We often get asked for products that we don’t make. These often include cotton pants, bras, leggings, socks and Tshirts. One one memorable occasion there was an approach about fence panels.
What we get asked about most often, though, is *this* particular sort of Pant. We get sent Pants in the post, we get sent photos of Pants, and at events like the WOW Festival in London, a wonderful woman came back on the second day to show us her favourite (washed and clean) Pants. Thank you Purple Lady, for that.
I’ll be honest. I love this. I love Pants so what’s not to like. And, frankly, from a business perspective, if you tell us what you like, and we can make it – well, then you’ll buy it! That’s the sort of intelligence that we need so we can make the money to pay the wages.
However, the short and simple answer the ‘Why Don’t You Make…’ is almost always ‘we can’t’ (at the moment, at least)
We operate within various limits. We *only* buy reclaimed fabric. So, we can only make Pants out of what fabrics we can find. We have one supplier. If he hasn’t got it, we can’t get it. So, if he can’t get cotton – so we can’t get cotton. Man Pants, for example, do tend to be made of cotton – not lace (stretch or rigid, double galloon or ‘all over’) or printed lycras, or net. So we can’t make Man Pants. Or printed jersey Pants for women. Or leggings, or Tshirts. (HOWEVER. If you know of someone that has access to reclaimed jersey, in minimums of about 50m I WANT TO KNOW.)
We’ve been asked to make Very Very Wide Aimee shorts. Aimee shorts are made from fabric that comes to us in either 16, 18, 21 or 23cm depths. The curved edge at the top of the waist and the bottom of the leg is the edge of the fabric – we don;t cut that, it;s how it comes. We can’t make them bigger unless we get bigger fabric. It’s not won’t. It’s can’t.
Another limit is the skill set of our team. For *reasons*, most of our team don’t want to work full time. None of our team knew how to sew underwear when they started here, so they’ve learned here. If you do something every single day you get really good at it really fast. Our team are good – very good – at what they do. But we are, right now, at the stage where they don’t do this every day and so it just takes time to get excellent. And it takes time to learn how to apply skills learned in one situation or product to another.
Right now, when we make a new style, we takes weeks – months even – to train our team. That eats into Live Production time. And we need to make Pants to sell Pants to make money to pay wages. There’s a fine balance to strike between wanting to make MORE MORE MORE PRETTY THINGS and needing to keep those wages being paid. And we’re ok with that. We just need to get it right.
There’s another limit. Our slice of the Pants market is *tiny*. It’s a big risk for us to introduce anything new when there are – relatively – few people out there waiting to snap up our stuff. Using bras as an example, we just don’t have enough people out there (yet!) to make that viable. Even just to provide a small size range – let’s say 28-36, A – E cup – that’s 30 different size variations. Making one of anything is expensive so we’d need to make – let’s say – an average of 25 in each size. A minimum run therefore would be 750.
We make, at most, about 450 pairs of any one Pant and even then we end up with some going into the sale. 750 bras (let alone thinking about the technical skill we don’t yet have and the pattern making and testing and and and and…) gives me the vapours.
This same thing applies to our size range. We get occasional requests for size 6, 20 and other sizes. These requests are very very occasional though and to add extra sizes to our size range would incur costs we’d not recoup. That’s wages money we’d be risking. As things stand today, we are selling around about 7-10 pairs of size 18 per month. We make size 18 in every colour and style – and there are more than 10 styles, so you can see that we’ve a lot of Pants (which represent fabric bought and wages paid to make them) sitting in the stock room. Most of our size 18s sell in our sale – lovely for bargain hunters, but not so great for us!
We need to get bigger – much bigger – before we can think seriously about introducing new products. We do want to and have an idea about crowd funding which we’re working out before we talk about it next month. But we’re not there yet.
I have never minded operating within narrow parameters. I am a huge believer in Do One Thing Well and I think that limits can teach us to be really creative. It’s exciting going to pour supplier and looking at all the reclaimed treasure. It’s exciting seeing a colleague put Skill A and Skill B together and suddenly we’re a step closer to being able to drop in a new style.
So. That’s the story. For now, at least.
And no, we didn’t make the fence panels.
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