaDS do for you?

>> They are the front people you want to be working with before manufacturing or mass-producing. APaDS can help with your sewn product needs from pattern design, pattern grading, marker plotting, garment samples, garment costing, industrial engineering, apparel consulting, and even small runs (upon request). These are some of the initial steps you MUST take before finding a manufacturer that will work with you.

  • How much do they cost?

>> They are very competitive and cost varies depending on the services and needs of a client.

  • Do I need a Tech Pack?

>> Not necessarily, however it will save APaDS some time when it comes to product development. If you don’t have a technical pack created, APaDS is more than happy to help you format exactly what you need page by page.

  • Am I allowed to visit the facility?

>> APaDS loves it when their clients come for initial consultations, or later in the process to view their work. However, if you aren’t near the area don’t let that stop you! Darlene is very accessible via phone, email, and even Skype.

  • What is the time frame for a returned product?

>> Anywhere from 4-6 weeks.

  • What if I already have a pattern ready?

>> The timeframe may be shortened a bit, but the pattern will still need to be reviewed by Darlene for marking and digitalizing.  

To learn more about the incredible people working at APaDS, be sure to check out their website here and Facebook page here.


savannah fender, apads, sew shop talk

Savannah Fender is currently a Master of Science candidate in the Department of Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management, College of Textiles, at North Carolina State University. She completed her B.F.A at Radford University in Fashion Design and Marketing. She is currently in her last semester at NC State working on her thesis, which focuses on domestic manufacturing within the sewn goods and  textile industry. Savannah is passionate about garment production and helping entrepreneurs thrive!

 

 


important product testing

Consider this scenario.

You spend years dreaming up the perfect apparel product.

You spend months meticulously creating it.

You tweak and stitch and hem and haw over it until…

It’s perfect.

To you.

But what about the lady on the other side of the country, who really wishes the zipper slid up and down a little easier?

Have you tested it to make sure it’s also perfect for your customer?

There are two phases of product development that I would say are a must.

1.) To test your product in the pre-product development process.

2.) To test your product in post-product development.

First, you want to test your concept.

The easiest way to do this is by sending out a survey to your target market (ideally through your email list). This should help you identify your ideal customer, as well as let you know how likely they are to pay for your product.

Once you receive the feedback, consider every bit of it. Make any necessary changes before you move on to develop your patterns and samples.

An important note here: People may not know what they want, but they definitely know what they don’t want. Phrase your survey questions in a way that provokes your future customer to tell you what they don’t like about similar garments on the market and how they feel they could be improved.

The second test is a user test of the product after the sample has already been made.

Start this process by checking to see what is federally mandated by your country for the manufacturer. For example, in the United States, baby clothing has required testing.

If you aren’t sure what testing may be required by law, use this page on the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website to find out. (Note that this is specific to the U.S.)

You want to ensure that you’re offering a product of quality, value and safety. You need go that extra mile to make sure what you believe to be perfect, is actually perfect.

Don’t let this overwhelm you. Testing agencies are out there who specialize in a wide variety of consumer products. Many of these tests are budgetfriendly, as well. Do the research, find out what you need and factor it into your budget.

Your other product testing outlet is going to be much easier

Your family and friends.

This has proven by many first-time entrepreneurs to be the most honest and easiest form of feedback. Reach out to someone in your target market who will be brutally honest and let you know what they like and what can be improved.

Once those two tests are completed, you’ll feel ready and confident to move into production.


Fabric Supplier

As a new business owner, it is vital that you know how to write an effective email that will earn a response.

Depending on who you’re writing to, it can be easier said than done.

When it comes to reaching out to fabric suppliers, especially, there are seven key rules to remember:

1.) Consider the audience you’re reaching out. The supplier is likely receiving hundreds of emails per week, so you want to make sure your inquiry gets straight to the point. The supplier does not care about your background or the mission of your company. At the end of the day, they just want to make a sale.

2.) Keep the email short and sweet. Yes, you will want to include a nice “Hello” and an appropriate “Thank you.” But again, make sure you are not wasting the recipient’s time.

3.) Do your due diligence. Make sure you do your own research on the supplier’s website before you reach out. Oftentimes, you can get many of your questions answered on the supplier’s About, Shop and FAQ pages.

4.) Know your stuff. Many fabric suppliers are going to want to see that you actually know what you’re talking about, so they don’t risk wasting their own time. One great way to show that you’re serious about being their customer is to send over a design, spec sheet or a visual example of the piece you’re needing the fabric for.

5.) Don’t ask about MOQ’s. Especially not in your first email. This mistake will make you come off as overly frugal and price-conscious before even making initial contact.

6.) Foster the relationship. Once you’ve received an initial response, take your time in building a relationship with the sales rep. While being courteous of their time, you want to cultivate the relationship and make it easy for them to help you. Down the road, they’ll be much more likely to negotiate MOQ’s with you later on.

7.) Stay persistent. Be mindful of not overwhelming the supplier, but don’t give up. Finding sustainable and low-impact fabrics is not an easy task for anyone. Stick to your values and keep up your search. Fabric sourcing is one of the steps in product development that can take the longest, so be patient.


supplier email cta

There are so many moving parts that go into launching a sustainable apparel company and one of the steps that can take the longest is fabric sourcing.

As any seasoned designer knows, the moment you realize you have found the fabric can be a mixture of relief, hope and — apprehension.

The first question that will come into your mind is:

Can I meet the supplier’s minimum order quantity (MOQ)?

Maybe you’re planning to start out with 500 yards (or less) because you’re just getting your brand up and running.

It wouldn’t be unheard of for a supplier to require an MOQ of 1,000 (or more) yards, and there may be many reasons for it depending on who you’re working with.

The first thing you need to is find out why the minimums are set at the amount that they are, keeping in mind that the exact reasons will be specific to the individual suppliers.

Once you find out their “why,” you’ll be better equipped to negotiate.

And then you can devise a plan.

Before you start to propose negotiations, make sure you’re not making one of these other fabric sourcing mistakes and take a look at the supplier’s website before you call or email.

Sometimes you can find the MOQ and the company’s capabilities right on the site, and it can help set you up to make the perfect proposal for negotiation.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you devise the right plan:

>> When a supplier sets a MOQ because of time efficiency for custom dyeing your fabric, offer to pay  a flat “dye fee” in addition to the per yard cost of the fabric. This may add to the final cost of the order, but it will likely be much cheaper than ordering three times the amount you need just to meet the MOQ.

>> If the MOQ is in place because it “costs what it costs,” then you can either offer to put down a deposit, but place smaller orders at a time OR you can see if there is the option of “piggy-backing” onto one of their existing client’s orders and splitting the cost. Keep in mind that your production schedule will need to be flexible.

>> If the MOQ is in place because it’s a custom order, let’s say there’s a very particular blue fabric you want but it’s never carried in stock, it may be worth conceding to what the supplier already has available in their warehouse. If you can meet the minimums of an in-stock fabric that is only a slightly different shade of blue, then it’s probably worth settling for it. You don’t want to be so committed to your original vision, that you can’t see the “good enough” version staring you in the face.

>> And lastly, you can try offering to pay a higher price per yard, in order to purchase less than their normal MOQ.

There are many ways that you can go about this, and you will find and choose what works best for you. Go with your instincts, but don’t force it. 

If a supplier won’t budge, then it’s better to cut your losses amicably rather than burn a bridge. When one door closes another opens…

Remember, that no matter what avenue you choose for negotiation this is your journey, your brand and your company’s future.

Give it all you got.


 

There are things every single one of us can do to help alleviate the damage done by the traditional fashion industry. Here are the big four:

1. ) Buy local

At the most basic level, when you buy from a local designer or from a local boutique more money stays in the community. According to SustainableConnections.org, “Several studies have shown that when you buy from an independent, locally owned business, rather than nationally owned businesses, significantly more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses — continuing to strengthen the economic base of the community.”

Not only are you investing in your own city, but you’re also reducing your individual environmental footprint, creating jobs, and putting your tax dollars to good use.

Putting that into dollars and cents, Businessweek reported “for every $100 spent at a locally owned store, $45 remains in the local economy, compared with about $13 per $100 spent at a big box store.”

2.) Buy “indie”

Support independent designers who are conscious of the production process all the way through. Many of these designers are mindful of where they source their fabric and are involved in the manufacturing from front to back. Some are even doing the sewing themselves in small independent sew shops or incubators.

The stories behind companies like Piece x Piece, Seamly and Manufacture NY are a refreshing glimpse into transparent clothing production.

thrift-shop-photo mombot3.) Buy used

Huge progress can be made by consumers purchasing second-hand. It is imperative that we start making use of the resources already available to us instead of buying new clothing.twitter-bird

Any remaining stigma against thrift shopping has gone out the window with the popularity of consignment chains like Buffalo Exchange, Plato’s Closet, and the many local thrift shops popping up all over the world.

Second-hand clothing has even entered the tech scene with websites and apps such as Bib + Tuck, Twice, Poshmark and Nifty Thrifty, boasting beautiful user interfaces that encourage the purchase and reuse of someone else’s unwanted clothing.

Not only are the price tags competitive with the fast fashion giants, but many of the garments appear to be practically new. It’s a win-win for your wallet and for the planet.

4.) Buy less

Buying less is ultimately the solution that can change the world. (And no, it will not lead to an economic Armageddon.)

Considering the fact that society’s throwaway consumption habits are at an all-time high, there are ways to use our dollars more economically and efficiently than buying six H&M dresses for $9.99.

Instead, you can use that same $59.94 (6 x $9.99) to buy an ethically-produced dress from a local designer and wear it for years to come.

I’m not advocating to stop spending. I’m advocating to use your purchasing power in ways that go beyond wearing something once and throwing it away.twitter-bird

And if that’s all a piece of cake, here are a few secondary factors to keep in mind:

seamly-coLook at labels

It can’t be said enough. Do you know where your clothes came from? Who made the t-shirt on your back? Are you comfortable with the possibility that your jeans were made by a modern-day slave on the other side of the world?

Look at the labels on your clothes and ask questions. You can start here.

Wash cold & hang dry

In the United States, the average household does 300-400 loads of laundry per year. A whopping 1,000 loads of laundry are started every second of the day — that’s 13,000 gallons of water per household. Three-quarters of the carbon footprint from a load of laundry comes from drying.

And let’s not forget the amount of chemicals and phosphates that are used in laundry detergent and then leaked back into our water supply, depleting aquatic ecosystems.

To reduce your individual carbon footprint: always wash cold, hang to dry and use phosphate-free laundry detergent.

Have alternative solutions to add to this mix? Tweet me your thoughts at @factory45co.

Photos courtesy of Fashion Revolution Day and Chic Vegan.


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