We are thrilled to share Beth’s journey producing her first line. In this first segment, Beth shares her unique journey. Stay tuned for the second segment in which Beth shares some advice from her experiences. Here is Beth’s story in her own words.
Last summer I launched a crowdfunding campaign on a website called Indiegogo in order make a small production run of original athletic shirts- my first attempt ever at true apparel production. I am thrilled and very much humbled to say that I finally delivered my first order this past week, although of course not without many hiccups along the way.
The idea started when I met Sheri, a kick-ass woman who would rather talk about her upcoming hockey season than explain why she had no hair. I eventually learned that she had breast cancer, and was looking forward to putting some closure on her treatments by doing the Avon Walk a few months later if all went well. I was very touched by her story, and I wasn’t alone, It turns out that her bold and bald dome had invited many people to reach out with their own personal stories of cancer and solidarity. This support, often from complete strangers in airports and grocery stores, turned out to be an essential part of Sheri’s healing process, and I got an idea.
I had just taken Beginning Clothing Construction at Cañada College and was totally enthralled by my new knowledge of how garments are made. You could say that I knew barely enough to be dangerous. I thought, “Hey, I know what a pattern is now, I bet I can figure out some kind of design and have some made for our Avon walk team! We can raise money for charity, and I can learn something about production too. I’m sure it will take some learning but I’ll figure it out. How hard could it be?” Like I said, just enough to be dangerous…
I put together a design that incorporated the breast cancer ribbon in a subtle but sporty way, recruited a friend to help with the campaign video, and stayed up until 3am the night before the shoot making a prototype garment. I knew nothing of patternmaking and struggled to put something together that a human could actually wear- through the magic of video editing you might not be able to tell that this first shirt was crooked, ill-fitting, and popping apart at the seams. Despite this, we told a great story, and by supporting a good cause and posting copiously to Facebook, we were able to surpass our campaign goal and raised about $6500 and sold about 150 shirts, mostly to friends and family.
It felt amazing to make that milestone, but then my lack of knowledge about the industry and clothing construction really started to hit me. As a former Google employee, I was perplexed by being unable to look up contractors, patternmakers, and wholesale suppliers on yelp. What is this dark-aged world I’ve entered into? Around September, the contractor I was initially using stopped responding my emails- and I was stuck. I had said that I would deliver in October, and that was very clearly out of the realm of possibility. November passed- no word- I nearly felt sick to my stomach not knowing how I would progress. Finally, I asked for help from Ronda (coordinator of the fashion department and instructor extraordinaire) and she gave me some referrals to patternmakers and sewing contractors she knew. I switched factories, and finally started to get unstuck little by little.
In January, I received a factory sample that finally fit well (thanks to what I learned in Flat Pattern and Techniques of Fit classes at Cañada!), and everything started to move again. I ordered labels, 200 yards of fabric, got the pattern graded and a marker made. In February, I started production at National Apparel, and this week, I shipped out a shopping basket full of packages across the world. It turned out I didn’t order enough fabric for all the orders, so I’m committed to making another run in the next few months. I’m taking this opportunity to revise the pattern to improve fit and fabric usage, and will go through the whole process again, hoping for a few smoother edges with one run already under my belt. In the meantime I’m continuing to sell the shirts through my online store at www.rallysetgogear.com.