Hey friend! It's been quite an eventful couple of weeks for us as we make progress towards starting our development and manufacturing process. I've been exploring vlogging, completing our designs, having consultation calls with potential mentors, sourcing fabric and making purchases for Fall '23. There's definitely a lot to cover again, but I'll try to keep it brief.
Design and details
In the past few weeks, I've been working hard to finish our tech sketches for our first collection. This has been quite challenging, especially since I don't have any prior experience or formal education in this field. To get some guidance, my mom and I enrolled in a program called Fabric Incubator. This program provides step-by-step instructions and access to teachers for additional help. Since I was struggling with the tech sketches, I hired a teacher through FABRIC to teach me how to use Adobe Illustrator and guide me through the process. If you're not familiar with the term tech sketch, don't worry, I wasn't either until recently. Essentially, a tech sketch is a blueprint for a garment that includes all the technical details. Learning how to use Illustrator and determining the design details for each style has been overwhelming. While I have some basic knowledge of garment construction from sewing classes, there were still some uncertainties about whether my designs would work. However, I managed to incorporate the details I could and used measuring tape and existing items to figure out the specific measurements.
In addition to working on the tech sketches, we finalized our deadlines for each task this week. Having these deadlines has been beneficial in terms of providing structure, but it has also caused some stress. It's disheartening to realize how far behind schedule we are and feel lost about what steps to take next. Sourcing fabric is a crucial part of getting started on making our patterns, and I've heard that it's important to do it right to get responses from vendors. This added pressure made me anxious about reaching out to potential fabric suppliers and potentially rubbing them the wrong way due to my lack of knowledge about the specific fabric requirements.
All of this stress eventually took a toll on me, and I had a breakdown. It's important to note that a career in fashion may seem glamorous from the outside, but there are many challenging and overwhelming moments. Despite the stress, I genuinely love what I do.
Initially, I believed that as a designer, all I had to do was sketch a beautiful design, and someone else would bring it to life. However, I quickly realized that being a designer requires being involved in every detail and making important decisions. The emotional toll of the workload and the continuous learning process has been overwhelming for me.
One valuable recommendation I have is to seek mentorship whenever possible. While mentors can be expensive, relying solely on courses without being able to have questions answered can be limiting. Conversations with experienced individuals who have been through similar experiences have been incredibly helpful for our line. Fortunately, being part of FABRIC has given us access to mentors at a more affordable rate. FABRIC's mentors have been kind and supportive, and working with our mentor, was one of the best experiences we've had. She offered guidance on the smallest details of our garments, helping us make decisions on aspects such as darts, pockets, linings, trims, and fabric suitability.
Before this week, I was hesitant to reach out to fabric suppliers due to fear of not knowing enough. However, after my call with our mentor, I gained the confidence to contact them. Using a helpful template, I reached out to several vendors, both through email and phone calls. We ended up ordering fabric swatches from five vendors, including three from Canada and overseas. We were particularly impressed with the quality of fabric from a Canadian company. However, our sourcing process is still ongoing, and we have more to do.
Our first experience in the LA fashion district
Over the weekend, my mom and I went down to Orange County to spend time with my siblings and nephews. However, we also had some business to attend to, so we decided to make the most of our trip and use it for that as well. We started our journey early at 4:00AM since we had a six-hour drive to LA ahead of us. Upon reaching LA at around 10:00AM, we immediately headed to the fashion district. Since we still run the Isla Boutique, we needed to make some purchases for Fall before focusing on our other business priorities. We had been eyeing two specific brands, which we went straight to without wasting time. Though we can place our orders online or over the phone, we were glad we took time to look through their products in person. Unfortunately, the first brand's products didn't meet our expectations as their quality wasn't up to par, their colors looked different, and none of it was as appealing in person as they looked online. However, we were able to find what we needed and more with our favorite brand that we carry.
After successfully placing our orders at the fashion district, we then headed to our appointment with a fabric vendor. Specifically, we were looking for a company that specializes in linen since we've been envisioning a collection made entirely of linen. We were thrilled to find such a company, which was owned by a father and son who were both genuinely helpful and kind. We shared details of what we were creating, including the weight and colors we were looking for, and they pulled out similar fabrics and even others that we may like based on what we shared. Unfortunately, we couldn't find the specific shade of the color we wanted as it was no longer in stock, but the vendor offered to dye it for us at a cheaper cost than if we were to do it ourselves. All in all, it was a great experience, and we left feeling satisfied with our first encounter with a fabric vendor.
We proceeded to main street for our final appointment with a fabric vendor I had been communicating with. Upon arrival, the staff kindly welcomed us with a showroom tour and offered us water while we waited for our rep. Our rep, who has been with the company for over two decades and also serves as the manager, was extremely helpful and kind. Initially, I was anxious about meeting with vendors, as some people in the industry had warned me that they might not be patient with beginners like us or willing to educate us. This vendor however, proved those concerns wrong. Every vendor we have interacted with, both in LA and elsewhere, has been friendly and helpful. I believe that my effort to learn industry terms and avoid asking unnecessary questions has contributed to the positive experiences we've had. Our rep even provided advice and assistance beyond our original plan of purchasing linen fabric. We had recently considered using cotton for a specific garment, and our representative, drawing on his two decades of industry experience, gladly provided guidance based on our designs and reference photos. Not only did he assist us in selecting the fabric, but he also offered recommendations for manufacturers. He emphasized the importance of finding a reputable manufacturer through recommendations and mentioned a lady he had worked closely with for years who would be a great fit for us. Unfortunately, she was unavailable for a tour at the time, but our rep provided us with her contact information and informed her that we would be in touch. As a result of our appointment, we left with fabric swatches, new contacts, a clearer vision, renewed excitement for our line, and a new connection.
Deciding on a Manufacturer for development
Although we were unable to reach out to the recommended manufacturer until after we left town, we did have a conversation with her upon returning home on Monday. Speaking with her was yet another fantastic experience, as she not only answered all our questions but also provided us with information we hadn't even considered. We were eager to work with her but decided to follow through with calls to other manufacturers we were still in contact with. One of these calls, which took place the following day, turned out to be very helpful in our decision-making process. This particular manufacturer had been a top contender since January, and while we liked many aspects of their company, we ultimately chose not to proceed due to significantly higher pricing. Nonetheless, the call provided us with valuable insights and raised additional questions to consider.
On Wednesday morning, we joined another call with the manufacturer our fabric rep had connected us with. During this call, we discussed the various steps involved in the development process, including providing fabric, patterns, samples, and fitting sessions. We also discussed garment dying and whether it would be best to start the process before or after creating the samples. After thorough discussion, we decided to focus on creating samples in the optic white color (which wouldn't require dying) and postponing the samples for the dyed garments until later. This way, the development process will be completed by the time we schedule our fitting at the end of September. The company owner was once again very kind and took the time to address any new questions we had. Additionally, she helped us explore cost-saving measures. As a result of this call, we felt more confident than ever that this company was the right fit for us. Their pricing was significantly more affordable than other manufacturers we had spoken to, and we had the reassurance of a referral. The owner's approachability and thoroughness further solidified our decision. Overall, everything about this company felt right.
Excited to move forward, we took sometime to pray before finalizing our decision. Throughout this entire process, we have been relying on prayer for wisdom, guidance, and discernment. The power of prayer has been truly incredible. Our commitment to prayer, along with the support of our community, has resulted in everything falling into place. Both my mom and I strongly believe that the Lord has blessed us with the right contacts and people to work with.
After praying through it we felt certain about which manufacturer we wanted to contract with for development and potentially for cut and sew as well. We reached out to the owner and expressed our readiness to contract with her company. We also placed a sample fabric order from the vendor that introduced us to our manufacturer. We are incredibly thankful that everything worked out smoothly, allowing us to meet our deadline of finding our ideal fabric and securing a manufacturer for development ahead of schedule.
That was the summary of our eventful week. We accomplished a lot and took significant steps towards launching Isla & Saige by our deadline. It feels surreal that everything is coming together, and in just a few months, we will be able to say that we own our own fashion label!