Apparel City is a small store in the SOMA district of SF, bursting at the seams with industrial machines and accessories and patternmaking tools.
I heart this store. I really do. You walk and it reeks of “garmento” (and that’s a good thing!). Messy, dusty, jampacked to the rafters, every surface covered with cones of thread, rulers, and boxes of random zippers. Most of the stuff is behind the counter. Everyone who works there is awesome. This is customer service at its finest. Here is a typical visit:
AC employee: Hi, can I help you?
me: Hi. I need pattern paper. How much is on a roll?
AC: *short explanation of their offerings, paper weights, yards per roll, offerings on per yard basis, etc*
me: Great. I’ll take a roll of the 150 lb. I also need a gathering foot.
AC: *shows me 2 kinds, explains the difference*
me: Great. I’ll take this one. Pattern hooks?
AC: They come 12 in a bag for $x [I forget how much exactly].
me: Great. I’ll take 3 bags and this thread and that’s it.
AC: Your total is $X. Where’s your car?
That is an example of their brilliant efficiency. It seems so simple, but let me tell, so SO rare! And then they always carry out heavy stuff like the rolls of paper to my car. The woman even offered to carry my rabbit-punch (which she tested in front of me) to my car. I mean, it’s not that heavy. They’re so good. Knowledgeable, quick, straightforward. I’m in love with them.
They are in San Francisco, but they also have a website if you don’t live around here. Call them–they are Asian but speak English very well. They’re nice but not overly chatty.
Another supplier I really like is Ron over at Ahearn Cutting. I bought my wonderful 6×8′ table from him at Lady Chickenjoy’s referral and we are both pleased as punch with our tables. He’s nice, even after I must have tried his patience once or twice. Give him a call. He will explain all you need to know about proformas, bills of lading, etc. Ask for a catalog too–they also sell rolling carts, teflon spray, all sorts of stuff (BUT, I can only endorse the tables since that’s the only thing I bought from him.) Ahearn is based in L.A.
There is this website called allbrands.com. I refuse to even link to them, as I don’t want you to go there. Their customer service team is comprised of people who don’t know what they’re doing. They will tell you one thing, and then accounting will step in and say that their customer service rep made a mistake but you have to pay for it anyway. Stay far, far away, I beg you. Just thinking about the dozen+ phone conversations I had with them over a 3-month span for a 3-item order gives me a headache.
On a sorta unrelated note, I just found out that Michael Levine, my favorite fabric jobber in L.A., was originally owned by my current boss’s family! Small world.
I like books that make me feel stupid. The good kind of stupid, of course. Makes it worth the money. If I didn’t learn anything, it means the book didn’t cover enough information or go in deep enough, because if I know anything, I know I don’t know everything. Far from it.
Some of you have asked me what books I’ve ordered. Of course I refuse to review books until I’ve read them, so the book reviews will trickle in, but first of all, I’d like to make sure all VC readers who are in the industry have read Kathleen’s book. (If you haven’t bought a copy yet, go buy it directly from Kathleen here.) I’ve read it twice. I don’t really care if you’re a designer, a patternmaker, an accountant at an apparel manufacturing company, working for yourself or someone else–you need to read it. No, Kathleen didn’t pay me to write this. Kathleen asked me to start writing for F-I in May of last year and I wouldn’t have agreed to if I hadn’t already read the book and the blog and respected both.
I also just finished this book, The Fashion Designer Survival Guide: An Insider’s Look at Starting and Running Your Own Fashion Business, by Mary Gehlhar. Don’t buy the book only because Zac Posen wrote the forward. It’s just a half-page blip basically saying Mary is rad. I’ve met Mary; she is indeed rad. Incredibly professional in a sea of slackers and laggers.
If Kathleen is the head cheerleader, teaching, guiding, training, and cheering your way to success, Mary is the deadpan goth chick who makes a point of warning you of every single possible wrong thing that could happen. Honestly, if you can read the whole book, every word, and finish it still wanting to start your own business, you, at the very least, have the necessary passion. Ms. Gehlhar isn’t negative, she’s just very good at presenting a huge range of possibilities of what could go right or wrong in every stage of the business, from contracts, money, production, shows, sales, press, and more.
My opinion? Read Kathleen for an indepth look in how an apparel manufacturing company should operate. Read Gehlhar for an honest overview of how the industry operates for an apparel manufacturer.
By the way, I’m returning this book, Fine Embellishment Techniques: Classic Details for Today’s Clothing, because it’s too hobbyist for my purposes. Definitely check it out if you’re into making one-offs for yourself or custom clothing clients.
I guess a few of us have similar things on the brain lately. Check out Style Bubble’s post,
“We will all be famous one day…”, touching up on some of the points similar in vein to and elaborating upon the previous post of mine regarding style blogs/StyleDiary. (Not saying the two have influenced each other in any way (I don’t think Susie reads VC), which makes for a more interesting read, quite frankly.)
Adrian over at Fashion.Verbatim. occupies one of the few slots in my “read this first” folder in my feed reader. He mixes things up, with celebrity style bits/trash talk, really bizarre YouTube vids, trend recaps, random industry news, style advice, etc. And then there are his rants, which I categorize as “things that make me go ‘hrm…'” I don’t agree with him all the time, as I think some of his arguments are flawed or not completely formed, but for me, that’s not the point. Some bits make me think twice, sometimes his rants rattle around in my brain for a good long while. I always appreciate a good “mind-chew”. Not a rant, but check out his predictions for 2007 while you’re over there.
Meet Jennifer Evans. She could easily be confused as another Pretty Young Thing (blond, cute dress, nice smile, kicky boots) from L.A. until you find out what goes on in her big, very interesting brain. Take one part business background, add years as working in the business and production management end of fashion, fold in liberal amounts of non-profit work and you have yourself a smart, soft-spoken, humble woman who started Evans Group with the goal to provide much needed production facilities for smaller high-end design houses all the while maintaining an excellent working environment for her employees and giving back to the greater good through several different programs she runs through the company. (Whew! What a sentence.)
First of all, let’s get down to the nitty gritty, shall we?
1. When they say “small runs”, they really mean “small runs”. Like, they’ll do 10 pieces for you. Currently, they are putting a flexible cap at 400ish units per style.
2. Prices of course are negotiated depending on the style, but price breaks occur the more pieces you do. You can discuss with Jennifer for exact breaks.
3. Payment: 50% deposit up front, 50% COD. Why? She wants to ensure her workers get paid, plain and simple. Also, the 50% deposit guarantees your spot in the production line. Evans works under a first-come-first-serve basis, instead of shuffling her “smaller runs” to the backburner because a “more important client needs something asap”, which I have mad respect for. I’ve been the little guy who got shuffled–Evans’ way seems fair to me. You pay July 1st, the guy who pays July 2nd goes 2nd. I want to stress how important this is, because many companies’ ship dates occur within a few weeks of each other.
4. Turn around times: 3-6 weeks for samples, depending on the number of styles, and 4-6 weeks for production.
5. Many production facilities focus on a particular type of goods that they excel at. Certain factories do only leather, some do all heavy outerwear, there are silk-only sewing factories, etc. Jennifer tells me her factory can do pretty much anything. The reason? As more and more apparel manufacturers moved their production offshore, skillful hands all over L.A. were left out of work and Jennifer scooped them up for her own facilities. I am not 100% certain of their capacity to accomplish high quality levels in any and all fabrications–this is a very difficult task even for older, larger facilities. Something doesn’t quite add up in my head–most facilities have a specialty, even if they are capable of some other fabrications. At the same time, it is true that increased overseas production in such quantity is a fairly recent development. I’m sure more specific conversations and sampling with Jennifer would be necessary to determine how well Evans Group will work with your fabrications and construction needs.
My first impressions of Jennifer and Julia (Jennifer’s right hand woman) were that they were bright, capable, easy-going people. What do I like best about them? They don’t exude that “big pompous sales guy” attitude. They act like they want to do business with you, not in the eager-puppy way, but as opposed to those big dogs who are “doing you a favor” by doing business with you. (Yes, I’ve come across some jerks in production.)
Would I do business with them? I’d send them a couple of styles to start and see how things go, definitely. I never give anyone a full referral until I do business first-hand with them, therefore, all I will say is that I would encourage all you design entrepeneurs out there to contact them and see if they’re right for you. There are plans for a San Francisco office, so if you’re in the Bay Area, you should ask them about that too.
Tribunal of Good Taste–“smackdown: vanity and popular culture vs. ethical consumption.” A mishmash of random goodies covering all different aspects of fashion including reviews of shows, her personal style, and the such. Mostly I read her blog cuz I think she’s rad. Yes, I say words like “rad”. And she sells her jewelry, which are also rad.
Fashion Addict Diary–random tidbits of fashion news and gossip. I like her dry sense of humor and sarcasm. Most posts are accompanied by interesting photos, something I’m horrible at doing.
Give me spirit fingers dammit!!!–for my daily dose of laughing-til-my-sides-ache.
We interrupt this program with a breaking news bulletin.
Go check out co.mments.com. What it does is keep track of conversations on blogs. When you leave a comment on a blog, do you keep checking back to see if anyone responded to what you said? Annoying! All you have to do is drag and drop the bookmarklet to your bookmarks menu. This will create a new bookmark. To tract new comments on a blog post, click on that bookmark and co.mments will do the rest. You can view all new comments on your co.mments.com homepage. When you don’t want to read the thread anymore, just delete the thread on your homepage. Done. Easy. Simple.
How does this differ from just subbing to a comments feed? Co.mments is for individual posts only. Maybe you just don’t read that blog that often, but you want to see how people respond to just that one post.
I’m leeeeeeeeeeeeeaving, on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again…
Actually, I’m back on Friday. But never fear, loyal readers, I leave you in good hands. Check out these blogs in my absence, if you don’t already. These ladies hold some of the prime positions in the “read this first” folder in my bloglines.
Final Fashion: I heart this girl. She reminds me of me a few years ago when I was finishing up my fashion degree. Ambitious, smarter than the average designer, thinks a bit differently from her classmates, has some interesting things to say. Go through her archives and check out her work: her illustrations kick some serious ass, her designs are beautiful, and she really knows her garment construction.
Almost Girl: Fashion commentary from the brain of one very smart, ambitious, observant chick recently moved to New York. I don’t always agree with what she has to say, but she’s always thought-provoking, to say the least.
Fashion Incubator: The blog of one brilliant patternmaker. If you have any interest at all in garment construction, you need to buy her book and read her blog. Some-odd years from now, when I have my own company, I’d love to hire her, even if it’s just for consultation purposes. ‘Nuff said.
Shangri Law: Shallow thoughts from the hallowed halls of Yale Law School. If I “obeyed” my father and went to Yale, I’d be writing this kind of stuff. Three smartypants ladies, writing about fashion, pop culture, and the assorted. I imagine their laptops strewn with torte law papers and bookmarks to style.com, kinda like my high school days, when my calculus and physics notebooks were strewn with equal parts logarithms, Cartesian coordinates, and evening gown sketches. Okay, maybe not exactly equal parts. (No, they don’t write about fashion law in their blog. For that, go here and here.)
Speaking of Cartesian coordinates, (how often do you read that phrase in a fashion blog?) I’m currently reading this fascinating book called “Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea”. Sharp, witty overview of the discovery and evolution of zero and its tango with theology and astrology through the ages, complete with mathematical diagrams (visuals like graphs help me absorb info much faster). Pick it up if you have any remote interest in mathematics.
P.S. Ladies, if you disagree at all with my blips about your blogs, feel free to correct me in the comments box!
Take a mo’ and check out The Sartorialist. It’s like a photo journal of great style. I absolutely love this blog. The pictures of these everyday people in their own elegance. I especially love the photos of elder gentlemen in their duds. Amidst all the “what’s Lindsay wearing” blogs, this one is a timeless, classy breath of fresh air. Thanks for the great images!
For Miz Abby:
here’s one. and another. this one looks like a little vintage flight bag. this is a backpack style. this one’s got a little moc-croc action goin’ on. this is very “english professor”. and this has some funky monkey lining. lookit all the pretty colors! this is a tres cute durable little backpack. and if you feel like splurging on a briefcase, this is the way to go.