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Designer Resource: Portland Garment Factory

Looking to put your new line into production? “We got your back.” ‘We’ refers to Rosemary Robinson and Britt Howard of the Portland Garment Factory, a hip independent manufacturing house in Oregon.

Portland Garment FactoryAnd they really do have your back! After experiencing difficulties finding local resources for production work (most options are in New York, Los Angeles, or overseas) Howard was inspired to take matters into her own hands. PGF was born in 2008, and is now a favorite of local clients as well as designers from other big cities.  And for good reason, Portland Garment factory is definitely not a ‘factory’ in the typical sense.

The company offers the basics such as sales samples, size grading and of course production, but the range of services goes far beyond that. They offer a graphic design service for branding, identity creation, and copywriting.

If you need something that cannot be done at the factory, they can still hook you up. PGF has connections with a vast range of subcontractors, including sources for  screen-printing, embroidery, tags, dye houses, fulfillment warehouses, and even patent attorneys. The minimum is low, starting at 20 pieces per style, with the maximum capping at 5,000 pieces. This combined with top quality and complete service makes it ideal for designers just starting out!

While production work for designers is the main priority, the company at heart is a community of artists in their own right. For the three-year anniversary of PGF, they are currently in the process of launching their own line, a contemporary womenswear collection called Houseline. Traditional American style provides the inspiration for the line. The goal is to create classic pieces that stand the test of time in terms of durability as well as design. The collection recently debuted at the self-produced “House Show” on October 22nd.

For more information and ordering, visit check out their website

Fashion and Sustainability Lecture – Mass College of Art and Design

T

he word sustainability has been thrown around a lot, especially in the fashion industry. So what does it actually mean? StartUp FASHION recently attended Jennifer Varekamp’s “Fashion and Sustainability” lecture at Massachusetts College of Art and Design and got a glimpse into what’s current in this popular design concept.

Freiderike Von Wedel-Parlow

Sustainability is considered a category, encompassing everything that helps the fashion industry thrive in a positive way. This includes upcycling, being green or eco-friendly, DIY, etc. These practices are steadily gaining popularity in the fashion industry, and with good reason.  As consumer demand rises, designers react.

Something else designers are considering is their “social fingerprint.” This is similar to a carbon footprint, but deals with ethics rather than the environment. It refers to a company’s social impact, including fair wages, good working conditions, and overall benefit to the community. All of these concepts are important for designers to consider during their creative practice.  And as time moves forward, we are realizing that more and more of them are.

Varekamp went on to introduce several innovative designers and companies for whom sustainability is the top priority:

Inti Knitwear

These aren’t grandma’s sweaters (they aren’t chain label sweaters either). Inti is very much it’s own label,  employing local seamstresses, knitters and craftspeople. Nothing is sourced.  Unlike most companies, this one’s objective is to downsize rather than expand as personal touch in the products is extremely important.

If that’s not enough, Inti donates the remaining garments from past collections as well as ones with minor defects to the ‘People in Need’ foundation. Not only is nothing wasted, the community benefits as well. The sweaters themselves are soft, beautiful works of art.

Hess Natur

Inspired by the birth of his son, Heinz Hess founded HessNatur in 1976. Hess believed in the pure and organic, and wanted to provide the baby with that lifestyle despite the lack of options at the time. His medium: clothing and textiles.

Hess initiated multiple organic cotton farming projects and began working with partners to produce organic linen, silk and wool. By 2002, HessNatur had also set the standard for humane labor conditions and 75% of production is now done locally in Europe. The collections themselves are stunning- and not just for babies.  There are men’s and women’s wear lines in addition to children’s, featuring  dresses, sweaters, and even organic chinos.

Freiderike Von Wedel-Parlow

Von Wedel-Parlow has taken the concept of “no waste” to the extreme with her latest collection, Project No1. The garments are created using the entirety of the fabric. The textiles are cut into strips, eliminating pattern scraps that would be otherwise thrown away. These strips are knit, sewn, looped and layered into pieces so chic the recycling aspect could seem secondary.

The fabrics themselves are organic materials, colored by hand with plant dyes that produce vibrant hues. A perfect combination of form and function, Von Wedel Parlow’s project is definitely pushing the future of fashion in the right direction.

At the end of the presentation, Varekamp remarked that in the future, the word sustainability should not even exist; that aspect of design should be a given. While we’re certainly not there yet, we are on our way and these talented designers are helping us get there.

Fantastic Resource for the Business Side of Fashion: StitchLabs

Fashion design is a creative business. Obviously. The excitement lies in the sketching and the swatching and the showing, the launch parties and press spotlights….all the fun stuff. What they don’t tell you in fashion school (usually) is all the time you will spend with the not-so-sexy stuff; the costing, the fundraising, the logistics, the invoicing….

Owning a fashion brand is a business, through and through, and if you don’t spend just as much (if not more) time making sure all the numbers work, then you’re spinning your wheels.  Because you can’t run a business if you don’t make a profit. It just doesn’t work.

Sometimes, though rarely, it is possible to hire or contract out all the different experts you will need.  Most of the time it’s not. Penny pinching is the name of the game. So finding ways to make your life easier in this respect, is a must.

Stitchlabs is an inventory, order, and invoicing software that is created with the fashion designer and retailer in mind. It’s based on our niche business and really takes into account everything we face in our always changing and unique industry.

In their own words:

Stitch is built for small businesses that design, make, and sell products.  It’s an online tool to manage all your contacts, products, orders, expenses and files in one place, find them with ease, and never worry about losing anything again. Our online system allows multiple users to manage your business from anywhere in the world.

I had the pleasure of chatting with one of the guys behind Stitchlabs and it was really nice to hear a human (and young!) voice on the other end. This company is created by two guys and a girl who “get it”.  And by that I mean not only the fashion industry but also the techie, innovative side of things.

Running a business in 2011 (umm, 2012) is so different than it was 10  years ago.  Hell, 2 years ago. At the risk of sounding like a cheesy commercial, Stitchlabs saves you time, money, energy, and sanity….not to mention they are fully integrated with the Etsy and Shopify platforms; giving you more time to spend doing the fun stuff.

Check it out with a free 30 day trial and use the promo code STUF for an additional two weeks (total 45 days!) … Just to make sure you love it 😉

Fashion Institute of Technology offers Hot Topics Gift Cards

Still in search of the perfect gift or maybe feel that it’s time to give yourself something good this season? Well, we wholeheartedly believe in self-gifting and, if one of your goals for 2012 is to truly focus on your business, or learn more about a specific fashion topic you may not be familiar with, then the Hot Topics gift cards from FIT, may just need to go on your gift list. In the spirit of motivational posts, especially with the new year upon us, here are a couple of reasons, you may want to grab yourself one:
Continuing education:  You’ve probably said to yourself, I’m going to take a class to learn more about x, or I need to learn more about y, and wonder if there’s a class for it. In our previous post, we mentioned all of the wonderful programs that F.I.T offers for people that are new to the fashion industry. I believe that continually educating yourself is the smartest thing a designer and entrepreneur can do to stay relevant and smart.

Budget: One big benefit to the continuing education program is that it won’t break the bank and will fit in to all types of budgets. Gift cards can be purchased in several denominations and start at $60 and go up to $300. They can be used to pay for one or two classes or even an entire program.

Time commitment:  Perhaps you’re hectic the first part of the year or your day job may not allow you to commit in advance. Well, some Hot Topics courses last just one day or even a couple of weeks. Gift cards are also available for use during the winter, spring summer and fall semesters.

A variety of topics: Hot Topics cover a wide range of course from business, marketing, technology and trade courses. Some of our picks include:

  • Creative Enterprise Ownership: The CEO courses are in-depth four-session classes that have specific areas of focus for those that want to get at the nuts and bolts of a topic. Sessions include topics such as Setting A Course for Your Business, Legal Basics for Business Start-Ups and Building Your Business Brand. 
  • Tools of the Trade Courses:  A series of classes that can be taken alone at $35 or purchased together. They are specific to your needs as a designer with topics that include: Assessing Your Market, Sales Marketing and Public Relations and What Tradeshows do I Participate In? along with several others.
  • Sustainable Design Entrepreneurs: This four-session course focuses on product development and design while also showing students how to make a line “beautiful, commercial and sustainable.”
  • Knitting, Sewing and Alterations: These multi-session courses will provide you with a good understanding of the trade in each area of expertise. Session topics include: Learn to Sew like a Pro,Hand Sewing, Mending and Alteration Essentials and Knitting for Novices.

Whatever your niche or area of specialization, these programs cater to your needs, schedule and budget. We love them because they are affordable and taught by professionals working in the industry that can give you new perspective business.

You can purchase gift cards here http://www.fitnyc.edu/11852.asp and learn more about the latest Hot Topics programs and 2012 schedule.

ReQoop: App that Highlights Brick and Mortar Stores

With all of the buzz surrounding online retailers these days, there’s something refreshing about those highlighting brick and mortar stores. In turn, this is where you should be gaining information and feedback about your consumer and your product line. Plus, there’s something mighty special about local, independent boutiques that can give you insight on your brand and their own expert feedback.

Making it easier to understand the retail landscape, we’ve come across a new App for the iPhone calledReQoop. The idea is simple. Snap your favorite finds in-store, tag the location and write a pithy and informative description about what you’ve discovered and hashtag it with a trending topic. You have the option to send your find to Twitter and Facebook too. Those finding “qoops” have the opportunity to win great prizes and also show their style within their own database of curated boutique selections while other can like or dismiss (“it’s a dud”) your pics and follow you too.

From a consumer perspective, that app is fun, interactive and allows you to catalog your finds. For an emerging designer, we think this app is beneficial for a couple of reasons.

1. Boutique Snapshot

The ReQoop database has a catalog of boutiques that you can drill down by location and ones that are deemed popular by those using the app. For an emerging designer, what a great way to see what type of merchandise is carried at a boutique and to see if you are a fit with a store before you pitch your product line (Ohh, and what a good segue to a retailer—I found out a bit more about your store from this new app)!

2. Competitive Overview

From a competitive standpoint, you’ll also be able to see what other brands are doing in a variety of boutiques and locations. Specifically, you’ll see what type of brands are carried, fabrics used, silhouettes and what type of inventory the store bought. Most importantly, you’ll understand why people are selecting.Market research at its best!

3. What’s Trending

This is a great tool to see what’s on trend. After a look through the database, you’ll notice a lot of mannequin and window shots. These are the pieces that retailers want customers to see and buy, and ultimately your tip to what’s popular.

4. Product Promotion

In the spirit of self-promotion and brand promotion, this tool is another way to spread the word about your line. Whether it’s telling a boutique owner, snapping a picture yourself, or letting your fans know about the app, this is just one more way to get your product listed on a network that can be seen by others.

Remember, there’s nothing wrong with giving your key partners a call-to-action in order to get your product into the marketplace, and this is just one new cool medium at your disposal.

Be sure to check it out at ReQoop and find out how it can best work for your brand.

NEW YORK: City Source Expo

Sorry for the late notice folks, but for those of you in the New York area, this Tuesday January 10th, FIT is hosting City Source, a local supplier showcase featuring over 50 local suppliers, including:

  • reps from pattern and sample shops
  • pleaters
  • embroidery shops
  • accessory manufacturers
  • printers
  • digital printers
  • And more!
According to FIT, ” This free expo will put you in contact with New York-based companies specializing in accessories, sportswear, knits and offering services such as pleating, sample and pattern making and grading. Over 50 companies will be in attendance to take orders and answer questions at this one-day expo that will show you just how important these local resources are to making the New York fashion industry thrive.”

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When and Where?
Tuesday, January 10
10am to 5pm
Fashion Institute of Technology
The Great Hall
Enter on 28th Street (between 7th and 8th)

Register Here! It’s Free. :)

How to Perform a Fabric “Burn Test”

We’ve all been there- you see a gorgeous fabric that you need to have.  But is it real silk or just a very high quality synthetic? Or maybe someone gifted you a giant stash of old fabrics and you want to know what they are. Today we’re going to teach you a surefire way to find out the fiber context of fabrics- something every designer should know how to do!

Fabric Burn Test2

Knowing and understanding fabric content is crucial. You don’t want to present a design claiming it to be 100% wool and find out afterwards it’s acrylic. It is also important to know if you dye your own textiles, as different dyes are made to work on different fabrics (for example, the kind of dye used for cotton or linen cannot be used on wool).

Most fabric sellers are very helpful and knowledgeable and will be able to tell you the exact fiber content if you request it. However, if you are ever in a situation where you are unsure, this test will be a big help.  Simple swatch the fabrics you’re interested in and perform the tes before purchasing.

The Burn Test, is exactly what it sounds like. Though we can usually guess what something might be by looking or touch, it’s impossible to be completely sure. However, every fabric burns differently, giving away its contents with accuracy.

Here’s how to do it: if you are in a store or ordering online, request a sample. Cut a small piece, about a 1-inch square. Next, find a well-ventilated area such as your studio or kitchen. Place your sample on a non-flammable surface; a clean ashtray works well.

Next, take a lighter and VERY CAREFULLY burn your sample. As it burns, observe what’s happening-what color is the flame, how does it smell, Does it melt, etc. Several reactions may be happening at once, so you may have to do the test a few times or get a friend to watch with you in order to note everything.

Finally, take a look at the chart we’ve provided and see what matches up. Print it out and keep it in your studio as a reference!

Fabric Class Burning Characteristics Odor Residue
Cotton Vegetable Burns rapidly, clear flame, afterglow Burning paper Very little ash
Linen Vegetable Burns less rapidly than cotton Burning paper Light body ash in shape of cloth
Rayon Semi-Synthetic Burns less rapidly than cotton with slight melting, no afterglow Burning paper Soft black ash
Tencel Vegetable Continues burning after flame is removed, yellow flame Burning wood Grey ash
Silk Animal Burns slowly, shrinks from flame but does not melt Burning hair or feathers Small, brittle beads
Wool Animal Burns slowly, orange flame, shrinks from flame but does not melt Burning hair or feathers Large bead or ball, brittle, easily crushed
Nylon Synthetic Does not flame, seems to melt Chemical odor Hard bead, cannot be crushed
Acrylic Synthetic Flames and burns rapidly with hot, sputtering flame, black smoke Fishy odor Irregularly-shaped black bead
Polyester Synthetic Burns slowly, shrinks from flame giving off black smoke Sweet chemical odor Hard, cream-colored bead that becomes darker tan
Acetate Synthetic Flames and burns rapidly, double check by placing in nail polish remover- it will dissolve Burning paper and hot vinegar Hard, dark, solid bead

Chart information is courtesy of Kiranada Sterling Benjamin (betsysterlingbenjamin.com) and pacificfabrics.com.

Free Source4Style Online Textile Sourcing Seminar

Have you been thinking about becoming a member of Source4Style?  If you’re a designer utilizing (or considering utilizing) sustainable materials for your collections, you should definitely be checking them out.

Source4Style Textile Sourcing Seminar

If you’re on the fence or want to learn more, Source4Style is holding a free seminar on how to source on their platform; which has a great breadth of textile manufacturers from all over the world.

And with 30% off a Premium Membership for StartUp FASHION readers, it’s definitely worth a look!

Register here!

Recap: Social Retail Summit

This week I attended the second annualSocial Retail Summit. It was an interesting and very thought provoking summit about the future of retail and the latest platform, social commerce.

The seminar covered various topics such as activating communities,flash sales, social discovery andoffline social retail which are all areas of interest that are shaking up the industry. The most intriguing part of the evening was learning about new companies tackling social retail and trying to understand their potential impact on the industry, and of course, how this applies to emerging designers.

What is social commerce?
There was healthy conversation on what truly is social commerce. Some said it was everything before the transaction while others noted that it was interaction with the brand regardless of purchase.The fact is, social commerce is here and expected to grow as consumers rely more on their networks to provide product recommendations, feedback and connect with brands.

It was clear that both brick and mortar stores and e-commerce store front are both playing in this social commerce space. At the most basic level, it’s using a platform like Facebook. However, there are more efficient tools like Moontoast that allows brands to create storefronts within their networks to help quantify ROI through a social network.

The one truth is that social retail encourages both the designer and the retailer to be accountable for creating a dialogue with their target, addressing customer service issues and fostering a community, all good things that help propel a brand today.

The future of the brick and mortar store.
Although there’s been so much attention paid to e-commerce, we cannot forget about the power of a physical store. Rick Weinstein, VP of Merchandising at Searle proudly proclaimed that retail was here to stay. And, the fact is, it’s true. There will always be consumers that want to shop and more specifically, the ones that want to touch, see and try on a product.  Plus, retail outlets give consumers an immediate transaction and just as important, instant gratification. And, there’s a lot to be said about the in-store shopping experience and of course, walking out with a new bag!

Other players feel this way too. Joshua Dern, CEO of Reqoop, a brand we featured earlier, discussed his app that allows consumers to take photos and describe their in-store finds with the option of sharing with their network via Facebook and Twitter, that make the in-store experience social.

What does this mean for a new designer?
The good thing is that there are plenty of retail outlets and resources emerging. As you begin to think about your distribution strategy and partner with these start-ups, you’ll have to understand how that outlet plays a role in your business. It seems that many of these social retailers and resources offer a specific point-of-difference and can help you live in both the online and offline space to help strengthen and make your brand profitable.

Check out all of the speakers at Social Retail Summit.