Fashion Manufacturing Behind the Scenes - Part 1

USA made fashion - behind the scenes

This is a seminal moment in time for our little company. 

We’re putting down big money to make A LOT of product. Way more money than we’ve ever put down for way more product than we’ve ever made! 

This is because...

A) the word is out (as our Amazon headband reviews can attest) and sales are strong.

B) we’re making Kids Pants for the first time, fulfilling our promise to our worldwide backers from our spring crowdfunding campaign

As a brand and human beings we stand for transparency and integrity in everything we do. We’re in this to make beautiful, innovative and fun products in a way that makes all our suppliers (right down to our fabric growers) and customers feel good. No corners are cut. 

In that vein, we wanted to share with you what a behind-the-scenes look at what a production actually looks like.  

Pre-Production for An Eco Fashion Brand

KOOSHOO Kids Pants press

In our case, the story starts in Victoria, BC, Canada where we're headquartered. 

If you thought we were based out of California you're half right. Here's the full story. 

The moment our crowdfunding campaign ended, pre-production began. The reason we didn't take off to California to get going right away comes down to 2 words: lead time. 

The first thing we did was calculate how much of our super soft organic cotton we'd need for our Kids Pants and Headbands, as well as Tencel (sustainably harvested Eucalyptus trees) for our Journey Shawls.

Though we only raised funds for our Kids Pants, we're actually going into production right now for every product we make (I guess we wanted an extra challenge!).  

There's a very complex spreadsheet behind this but if you're curious about how we determine how much fabric to buy it comes down to finding a yield (amount of units) per yard, adding anticipated loss (usually between 5% and 10% in garment manufacturing) then multiplying that by the number of units we want.

Once we had our numbers, we called up our fabric supplier, a family business based in Southern California that specializes in organic and natural textiles. We've worked with them from day 1 and they make superb quality fabrics, as anyone who owns one of our products can attest. 

we don't always transport fabric ourselves but when we do, we try to do it in style ;)

we don't always transport fabric ourselves but when we do, we try to do it in style ;)

Their lead time from the moment an order is placed till fabric can be picked up is anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks. With that order placed, we turned our attention to all our other inputs that have significant lead time, ordering: 

A) 15,000 units of 100% recycled paper hangtags to be printed in Vancouver using soy based inks.

everytime we print a new run of packaging we try to improve our messaging and aesthetic. Always striving to get better! 

everytime we print a new run of packaging we try to improve our messaging and aesthetic. Always striving to get better! 

B) 20,000 screen-printed cotton “KOOSHOO” labels from a trusted supplier in India. Also included are brand new Kids Pants sizing labels (they look so good!).

C) 15,000 reusable, 100% recycled shipping bags from Colorado (we’re a small company and  easily go through that many bags – imagine if we were big and NOT using recycled bags! Oh yeah, that’s pretty much everyone else!)

D) Ordered shipping bag stickers for all of the products on this production run. 

E) Ordered Journey Shawl buttons, Kids Pants colored thread and a host of other smaller “trim” from suppliers around Los Angeles. 

All of these inputs, fabric included, had to be scheduled to arrive in our Los Angeles cut & sew facility in the first week of August so yes, sometimes it feels like we're running more of a logistics company than a fashion brand! 

In this business unanticipated challenges always come up. What would have phased us 4 years ago today we treat like water off a duck's back. 

"Oh, the production run of labels we proofed arrived this morning looking green, not cream?" Back to the drawing board and how quick can they turn it around?

"So you're saying the packaging is not going to be ready as per our dates?" Thank goodness for expedited shipping! 

"A key partner is selling their business (out of the blue) and can no longer do that order for us? " Good thing we were nice to the last guys as they'd love to work with us again.

If you're reading this as someone with even a passing interest in garment manufacturing, or entrepreneurship for that matter, be ready to adapt on the fly! Essentially, that's what this job comes down to! The unexpected is to be expected so be kind wherever you go (you never know when you'll be back working together) and always, always be ready for Plan B.  

Despite the bumps along the road, by early August things were coming together and it was time for me to jump in the car and begin the very long 22 hour drive to Los Angeles (don't worry, I stopped 1 night with friends in Bend, Oregon).

First up, a ferry ride heading away from canada! 

First up, a ferry ride heading away from canada! 

There are a LOT of volcanoes on the pacific coast. A quick stop at mt. hood was well worth it! 

There are a LOT of volcanoes on the pacific coast. A quick stop at mt. hood was well worth it! 

Mt. shasta marks the spectacular finale of the mountains before descending to the plains of california

Mt. shasta marks the spectacular finale of the mountains before descending to the plains of california

The drive was spent devouring podcasts (my first true podcast binge and I'm now hooked). Watch for a blog post next week on favorite podcasts! 

When I got to L.A. things really took off. 

Check out Part 2 of our production story here.  

If you have any questions or comments let us know below. We'd love to get a conversation going.