How to Get Featured by Fashion Bloggers as a Startup Brand

“25 thousand dollars?!”

My friend nearly spilled her glass of wine across the table.

“How is that possible?” she asked, mouth agape.

I was out for drinks on Monday night with a couple of friends — one of whom is in the fashion industry and the other who isn’t.

“Yep, we were quoted $25,000 to be featured in one blog post with three product photos and 500 words of text,” my friend, who runs a womenswear brand, went onto explain.

I have to admit that even I was shocked by that price tag.

For small businesses who are doing the best they can with the resources they’ve got, the world of fashion blogging can be very intimidating.

How much should I expect to pay?

Do I give them the product and a fee on top of that?

Is it going to be worth it?

Being a fashion blogger is big business these days, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t affordable opportunities for smaller brands.

On Factory45 LIVE with the founders of Trendly we talk about what you really need to know about working with fashion bloggers.

Trendly is an app that connects influencers (like fashion bloggers) with authentic brands (like yours) that have social missions.

Pretty perfect, right?

So I wanted to bring Michael into the community so he can answer your questions about sponsored content, collaborations with bloggers and realistic expectations.

It’s true that just one Instagram post with the right influencer can skyrocket your revenue in a day.

It can also help grow your own social media following and get you on the radar of some of the bigger fashion bloggers in your niche.

But it can also be really hard to know which opportunity is worth investing in.

If you’ve dipped your toe into the blogger world but still haven’t quite figured it out or if it’s something you’ve been wondering about, then you can now listen to a recording to the interview.

Watch it for free HERE.




If you know someone who would benefit from watching this interview on Factory45 LIVE, please share this link with them.

P.S. The next Factory45 LIVE will be with Lorraine Sanders, founder of Spirit of 608 on Wednesday, October 19th so mark your calendars : )


Sew Shop Talk: Introducing APaDS

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!



5 Tips for Creating a “Made in the USA” Apparel Company

So, I’ve laid it out before — new designers tend to have a bad reputation. Not to say it’s your fault, it’s just that some have, unfortunately, ruined it for others.

Suppliers and manufacturers here in the U.S. have been in this game for a long time. And they’ve seen it all — from NAFTA to their neighboring factories shutting down to the early days of a shaky revival.

They’ve also seen every type of designer and aspiring entrepreneur, and most have come to the assumption that 9 times out of 10, it isn’t worth their time to take on work with someone who is new to the industry.

While navigating the world of sewn manufacturing may be new and probably a little intimidating, there are ways to set yourself up so that you don’t come off as the “new kid on the block.”

Let me break it down for you:

>> First and foremost: Set goals. So you have an idea – that’s great. Now, get it all out of your head and put it down on paper. While keeping in mind the vision of your product, you’ll want to set both long and short term goals. This will not only help to keep you motivated (long term), but also allow you see the little wins (short term) along the way.  

>> Research. Creating your own apparel company takes a lot of time and money. You want to take all the time you need to ensure you have several reliable options for both fabric sourcing and cut and sew. Do all the research you can before narrowing down your list, this usually requires multiple prototypes, and check out any online reviews or references of past clients who have worked with the factories you’re hoping to partner with. 

>> Budget. Not only are you going to need time and a lot of patience, but you will also need startup capital. You can likely negotiate with suppliers, but err on the side of caution and take the time to figure out what your budget is for each phase of development. If money isn’t growing on the trees outside of your house, I would strongly consider launching a Kickstarter campaign.

>> Organize your construction methods. Before you approach a supplier or factory, you want to make sure all of your ducks are in a row. Ideally, you will have a very detailed description of the fabric and materials you need (including weight, weave and fabrication) or a detailed spec sheet. This should include measurements, materials, colors, trim, hardware, grading, labels, tags, etc. and any other important information that would be needed to create your design. This will show that you know what you’re doing, have thought things through, and are a serious potential client.

>> Communication. You want this to be a two way street and effective communication is critical to your success. When you reach out to a project manager, there are some important “do’s and don’ts”:

DO: Provide a sample, pattern, spec sheet.

DON’T: Say things like “patent,” “sign an NDA,” or “What steps do I need to take?” These are all red flags to the production partner, indicating that youre a newbie.

Above all, be polite, professional, responsive and appreciative. The world of domestic manufacturing is complicated but once you get your foot in the door, other doors will open.


7 Tips For Getting a Fabric Supplier to Respond to Your Email

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.

The Most Important Step of Pre-Production

The Most Important Step of Pre-Production: An Interview with Good Clothing Company

If you’ve been around these parts for awhile, you know that I’m a big fan of Kathryn Hilderbrand, who is the owner of Good Clothing Company, a cut and sew manufacturer in Massachusetts.

From tailor to designer to full-scale manufacturer, Kathryn has seen more parts of the apparel industry than most people. She is an expert in her field and today she is bringing that knowledge to Factory45.

Following up from the last interview I did with Mindy Martell of Clothier Design Source, my interview with Kathryn goes more in depth to focus on only one piece of the apparel production puzzle.

In this 15-minute interview, Kathryn and I discuss:

  • Why it’s so important to know that a home-sewing pattern and production-ready pattern are not the same thing.
  • What an entrepreneur needs to have ready to begin the pattern-making process.
  • Why patternmaking is so important to the pre-production phase.
  • How each step of the patternmaking process work.
  • What an entrepreneur can do to ensure the patternmaking process goes as smoothly as possible.
  • Why you shouldn’t expect the very first pattern to come out perfect.
  • The importance of fit and specs.
  • And much more.

Click the video below to watch the whole interview.

If you thought the interview with Kathryn was helpful, we’d love for you to share it — use the social sharing buttons for the platform of your choice (they’re on the left and down below!).



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.



Sew Shop Talk: Introducing COsewn

Jessica Montoya is the literal boots on the ground of the ‘Made in the USA’ movement. Experienced designer, skilled sewer, project manager, entrepreneur and mother, she owns COsewn, an apparel production facility in Colorado.

She has grown from freelancing in her home to opening a full production space in just a few years, while paying all of her employees above minimum wage.

Jessica’s name has come up in various conversations with other skilled professionals in the industry, and I was thrilled when she agreed to do an interview for us. People like Jessica are pivotal to increasing the re-shoring of domestic manufacturing, and we can all learn a lot from her about what it will take.

Tell us about yourself and COsewn – how did you get started in apparel production?

I started sewing seriously in high school, which led to dual Bachelor’s Degrees in Costume Technology and Arts Management. After working in the opera world for a few years, I transitioned into freelance work, mainly custom tailoring and small run production sewing. This led to product development and production pattern making, all of which I did out of my home for a number of years.

In 2014, I moved the business into a commercial warehouse space in order to set up large production cutting tables and additional industrial machines. I’ve also hired several sewing / production assistants and have been focused on expanding our factory’s capabilities.


What types of services does COsewn offer?

We offer customized product development packages that include technical design, patterns, and sample making for apparel and accessories. Our experience spans women’s, men’s, children’s, and decor categories.

We offer low minimum cut and sew production, tagging, and packaging of lightweight knits and wovens to clients who are able to provide a production ready pattern and sample; pattern audits are required to ensure the sewing will be accurate and cost effective in a production environment.

Describe your ideal client. What kind of designer do you love working with?

The ideal client is detail oriented and prepared through each stage of the process, and demonstrates willingness and ability to follow the checklists we provide. We work with designers to outline what must be ready for each step in order to effectively manage time and meet deadlines. This process requires designers to be very involved and sufficiently plan ahead.

COsewn is a great fit for sustainable businesses that want their products to be ‘Made in the USA.’  Our clients often use a direct to consumer approach for selling, which helps offset the costs associated with retail mark-ups and the higher per unit rates of small runs.

cosewn jpeg

What are some of the biggest challenges you tackle in your work?

I am committed to paying my staff a living wage vs. minimum wage, and believe in creating local jobs for our communities. Also, Made in the USA is becoming more of a buzz word, and as larger companies are shifting production back to the States, the more established sewing factories are becoming very busy and turning away smaller runs from emerging designers, as they are more difficult to turn a profit on.

Since most of our domestic industry shifted overseas 20 years ago, there is a very small pool of American garment workers remaining with production experience, as many have either retired or moved on to other fields. Now, there is momentum building for small cut & sew shops like COsewn, but most of us are still working very hard to build up our capabilities and get workers trained and up to speed.

It is also unfortunate, but I regularly hear first hand about other domestic factories and home production sewing gigs that rely heavily on undocumented and/or immigrant workers who struggle on piece rates to barely hit minimum wage. We cannot compete with the piece rates that these factories offer, but we can guarantee that our workers at COsewn are American citizens and are treated fairly.

I am passionate about creating an environment that makes factory sewing appealing to young Americans, in order to attract young blood to a work force and skill set that is on the verge of disappearing. This effort requires significant training and investment, and comes with the pressure of keeping workers busy with tasks that are suited to their varying skill levels.

Eventually, I envision having a staff that is fully cross-trained on different machines and jobs throughout the development and production cycles.


Why do you feel U.S. manufacturing is a positive step for the fashion industry as a whole?

There has been tremendous growth in the independent designer category, and consumers are beginning to support a movement to buy locally-made apparel just as they consume locally grown food and microbrews.

By manufacturing in the US, factories are more accessible to designers, who are able to supervise their production first hand; this ensures a higher level of transparency combined with better oversight and communication.

Also, designers have the option of lower minimums than typically offered overseas, coupled with faster turnaround times. As designers establish solid relationship with local factories, we’ll see more brands be able to respond quickly to trends and mid-season reorders at a reasonable cost.

The demand for ‘Made in the USA’ is increasing, but we are currently dealing with a shortage of skilled labor. Hopefully, this interest will create a new draw for people to once again be inspired by the value of learning the sewing trade. This resurgence in the handmade goods sector is bringing back interest and value for quality made products, which hopefully will encourage American solidarity. Thus, the handcrafted skills we possess and desire to sustain are becoming invaluable and should not be taken for granted.

You can read more made-in-the-USA startup success stories here.

Photo credit:, COsewn

Sew Shop Talk: An Interview with Open Arms Shop

The Open Arms Shop started as a sustainable apparel brand empowering refugee women through living wage employment. Currently, its founders and employees are transitioning into a full-development sew shop based in Austin, TX, adding another Made in the USA production facility to the growing comeback.

Unique to Open Arms Shop is its “triple threat” of providing a living wage to refugee women, being based in the USA, and using repurposed and recycled materials. Having already taken on production of established brands such as Raven + Lily and Blue Avocado, I spoke to founder Leslie Beasley about Open Arms’ new business model and her advice for new designers looking to manufacture in the USA.

open-arms-shopFactory45: When you think back on the designers and entrepreneurs you have worked with, can you describe your ideal client? How can new designers be great to work with, too?

Open Arms: Our ideal clients are those who come prepared with their initial mock up along with a detailed tech pack and have a clear vision with the ability to commit to a six-month to a year production contract. It’s a client who is committed to being a socially-conscious brand made in the USA and see a long-term partnership with Open Arms.

New designers can be great to work with as well. It is more of a challenge with new designers because they often need smaller quantities and would like a variety of designs. The ideal new designer for us is one who is committed to being a socially-conscious brand (understanding it will be more expensive than outsourcing out of country), is willing to be flexible in order to make it work, and can commit to one or two designs to begin with instead of multiple designs.

F45: What is the most challenging part of running a sew shop?

One of the most challenging parts is having the client collect all of the elements needed to roll into production at the time production is scheduled to begin. All elements are needed to operate at optimal efficiency. When a customer has the correct amount of fabric, hardware, internal labels, etc. when production begins, things run much more smoothly.

F45: What are your goals for growth and moving the industry forward?

Our goal is to partner with socially-conscious brands that have the ability to commit to a six- month to a year production cycle. This allows us to hire and train refugee women and give them the stability of a long term job. It also gives us the ability to increase efficiencies, allowing more affordable rates. This model will allow us to grow as well as move the industry forward.


F45: What is your advice for designer entrepreneurs who want to manufacture in the USA?

Stick with your conviction to manufacture in the USA! Don’t give up too quickly. Get creative. See your manufacturer as a partner and work closely with them. Have flexibility and creativity in order to keep it affordable. It can be done. Target retailers and customers who are also committed to USA made apparel with a transparent supply chain and who are willing to invest more in your products.

open-arms-shopF45: Price can often be a deterrent for new companies and they end up outsourcing. Do you have any suggestions for keeping manufacturing domestic and affordable?

It is a challenge to keep manufacturing domestic and affordable, no doubt about it. The best way we have found to keep it affordable is to do larger quantity runs of the same or similar designs. This enables our team to become skilled and efficient at one thing increasing production time, insuring quality products, therefore allowing it to be more affordable. In addition, designers should consider sales strategies that allow them to make a commitment for a lower monthly volume for a longer timeframe. This enables designers to spread out the manufacturing expense over time and Open Arms can dedicate fewer staff to the project but for a longer period of time. Peaks and valleys in demand cost more and are harder to manage.

F45: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I would like to encourage any designers who desire to “do it differently” to stay domestic and demonstrate social consciousness. Don’t give up. Stay true to your vision. Stay passionate. Keep believing. You can do it!

To learn more about the work of Open Arms Shop you can check them out here.


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Sew Shop Talk: An Interview with Silver Lining Productions

The goal of the “Sew Shop Talk” series is to bring a voice to the factories and sew shops based in the U.S. Finding a production partner can be one of the most elusive parts of trying to start an apparel business, so these interviews will shed some light on the faces and personalities of the people who make our clothes.

I first came across Grace, Laura Lee and Irma of Silver Lining Productions during their May Kickstarter campaign to raise money to open a sew shop in Eugene, OR. I was drawn to their similar message of bringing manufacturing back home while asking the question, “Where was your shirt made?”

Silver Lining Productions is a breath of fresh air to the oftentimes “old school” industry of domestic manufacturing. I spoke with the founders about their mission, the “Made in America” movement, and their advice for new designers.

Silver Linings Production JPEG

F45: Tell us a little bit about Silver Lining Productions. How did you get started? What was the catalyst for starting a cut and sew facility in Oregon?

Silver Lining Productions was launched by three female partners in April of 2014 with overwhelming community support as the first garment production facility in the area. We have produced fashion shows for years and witnessed a disconnect between local designers and local boutiques/businesses. With our combined experiences in different areas of the industry, we’re providing a solution to producing goods locally.

F45: What is your advice to designers for finding a production partner in the States?

Start as close to home as possible. Local resources can exist just below the surface and word-of-mouth can lead you to great connections in your own area. Get out there and start asking questions about how others are getting their goods made!

silver-linings-productionF45: What are some things for a designer to look for and ask when reaching out to a cut and sew facility?

Ask for honest lead times and fully understand the importance of approving samples. Ask if the manufacturer charges for samples and if so, if there is any way to wrap those costs in with an order. Without an approved sample, you might as well throw your money away! Always remember: a sample may or may not be sellable. Even though sample production may be a high cost, it is an imperative part of the process.

Give yourself a realistic budget and timeframe. You want to have the funds available to support your production. Bring EVERYTHING that the manufacturer needs to complete your production run. Any time they have to stop production to wait for you to bring materials costs time and money.

Ask if the manufacturer can help you source your materials/notions/screen printing/tags etc., as they may have very valuable information for you. Ask about payment terms, upfront costs (deposits) and partial payments or shipments.

F45: What sets Silver Lining Productions apart?

Apart from being the first garment production facility in the area, we are innovating manufacturing techniques based on sustainability and upcycling. We are committed to creating as little waste as possible, paying fair wages to our employees, and working with customers/designers to find ways to work with dead stock, remnants and scraps that not many other manufacturers would be interested in. We also produce local and regional fashion shows to showcase designers we work with (and bolster the local fashion industry). Oh, we do leather-work as well!

F45: Why do you believe the “Made in America” movement is so important?

There is a need and a want for USA made garments. Simply put, it adds value to your product if it is made in the U.S. There are environmental, humanitarian and economic benefits to making and selling your product in the U.S. Sewing, patterning and manufacturing are nearly dying arts in America and by supporting this field in any way (whether you make, buy or sell US goods), you become part of a larger community and connected to the very fiber of this country.

F45: Anything else you’d like to add?

Keep it local, support yourself and help your community, city, state and country by producing here at home!

If you’re based on the west coast, consider Silver Lining Productions as a viable option for manufacturing your product(s). You can find Grace, Laura Lee and Irma on Facebook and through their website.

If you know of a sew shop or garment factory in the U.S. that would like to be part of the “Sew Shop Talk” interview series, please send an email to