Starting a business, and changing direction

Over the past year and a half, we made many beautiful garments; they were everything we wanted – sustainably made in the US, ethically sewn by hand in California, had a classic silhouette and were made of the best cotton fiber out there, repurposed or new. We sold two dozen at craft fairs and through online sales. Where was our audience? Did we have an audience? Were we just another cute idea without a real business?

ropmer photos

Our advice was to think back to those fashion fairs and recall what our almost-customers told us. Then we’d know how to change to succeed. Upon reflection, we were endlessly asked if we could make custom orders- using a man’s own dress shirt and transforming it into a garment for his own child/grandchild! Sweet, sentimental… and a lot of work.

work series

We heard this request dozens of times, yet we set out to be change-makers, to create an entire collection of new clothing from upcycled garments and reclaimed fabric; we didn’t want to sew one piece at a time. Yet, our clothing wasn’t selling well- we had to change.

To stay true to our initial mission of saving textiles from becoming landfill waste, while listening to our customers, we set out to find a sew shop that would be a true partner- with enthusiasm for our mission, and a willingness to go against the mold and deconstruct one garment to make another. After visiting a half dozen sew shops in the Bay Area unwilling to work with our unconventional idea, high up in redwood country in northern California, we found our needle in a haystack.

We worked tirelessly together with our new sew shop for months to create patterns that used the best parts of men’s dress shirts and transformed them into playful children’s wear. They are pieces that connect a child with a significant male figure in their life and are constructed to last from generation to generation.

Happy to meet our customers’ requests and satisfy our own social mission, we’re preparing to launch this custom line via Kickstarter in mid-November 2015. Instead of reaching out to retail stores, figuring out how to source all those dress shirts ourselves, searching for a sales rep and designing hang tags, we’re connecting with new and expectant parents on social media, recrafting our story and realizing what a great space we’ve found ourselves in. It has a bit of everything: creativity, social responsibility and a true ability to emotionally connect our customer with their individual product. We may not be where we envisioned ourselves, but we couldn’t be happier with the decision to step back, listen, learn and redirect our business.

Follow along on our journey on our blog!

Thoughts? Have you recently changed directions? We’d love to hear from you!

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2 thoughts on “Starting a business, and changing direction

  1. It’s not just for men’s dress shirts, either! I know two women in the military service who are having their uniform shirts transformed into the most special little jumpers for their children; sort of a hug from mommy even when she’s on deployment :).

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    1. Yes! That’s such a great, sentimental idea. We started with mens’ dress shirts in mind, but we realized our patterns could be used for any woven fabric and we just finished a romper made from a military uniform last month- and it’s adorable. Once we have photos, we’ll be posting about it soon!

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