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How do you feel when you read the words: 

Product Development

Excitement? Anxiety? Confusion? Fear?

When I talk to designers about patternmaking and samplemaking, many people say they feel paralyzed.

The upfront costs for creating your first pattern and sample can look so intimidating that it becomes the most frequent point of giving up.

Especially if you don’t have the accountability of a program, peers or mentorship behind you.

So, when we reached this point in the Factory45 accelerator program this year, I brought in Lenese Calleea to talk to everyone about product development.

LC Apparel Consulting

Lenese is the owner of LC Apparel Consulting in New York City and her business is focused on educating new designers, specifically around product development.

Typically, these live classes are exclusive to the Factory45 program but I wanted to share one piece of Lenese’s wisdom because it’s such a common question that comes up.

And it’s the importance of reference samples.

Reference samples are example garments that you bring to your pattern/samplemaker to accompany your spec sheet or sketches.

Providing examples of seams or stitches or binding or pockets or sleeves or collars or whatever you have a vision for will help immensely in the communication with your product development team.

So often I find designers are afraid of “copying” existing garments when, if done correctly, this step is critical to your patterns and samples being developed the way you envisioned.

Should you bring in a pair of Lululemon leggings and tell your samplemaker to make an identical replica?

No.

But there are ways to combine elements of different garments so that you’re not starting product development from scratch.

Factory45 alumni mentor Hannah McDermott put together this screenshot of reference samples she used to develop her swimwear line.

Product Development

This is just one tidbit of advice that Lenese shared that I felt was imperative to shout from the rooftops for anyone about to go into product development.

It will save you so much time, money and frustration if you’re able to gather these reference samples in the beginning.

And your pattern and samplemaker will definitely thank you : )

 

 

 

P.S. If you’re interested in working with Lenese and her team, you can learn more about her services here. She also hosts a podcast called BlackNFashion that you can listen to here.


manufacturing kit

fashion entrepreneur

Do you want to make the leap from the traditional fashion industry to the sustainable fashion industry?

Or maybe you want to start off as a sustainable brand from the get go.

Sustainable and ethical fashion is a constantly growing industry, especially as more consumers are becoming aware of how important it is to planet and people.

So, where do you start?

Today, I’m sharing the three most important aspects of a sustainable fashion brand and what you need to make sure you know how to do.

 

 

If these three things are already top of mind for you and you’re ready to get started, then applications to Factory45 are now open HERE!

To changing the fashion industry,

 

 

fabric sourcing template


designer woman walking in california

The other day I was on a podcast interview, and the host asked me how I reach big goals.

I’ve shared with you before that I’m not a goal-setter in the traditional sense. Instead, I focus on the small “action steps” needed to achieve big goals.

And that’s where I started in January of this year.

The “goal” was to create a new brand video for Factory45 that would portray the experience of being an entrepreneur in the program.

I had a vision of what the final video would look like, but I really didn’t know how to bring it to life.

I’m not a filmmaker, I’m not a script writer and I’m certainly not an actress.

So, I got out a notebook and I made a list of all of the things that would need to come together to make this big goal happen within the budget that I set.

Hire experts who do this professionally… write a script… edit, edit and re-edit the script… approve a storyboard… find an “actress” for the video… hire a voiceover… lay out a timeline… create a shooting schedule, etc…

Thankfully — and this is always applicable advice — we started working on the video so far in advance that we finished filming two weeks before we got stay-at-home orders.

Advanced planning paid off more than ever this year.

So, how did it all come together?

I hired Drew and Kestrel of Falcon Related, who have worked with me before to create the Factory45 portal videos.

Jen Long, who is the founder of Noble Carriage, happens to live in San Diego (where I’m based right now) and she was willing to be our actress. 

She also happens to be the consulting client I worked with in 2014 who inspired the idea for the Factory45 program — how’s that for a full-circle moment?

Holly Stavnes, the co-founder of Left Edit, provided the voiceover for us — and she also went through the Factory45 program in 2017.

That’s all to say, the new brand video came together in such an authentic and genuine way that I couldn’t have planned it better in January if I tried.

It’s a lesson in trusting the process, setting up a plan of action and following through on the little steps to make it happen.

Anyway, you can see for yourself — just click the play button below : )

 

 

 


Factory45 Mentors

photo montage of factory45 alumni mentors

Every year that I launch Factory45, I spend a good portion of my energy thinking about this:

How can I make this year more impactful, more helpful, more supportive for the entrepreneurs that come through the program?

Because the truth is, if you’re not always striving to improve your business then you’ll start to lag behind.

So whether it’s filming new videos, updating the content, redesigning the Factory45 portal or providing more personal support, I’m constantly working throughout the year to make sure Factory45 maintains its uncompromising quality.

So, that begs the question,

What am I doing to enhance the Factory45 program this year?

…drumroll please… 

I’m so excited to announce that we’re adding:

Factory45 Alumni Mentors!

For the first time ever, participants of the 2020 program will be matched up with a Factory45 graduate who is currently running her own sustainable fashion brand.

These nine hand-picked women will provide text messaging support, virtual coworking sessions and additional guidance for small groups of Factory45’ers who will work together throughout the six-month program.

So, without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to the nine Alumni Mentors for the 2020 program! Click the play button below.

If you want to start creating your own sustainable fashion brand, and you’re looking for the behind-the-scenes guidance of someone actually doing it, then applications to Factory45 open in one week!

In the meantime, I’ll be on Instagram Live today at 1pm ET / 10am PT to share more details about the Alumni Mentorship program. 

Simply go to @factory45co today, anytime after 1pm ET / 10am PT, and you can watch me live (or watch a recording) to hear more about what’s in store for you and our Mentors.

I can’t wait for you to meet them!

 

 

 

P.S. Thank you to EditMate for putting together this fun video for us — I told the Mentors, I can’t stop smiling when I watch it : )


fabric sourcing

 

designer sourcing fabric

When I was starting a sustainable fashion brand back in 2011 I spent close to a year reaching out to fabric suppliers.

After months of dead-ends, it felt like we would never find the perfect fabric we needed for our product.

Admittedly, our standards were high. 

My then co-founder and I were looking for a 100% recycled fabric that was spun and knitted in the United States. 

We didn’t even know if that fabric existed.

But by some miracle, we eventually connected with a knitter in North Carolina who could sell us the fabric we needed.

The only problem?

The supplier’s minimum order quantity (MOQ) was over 1,000 yards. As a startup brand, who hadn’t even sold anything yet, we couldn’t begin to place an order that large.

But we also knew we couldn’t let this fabric pass us by. 

So, what did we do?

We negotiated.

(In a rather unconventional way…)

And in today’s video, I’m going to tell you how we did it so that when you find your perfect fabric you’ll know how to do it, too.

Enjoy!

 

 


fabric sourcing

Safety Boots

When Emily Soloby applied to Factory45 in 2018 she had an idea for a sleek, comfortable, all-weather boot for professional women. 

As the co-owner of a transportation safety company that she runs with her husband, Emily would often have to run from client meetings to the job site and couldn't find boots that had the protection she needed, while also looking good with what she was wearing. 

I remember reading Emily’s Factory45 application and thinking, now there’s a woman I want to work with. 

Safety Boots

One of the first things we tackled at the start of Factory45 was market testing.

Before joining the program, Emily thought she needed to focus on a more generalized boot to appeal to a larger customer base. 

But then she began conducting focus groups and surveys and discovered that it wasn't just women in the transportation industry who needed stylish safety boots — it was women in STEM, architecture, engineering, construction, and many more industries. 

“It was a much bigger market than I thought,” she told me in an interview for this story.

womens safety boot

So she quickly pivoted back to her original idea to create stylish women's safety boots.

“It was the best decision I could have made, because now we are not just putting yet another fashion boot out there,” said Emily. “We are filling in a true market need, and helping women to feel seen and acknowledged in their industries.”

From the start of Factory45, Emily followed the program to a tee. 

I can go back and look at emails we sent during office hours and recognize not only her acute attention to detail but also her patience in building the business the right way, from the start.

“We began testing out materials by having companies send us samples, and we traveled to leather suppliers to see their facilities and understand their process,” Emily told me. “We visited materials shows, and spoke to as many people as we could, to try to better understand the safety shoe sourcing process.”

She visited over a dozen factories and eventually found one in Mexico near the world-class Gold-rated tannery where she sources the leather for her boots.

Emily says, “One of the most important things to us was that we source our leather close to where the shoes are being made, because this saves on the resources typically involved in shipping and transport.”

She spent over a year building a community, social media presence, brand identity and email list, while simultaneously working on her supply chain.

Then in February 2019, Juno Jones launched to the world through pre-orders on Kickstarter and reached its goal in 29 hours.

With over two weeks left in the campaign, Juno Jones has more than doubled its goal with over $20,000 raised.

So, what were the three most important marketing strategies that Emily attributes to the success of Juno Jones’ launch?

  • Building community on Instagram, and being consistent with posting. Emily is a believer in posting and creating the content yourself, because people want to connect with you, not an anonymous social media professional.
  • Personal networking, attending events, following up, and staying friends with potential customers.
  • Sending personal messages to remind people about your campaign.

To keep up momentum, Emily says she is following up on all of the press leads, writing articles, and doing lots of podcast interviews.

womens safety boot

What I personally love about the Juno Jones brand and Kickstarter campaign is that it appeals to a niche market

There is no question that a women’s safety boot is more interesting as a brand story and product offering than a generic boot. When the right customer discovers Juno Jones, she immediately knows it was made for her.

And that’s incredibly compelling in a business debut.

So what’s next for Juno Jones?

Emily says, “Our mission is to provide women with beautiful safety boots, and in doing so, to empower and normalize women working in nontraditional fields. Often times, in male-dominated fields, women can feel invisible, isolated, and like their voice isn't heard. By creating safety footwear especially for women, we want them to feel seen, acknowledged, and empowered to rise to the top of their industries.”

More of that, please. 👏

 


Know a woman in STEM who would love a stylish pair of safety boots?  Send them this link to pre-order from Juno Jones.

 


crowdfunding cta

Here’s an all-too-common frustration I hear from new entrepreneurs who don’t have a fashion background:

“There are just too many fabric options — it gives me complete decision paralysis.”

One of the first obstacles to overcome as a new fashion brand is how to determine the fabric you need for your product(s).

It is completely normal to feel overwhelmed by the tens of thousands of fabric options to choose from.

You may decide on the fiber you want to use, but you don’t know if it should be a knit or a woven.

You may know that you want an organic cotton jersey knit, but you don’t know which weight you need.

Then there’s the confusion of ounces versus grams, depending on which country you’re sourcing from.

No wonder fabric sourcing is the very first module of the Factory45 accelerator program — it’s usually the part of the process that takes the longest!

So in today’s video, I’m sharing a quick and easy hack to start determining the fabric you need — and you don’t even need to leave your house (unless you want to).

I want you to feel empowered to tackle fabric sourcing head-on and overcome the paralysis of “too many options.”

Just this little exercise can help create some clarity around fabric and prove that even a beginner can successfully source fabric for her fashion brand.

Click the play button below to watch this short video!

Enjoy,

 

 


fabric sourcing

SUSTAINABLE FASHION FORUM tickets are now on sale HERE! Meet me in Portland, Oregon on April 24-26 for what is sure to be a power-packed sustainable fashion experience.

I’m already getting imposter syndrome just looking at the line-up of incredible speakers, but I'm thrilled to be speaking on a panel over the weekend.

Whether you’re in “idea stage,” have an established brand or are a seasoned pro, I’ve heard the Sustainable Fashion Forum does not disappoint (this is my first time attending!). Tickets are available for purchase here.

Sustainable Fashion Forum


SHOPIFY’S SOCIAL IMPACT TEAM launched a Sustainability Forum last week that’s free! You can join in the conversation and ask questions of various people in the field of social entrepreneurship. 

I’m one of the designated “sustainable fashion experts” and this is a great opportunity to get some of your questions answered quickly about supply chain, packaging, social impact and more. You can check out the ongoing conversations or start your own HERE.

factory45 shopify


SUSTAINABLE FASHION STARTUP FROM SCRATCH: WHERE TO BEGIN is now available to watch HERE! I’m running an encore of this episode since we had some email issues when it was originally sent out a few weeks ago. 

In this video, I’m sharing the first five steps to consider when creating a sustainable fashion startup from scratch. You can watch the five-minute video here.

sustainable-fashion-startup


Enjoy!

 

 


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Do you know the number one reason that new fashion brands lose money or go out of business in their first year?

Manufacturing mistakes.

From over-ordering inventory to garment construction errors, starting production is the most vulnerable time for new fashion brands.

I’ve heard the stories.

The brand blames the factory… the factory blames the brand… and when all is said and done, only a fraction of the production order is good enough to sell.

And both parties lose money.

In the case of the new brand, it’s enough of a loss to put them out of business — before they’ve even started.

The thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Because the primary reason for manufacturing mistakes is a lack of communication.

The tech pack isn’t specific… the sew-by sample isn’t perfect… the brand and project manager haven’t had enough conversations about the end goal of the product.

The good news is: Communication is something that can be improved upon.

And while yes, the factory manager could probably be quicker about responding to your emails or returning your phone calls, effective communication is the responsibility of you — the founder and designer of your brand.

Can you control the skill set of the sewers? No.

Can you control the attention of the quality control manager? No.

But you can control the clarity of your expectations and needs up until production begins.

And that’s everything.

Between the free resources in books, blogs and YouTube, there’s really no excuse anymore to go into apparel manufacturing knowing nothing at all.

So, I’ve put together a little quiz for you, so you can better understand where your knowledge lies… 

Which of these questions can you answer?

  1. What is a “time study” sample?
  2. Name the three things you need to be able to start product development.
  3. What’s the most important question to ask a pattern/samplemaker before you hire them?
  4. What’s the number one way to save money in production?
  5. Should your production partner sign an NDA?

If you were able to confidently answer four out of these five questions, then you’re in good shape!

But if you know that you’re new to the manufacturing industry and you have plans to start an apparel or accessories brand, then it’s imperative that you arm yourself with the knowledge and know-how to get through production without losing money.

And that’s why I created The Manufacturing Kit for you.

It includes eight resources that will answer the questions above, as well as teach you other valuable information like:

  • The 14 things you need before starting product development. 
  • How to translate your sketch to a spec sheet template so you don't have to pay to have one made.
  • 9 questions to ask a pattern/samplemaker before you hire them.
  • 9 questions to ask a manufacturer before signing a contract.
  • And more…

You can check out The Manufacturing Kit in more detail here.

And if you have any questions about it, just reply to this email — I’ll personally get back to you.

As they say, “knowledge is power” and my goal with The Manufacturing Kit is for you to be able to confidently and calmly go into production without wasting time and losing money.

To your success,

 

 


The other night I was out for Thai food with some friends and we started sharing our hopes for the new year.

My friend, Megan, was telling us about the morning she woke up on the first day of 2020.

She said she was lying in bed, mentally preparing to get out from under the covers, when she noticed birds chirping outside her window. 

So she laid there, listening to the birds for longer than she would have in 2019.

“I want to have more ‘bird moments’ this year,” she told us. “It’s more than just stopping to smell the roses — it’s taking the time to really be in that moment.”

For the week since then, I’ve tried to adopt Megan’s intention as my own — consciously stopping to appreciate little moments throughout the day.

The way a bright yellow tree contrasts against a clear blue sky.

The way my son’s chubby little hand rests on my knee.

The way it feels to wrap up in a blanket in front of a fireplace.

But throughout this week, I’ve noticed something else.

I haven’t had any bird moments while I’ve been working.

Maybe I’ve been focused on getting into a “flow state” instead (I’ve written about that before here.)

But really, I think the reason is this:

Even if you’re your own boss and you run your own business, we’re mostly programmed to focus on the negative associations of “work.”

The to-do list that doesn’t let up, the technology that isn’t working, the customer who isn’t happy, the ads that aren’t converting… 

“Doing the work” and “bird moments” don’t naturally go hand-in-hand… 

But I wonder, how much of our productivity and satisfaction would increase if they did?

If we looked up every once in a while and paused for longer than usual, what would it do for our mental state as entrepreneurs?

There’s a reason why the majority of big-time CEOs and successful business people take time to meditate every day.

There is science-backed evidence that meditation increases creativity, focus, memory, and emotional intelligence.

And taking the time for bird moments is an easy way to start implementing some of that mindfulness towards your own business.

A nice Instagram comment about your latest product launch → bird moment.

An enthusiastic email from one of your customers → bird moment.

The moment you finally connect your website to your email platform → bird moment.

Just the simple thought: “I’m running my own business…”

What an opportunity.

What an opportunity to truly appreciate how far you’ve come.

So, that’s my wish for all of us this year.

To stop and appreciate the moments that affirm why you’re here, what you’re doing and how truly monumental that is.

More moments of hearing the birds.

 

 


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