Before you start a fashion brand read this first.
If you have been following us you are aware that we recently made the decision to move our apparel production to the USA.
We might have ever so slightly underestimated the difficulty of this, but that's okay. Worthwhile endeavors are almost always difficult. In any business, plan on spending 10x what you thought it would cost, 10x how long you thought it would take and 10x the effort you will need to put in. Then you likely have the right idea.
We'd like to share with you our journey and hopefully sharpen your business chops along the way.
Welcome to Vernon. The not so cool stepchild of Downtown Los Angeles. The first time I saw Vernon was on a skate/graffiti mission in Downtown and we saw a burning car, a stray dog, and a sign that said Welcome to Vernon. The homeless population appears to leak from skid row into Vernon pretty bad. With head high piles of trash bulldozed along the side of the road, and a LOT of writing on the walls where you get the impression the artists weren't in much of a hurry. Not that it was legal, just that they weren't worried about getting rolled up on any time soon.
You see, we are extremely familiar with designing, tech packs, trims, manufacturing, embroidery, screen printing, patterns, fitting, sizing, grading, and such. What we underestimated was how difficult it would be to find a reliable USA source of fabric. Especially one that would consistently meet our high demands for quality and sustainability. So we began our journey in Vernon.
If you are unaware of how the fashion industry works, here is lesson one. NOBODY IS GOING TO GIVE YOU ANY SOURCES. There is good reason for this. I don't want my factory being late on my stuff because they were busy working on your stuff.
We started at a place that was referred to us, in Vernon. It looked like a genuine mob ran spot with thugs guarding it outside. As if fabric wasn't their main source of income if you know what I mean. We didn't get out of the car.
Next we hit the Fashion District in Los Angeles hoping to find some answers. We hit the streets and came upon a cool fashion student that referred to us another spot. On Skid Row. We actually went into that place but they didn't have what we needed. Nice on the inside, looked like a war zone on the outside. They referred us back to a place in Vernon.
This time the spot was a huge warehouse with security outside and much less sketchy. We soon figured out that the entire warehouse was filled to the brim with different businesses all in the fashion world. Middlemen, or Sales Reps as they like to be called. This place was a labyrinth. After helplessly wandering around this maze of confusion, we found someone actually cool inside. But where was the fabric?
All we saw were sample cards. Hundreds (if not thousands) of them! Trying to figure out what a hoodie is going to look like from a 2" square of fabric is nearly impossible. On to the next.
Our lucky break finally came after a series of other similar experiences when we met a girl in the waiting room at another fabric supplier. She was awesome enough to riddle off all of the inside spots where the insiders go. And explained to us that the Fabric World is kind of like the Mafia. Her words not ours. I think she could see the desperation on my face and threw some pity my way. All good I'll take what I can get.
This business is all about handshakes and plugs. You need the handshake to get the connect. But you can't find the handshakes without getting your hands dirty first. Prepare to go to work, connecting the dots until you can put some pieces together.
And before you think we are idiots for not just Googling it, we tried that first. Here's a little tip, if the factory has a fancy updated website, that's probably not the factory you want. The good ones are far too busy for marketing. And the fancy sites you find are middlemen, so prepare to pay for their expertise. A luxury we (or our customers) can't afford, not in the US anyway. In Bangladesh where many clothes are made, the average factory wage is USD $95.00 per month! And they had to fight and strike to get it that high.
All in all, our journey is far from over. We thank you for your patience while we grind it out for the good of our customers, our brand, and our country.