In July the Colorado Chapter of ASDP continued its discussion of ASDP member Angela Wolf’s book “How to Start a Home-based Fashion Design Business.” This time we discussed chapter 2, titled “From Dream to Reality.”
This chapter of the book has lots of information that is common advice for members in our group, so we focused on what is different. The book concentrates on advice for fashion designers, but we do lots of alterations and custom work.
Our main topic of discussion was the need for a contract, which is very important for fashion designers to get paid. Most of our members work with individual clients on a one-on-one basis. This means we have a chance to interview our clients and get a sense of their honesty. And much of our business growth comes from referrals, so new clients can usually be trusted if the original client was honest. One member reported not being paid by only one client, and another reported that only one altered garment was never picked up and was never paid for the work.
We were mixed about requiring a deposit. If people want to give a deposit, (e. g. for the fabric) that is welcomed but not required by most of us. One client wanted to make partial payments at each visit, which was not a problem. Most clients are too excited about getting the final product, so they pay as soon as the item is ready to be picked up. One member, who does pattern design work, requires 50% deposit before any work begins.
We did acknowledge that many of us work independently and that fashion designers with collections that require contract sewers (especially if overseas) would want to be protected with a clear contract. If a member is concerned about what would be in a contract, it was suggested that these points be printed and posted on the wall for the client to read.
Another topic of discussion was the use of computers to help with business. Our older members don’t use computers much but said they would if they were younger. One of our younger, computer-savvy members uses computers to schedule all her appointments and lets her young clients schedule appointments by themselves. The computer then generates a link to a video meeting for them to discuss online what is needed.
After a survey of our chapter membership, we decided to invite Luc Roelens from Trims on Wheels to our June chapter meeting. Many of us had shopped with Trims on Wheels at local sewing festivals before the COVID pandemic.
After introductions of the types of sewing we each do, Luc showed us trims suitable for garments. He had numerous white and off-white trims suitable for formal (bridal) wear. He also had various Rocco-styled flower strips made from folded ribbon. One trim several of us liked was satin cord wrapped around colored grosgrain ribbon.
Luc and Edie have recently moved from Wyoming to Florida. They are maintaining web-site sales and Luc will do personal zoom-based showings if you are looking for something specific. To learn more about Trims on Wheels, go to https://trimsonwheels.com.
For our May meeting, the Colorado chapter was fortunate to hear from Jack Makovsky. Jack is Executive VP Ralph’s Industrial Sewing and Board Member of Denver Design Incubator (DDI). He was invited to speak about the state of sewing manufacturing in the State of Colorado, because Ralph’s supplies most of the sewing manufacturing equipment to businesses in the state, which makes Jack uniquely positioned to know who is doing what.
Ralph’s presentation covered a wide range of topics including Colorado success stories, trends in the industry, headwinds or conditions that impede or inhibit progress, and future opportunities.
One of Colorado manufacturing success stories is Mellanzana Outdoor Clothing in the mountain town of Leadville. Mellanzana does not sell its products online; customers are required to make an appointment to determine what is required. Growth in Colorado is also found in the bag industry, outdoor wear and outdoor gear. In addition, demand is active in the theater, military sewing, and alterations businesses.
In terms of the future, two high schools are reintroducing sewing into their curriculum, but further progress in the sewing business is limited for several reasons: limited number of skilled sewers, lack of schools teaching sewing skills from basic to couture, inadequate wages offered to sewing experts to teach others and funding needs. For industrial sewing there is also a lack of suitable or affordable facilities for manufacturing.
Opportunities to improve are abundant. Jack described looking for potential sewing industry employees at ethnic centers who know of new immigrants coming into the state who would like to work in the business, working with local schools and universities to help establish a beginner sewing program, working with the Denver Design Incubator to train people interested in learning sewing by sharing our standards of quality (certification), and teaching people how to use manufacturing equipment to satisfy industry demand for skilled labor (which DDI does).
One area where ASDP can help is by getting apprenticeship programs subsidized through local businesses, ASDP and DDI.
The Colorado Chapter met in March to make receiving blankets for the Baby Boutique at the St. Joseph/National Jewish Hospital in Denver. Enrollees in this program earn points by attending classes on having and caring for a baby. These points are used to purchase items like the receiving blankets we made.
Our chapter made double-layer flannel blankets from 84 yards of flannel purchased on sale for $2.40/yard. The fabric was cut by one group of members. The remainder of the group aligned layers and edges serged together.
We had planned to take a break and discuss chapter 2 of Angela Wolf’s book How to Start a Home-Based Fashion Design Business. But, we were making lots of progress on the blankets and no one had joined by zoom, so we decided to postpone that discussion for a future meeting.
The Colorado Chapter of ASDP was honored to hear from Designer Alan Oakes, nephew of member Toni Oakes. Alan has an undergraduate degree in Architecture and an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in Fashion Design and Society from Parsons School of Design in New York City. His degree at Parsons was training to be a Creative Director and create fashion collections.
Alan’s fashion work is with custom-made knit fabrics that include architectural elements. He uses knitting machines to create unique fabrics. For example, he included rectangles of acrylic knitted into the fabric to create the unique design elements in his custom garments, like the blue image shown here.
Alan also uses carbon fiber to create structural elements based on ideas from the hurricane winds he experienced. For example, he used it to form wings on one garment and to create the extended back on the cream garment shown here.
The Colorado Chapter of ASDP had a topic change when our scheduled speaker got caught by the many air travel cancelations over the holidays. Instead of the scheduled talk we started on our backup plan: to work our way through ASDP member Angela Wolf’s book “How to Start a Home-Based Fashion Design Business.” Below are some of the high points in our discussion of the first chapter.
Not glamorous – People often think that working in the Fashion business is glamourous: lots of drawing and creating. As Angela writes, this is often only 10% of the job. Bookkeeping and doing taxes must be done but are rarely enjoyed. Hiring someone for a few hours a month is an excellent solution.
Support – Support from family is very important. They must respect your odd work schedule, and chores at home that are not done because you are busy. Fittings are often required at times that work for clients but may interfere with family time. And clients may be late or not show on day scheduled.
Income – The income in the beginning is rarely enough to support a family without a second job, whether part-time or a spouse’s job. It is often a lot of hard work with limited income. Many of our members grew from sewing for free or nearly so to charging enough money to make a decent wage (e.g., charging the equivalent of $10/hour initially for friends to $50/hour for professional services).
Personality – Angela has lists of traits for an entrepreneur and a quiz of personality traits. In our discussion, isolation can be a stressor because you are working long hours by yourself. Being able to adapt to changing tasks and client requests can be frustrating but necessary. In terms of time management, we identified solutions for different personalities: the buddy system to check your progress, computer-assisted lists like Google Calendar and Todoist). These lists might include all tasks for the day or what to get done by the end of the week. One popular idea was to set a personal deadline to be done by Friday and then take Friday afternoon as time for yourself.
How we got started – We went around the meeting and talked about how we got started in this field. We all started young by sewing for ourselves. Several of us had formal training in field, including college degrees or apprenticeships. In the process, we all started sewing for others and started charging for our services. Some started businesses when children were young. Others had non-sewing careers and turned to the field later in life after a major career change. And a recuring theme was to increase our fees to reflect our skills and self-confidence.
We plan to continue working through Angela’s book, one chapter at a time. To be added to the mailing list for our chapter’s Zoom meetings, contact Pat at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Colorado Chapter had an evening business meeting in September. This was our meeting for voting and strategic planning. According to the latest draft of the Chapter Bylaws written by the National ASDP, we have too many board members. Because only one at-large member was present, it was decided to table the votes until another meeting.
For strategic planning we focused on two topics: one was details for doing more Meet-and-Greet sessions and the other was generating ideas for programs in 2023. These topics will be discussed further as members gather additional information about venues and contacts for potential topics.
After the meeting Carol offered a free front-opening bra kit to anyone willing to test the pattern and instructions. There were questions about her planned 30-day refund policy if a customer was not satisfied, particularly if their size was incorrectly measured.
The Colorado Chapter had an evening potluck during the heat of August. Fortunately, the weather threatened rain so we didn’t have the usual radiant heating of the air, meaning that the covered patio at member Marci’s house was a comfortable place for conversation.
When a box of donated fabric appeared, we discussed all the ways we manage to store our large stashes of fabric. Yvonne, in a previous home, took over the closet in the entry way and had all her fabric on extra-large hangers with fabrics arranged by type and color. Afterward we discussed a special excursion we’ll take in September to the Denver Art Museum to see Carla Fernández Casa de Moda: A Mexican Fashion Manifesto, which was particularly exciting for new member Gabriela, who is originally from Mexico.
The Colorado Chapter had a stimulating meeting with Alicia, the Zipper Lady (www.thezipperlady.com). Alicia brought an assortment of zipper tapes and zipper pulls for everyone. Starting with zippers with the largest teeth we learned how to install the pulls. Then we tried it on zippers with smaller teeth, which became progressively more difficult, but doable. Alicia explained how to determine the size of a zipper (width of the closed teeth), but warned us this is not consistent between manufacturers. She also told us how to identify locking pulls, and threw a couple of them in our assortment, so we had to learn how to manipulate these locking pulls to install them on the zippers. As we were installing our pulls, Alicia educated us on many other aspects of zipper quality, costs, and terms.