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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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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

Every year around this time, I try googling a list of fashion events happening around the world, and I’m never able to find a comprehensive list… 

So, I put one together for us.

This list focuses mainly on sourcing, tradeshows and conferences with an emphasis on sustainable fashion, specifically.

I’ve also divided the events into USA and International — if there’s a tradeshow or conference that’s missing, please email me and I’ll add it to the blog post!

Enjoy,

 

 

*Designates the event being exclusively sustainable fashion-focused.

 

USA

Texworld USA

Jan. 19-21 | New York, NY

One of the largest sourcing events on the East Coast for apparel fabric buyers, product R&D specialists, designers, merchandisers and sourcing professionals. 

 

DG Expo New York

Jan. 20-21 | New York, NY

The fabric show features North American and European Fabric and Trim Suppliers with Global Production. Including: Made in USA / Low Minimums + Stock Programs.

 

Premiere Vision New York

Jan. 21-22 | New York, NY

Six major industries supplying materials and services to the global fashion industry come together in New York.

 

MAGIC Las Vegas

Feb. 5-7 | Las Vegas, NV

MAGIC is the most comprehensive fashion marketplace in the U.S., showcasing Women’s and Men’s Apparel, Footwear, Accessories, and Sourcing resources from around the world.

 

COTERIE

Feb. 11-13 | New York, NY

The COTERIE Marketplace brings together all categories of women’s fashion under one roof.

 

*Impact Fashion Shop

March 14 | Los Angeles, CA

One of the leading sustainable fashion events in Los Angeles, this free pop-up shop brings the best impact-driven, environmental-friendly, fair trade brands under one roof.

 

DG Expo Dallas

March 25-26 | Dallas, TX

The fabric show features North American and European Fabric and Trim Suppliers with Global Production. Including: Made in the USA / Low Minimums + Stock Programs.

 

*Sustainable Fashion Forum

April 24-26 | Portland, OR

A highly-curated, community-driven sustainable fashion conference that looks to the future by fostering an honest, thought-provoking conversation about the social and environmental effects fashion has on our world and what we can do individually and collectively to improve it.

 


INTERNATIONAL

The London Textile Fair

Jan. 15-16 | London, UK

Provides manufacturers and their agents with the opportunity to showcase their products to the most influential British buyers and designers.

 

IM INTERMODA

Jan. 16 | Guadalajara, Mexico

IM INTERMODA, is the most important international platform in the fashion industry in Latin America.

 

Future Fabric Expo

Jan. 29-30 | London, UK

The Future Fabrics Expo is the largest dedicated showcase of globally sourced available sustainably and responsibly produced fabrics and materials.

 

Pure Origin

Feb. 9-11 | London, UK

The UK’s only fashion sourcing show to bring every element of the fashion supply chain together in one location.

 

Texworld Paris

Feb. 10-13 | Paris, France

One of the largest sourcing events in Europe for apparel fabric buyers, product R&D specialists, designers, merchandisers and sourcing professionals. 

 

Premiere Vision-Paris

Feb. 11-13 | Paris, France

Six major industries supplying materials and services to the global fashion industry come together in Paris, the capital of fashion.

 

*Drapers Sustainable Fashion Conference

March 11 | London, UK

Brought to you by Drapers, the event is for fashion brands and retailers, clothes manufacturers, supply chain experts, innovators.

 

*The Australian Circular Fashion Conference

April 1-2 | Melbourne, Australia

The conference is specifically designed as a call to action for collaboration within the

Australasian textile and apparel industry.

 

Fashion World Tokyo

April 1-3 | Tokyo, Japan

FASHION WORLD TOKYO in Japan's largest fashion trade show which consists of 6 specialized shows, held twice a year.

 

International Apparel & Textile Fair

April 7-9 | Dubai, UAE

Leading brand in the MENA region to source and showcase the best in textiles, fabric, footwear accessories and prints from renowned mills across the globe.

 

*Copenhagen Fashion Summit

May 27-28 | Copenhagen, Denmark

From CEO’s and creative directors to policymakers and thought leaders, the Summit brings together decision-makers from across the globe for agenda-setting discussions on the most critical environmental, social and ethical issues facing our industry and planet.

 

*MOCHNI Conscious Loft

July 4 | Hamburg, Germany

CONSCIOUS LOFT is a cozy 1-day event for people looking to connect, learn and shop in an intimate atmosphere. At CONSCIOUS LOFT you will feel consciously at home within a like-minded community.

 

International Sourcing Expo

Nov. 24-26 | Melbourne, Australia

The show provides an unmatched opportunity to meet and do business with some of the best suppliers from around the world in apparel, accessories and textiles.

 


fabric sourcing

About this time of year, I traditionally write an annual review of how life and business went this year.

You may recall 2018 being a doozie with the health status of my mom, the arrival of Baby Lohr and the post-partum blues that came with it.

But this year I’m doing something a little differently, inspired by my own 2020 business planning.

At the beginning of December when I got out my notebook and wrote “2020 PLAN” at the top of the page, my immediate instinct was to write “Goals” just as I’ve done every year.

But I wrote this word instead:

FOCUS

In that moment, I realized it was never my past goals that were that important — it was the tangible steps that I focused on to achieve those goals.

And it’s this system of focused planning that I want to share with you as an exercise today.

First, I divided the year into two parts — Q1/Q2 and Q3/Q4 — but you can divide it into four parts (or more) if that works for you.

For Q1/Q2, I wrote down one singular focus: MARKETING
(i.e. spreading the word about the Factory45 2020 program)

Then for Q3/Q4, I wrote down one singular focus: FACTORY45 EXPERIENCE
(i.e. making sure the entrepreneurs in Factory45 2020 have the best possible experience)

Next, I made a list of all of the tangible action steps that would enhance each of these two focuses.

For MARKETING, I came up with a list of seven “buckets”. 

For FACTORY45 EXPERIENCE, I came up with a list of four “buckets.”

For example, one of my MARKETING buckets was “Email List & Blog,” so underneath that bucket I listed all of the things that go into my email list and blog as they relate to marketing. 

  • Repurposing “best of” blog posts 
  • Sending out a new YouTube video every month
  • Cross promoting other people in my industry 
  • Using paid ads to promote my best blog posts and videos
  • Driving new subscribers to my email list via lead magnets
  • Cultivating and fostering the existing relationship I have with my current readers

For each bucket, there was a list of actionable steps like the one above that would get me closer to my broader focus of Marketing.

*Important note here that you may find interesting: Social media did not come up in any of my buckets. Sure, I’ll still post on Instagram, FB, etc. but it isn’t a task that I’m putting emphasis on for my Marketing Focus. So, if you’re one of those people who is putting all of their eggs into the Instagram Stories basket, I encourage you to think outside the box!

Alright, still with me?

The final step was to list out January through December 2020, and allocate the most important steps in each bucket to a month or multiple months. 

It looked like this:

JANUARY

  • Paid ads
  • YouTube
  • Pitch podcasts
  • Outline new workshop
  • Activate free TCF webinar
  • Research video companies

The first three bullets span across every month of the year. But the other three bullets only exist in that month because they have a deadline.

Make sense?

The idea here is to have actionable steps each month, rather than general goals, that amplify what you’re focusing on for the first half (or first quarter) of the year.

The final step was to move this calendar out of my notebook and into Asana (the to-do list of my choice) so that I know exactly what I’m taking action on and when I’m taking action on it.

So in review, here’s how you can effectively plan for 2020 for your own business instead of creating general goals:

  1. Create 2-4 Focuses for each quarter of the year.
  2. List all of the “supporting actors” for each focus and divide them into Buckets.
  3. Under each bucket, list the sub-steps that go into each one.
  4. Allocate each bucket to certain month(s) of the year.
  5. Add the to-do list for each month into your task management platform, to-do list or digital calendar.

That’s all to say, I think I’m over “goal setting” in the traditional sense. 

Yes, it’s incredibly important to have a vision for your business.

But you know what’s more important? 

Taking action to achieve that vision.

 

 

This will be my last blog post and email of 2019 — I’m wishing all of you a very Happy New Year and will be back on Wednesday, January 8th : )


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What is an “eco-friendly” fabric?

That’s the golden question — and it’s a subject of debate among designers, educators and industry veterans. 

Above all, it’s important to remember that there’s no such thing as “perfectly sustainable.” 

Everything new has an impact in some way.

The goal as sustainable fashion entrepreneurs is to do the best we can, always striving to improve our supply chain, educate our customers and put pressure on the big brands to move away from petroleum-based synthetics. 

So on that note, I’ve put together a video of my six favorite eco-friendly fabrics. I go through the pros and cons of each one — because again, nothing is perfect… 

Unless you’re using truly upcycled fabric, but that’s a video for another day.

Click on the video below to play.

Which fabric did I miss? Leave a comment below the video to tell me your favorite eco-friendly fabric : )

 

 

Want more fabric sourcing advice? Watch this video: Fabric Sourcing for Your Fashion Brand in 5 Easy Steps


fabric sourcing

Last week marked the end of the Factory45 2019 program. One of this year’s graduates asked if she could write a guest post to share her experience with all of you. If you’re considering applying to Factory45 in 2020, you’ll want to read Amber’s post until the end.

Here she is:


Have you been wanting to create your own fashion collection, but you’re worried you don’t have any fashion experience? 

That was me.

Are you wanting to take the plunge into fashion entrepreneurship but have no idea what a “muslin” is?

That was me too.

Are you seeing white space in the market and you know the exact solution to a problem? 

That was also me.

I had no idea what a “pattern” even was.

But I developed a concept (that would later be Feel Good Swim) in the summer in 2018 when I realized I wanted to take my career a whole new direction – instead of working for someone else, I wanted to try becoming my own boss.

I didn’t have an idea of what I wanted to pursue right away; just an inkling of the direction I needed to go.

And finally, the swimwear idea hit me – I was putting on my last swimsuit of the year and hating every minute of it.

I’ve always struggled finding swimsuits that fit my curvier top shape – there’s not much out there. 

So I decided that’s what I would build.

But I didn’t pursue the idea right away. I went back and forth with myself for a few months. I was plagued by my own limiting beliefs and negative self-talk.

“Who do you think you are?”

“You have ZERO experience in fashion, you can’t do this.”

“What would people think?”

“What if I fail?”

And finally, last December, I realized what I was doing to myself. I stopped thinking about the “what if,” ignored my lack of experience, and purchased a domain name. Mind you, I had never created a website before.

I researched like crazy. I googled every – little – thing.

And finally, I landed on the Factory45 website.

I read through all of the free content, saw that Shannon was focused on ethical and sustainable fashion, and knew it was the best thing for me.

It was a significant investment, but I had plenty of time to mull over the pros and cons (at that time, the program didn’t open up for a few more months). So I signed up for Shannon’s emails and continued my research.

In those months, I worked on my own — finishing my website, creating a social presence, blogging, trying to create a technical flat, more research…  

And I realized I needed help.

I didn’t find any other programs as thorough as Factory45 and knew I had to move forward. It didn’t make sense for me to spin my wheels on my own anymore.

In addition, there was a ton of social proof from the members of the StartUp Fashion community (another amazingly helpful membership, by the way). There are quite a few Factory45 alums in the group that highly recommend Shannon’s program.

Here’s a taste of what Factory45 included:

  • Demystification of the fashion industry
  • Exact steps to create an actual garment and go into production
  • Extensive databases of ethical suppliers, samplemakers, and manufacturers
  • Email templates and tactics for outreach to ensure you’re sounding like an industry pro
  • Guidance on how to establish yourself in the content and e-commerce spaces as well as how to launch to an audience ready to buy your product
  • Strategy to fund your first production run
  • And media outreach 

I didn’t have any of this prior to the program. 

And without it, I’m not sure if I’d have found my supplier or samplemaker by now. Finding the right manufacturer may have been even harder, especially when ethical practices and small minimums can be so rare.

There’s no “woo-woo” or fluff here. Every lesson is action-packed with how-tos, videos, interviews, and supplemental information. And if you need more help, Shannon is just an email away with a rapid response time.

As a business owner, it’s hard to do everything on your own. And I know that without Factory45, I’d be still trying to figure out what a “muslin” is.

So, what are the two foremost tips I can give you from one founder to the next?

First, don’t listen to your limiting beliefs – they aren’t real.

Second, of course, join Factory45 as soon as you can – you won’t regret it.


This is a guest post from Factory45’er Amber Rankin, founder of Feel Good Swim, and all thoughts are her own. To keep up with Amber’s journey of starting a swimwear company, you can subscribe here or follow her on Instagram here.

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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