By the end of May, we’d had enough. Feeling cooped inside with no obvious end in sight, my sister and I had a thought. We loved making things and creating amazing brands (see some examples at soled.nyc) but we’d never actually launched our own physical product brand. So June 1st, I proposed a crazy idea: why not try and launch a brand in 30 days.
The most creative (and often best) work is done with restrictions. By setting a self-imposed timeline, it forced us to make decisions quickly, stick to our schedule, and work within limitations (COVID19 being a big one!).
It took a bit of convincing, but by June 1st, we were kicking off product and brand development. Below are our lessons learned from our brand launch and one month sprint:
When my sister Lucy and I first sat down, we had an idea of what we wanted to do (no specifics yet) and general price points in mind. We went through a few variations of these ideas and tried to make certain decisions to map to those price points. For example, we initially thought custom painting the upcycled jackets would work, but after calculating the amount of time, materials and level of effort, we realized there was a way to test the concept of an “upcycled jacket” with less work on our end. We can always go custom in the future, but it might be for a different audience and a higher price point.
Materials are your second biggest cost after labor so fabric choice is a big deal and it definitely affects costs. When considering your fabrics, don’t just think about the price per yard. Also consider how easy a fabric is to work with. The harder a fabric is to work with, like a silk or (in our case) a jacquard, the more expensive the labor will be.
When we initially designed our bag, we thought we would not line it with fabric. Why? Because the jacquard fabric had a super interesting “wrong” side (this is the name for the other side of the fabric) and we thought not lining it would be cheaper. After developing our production-ready sample, we learned quickly that with this particular construction and fabrication, sewing was super finicky. In fact, our manufacturer warned us that they would DOUBLE their production price if we didn’t line the bag. Silly us, we assumed adding lining would add material costs and therefore make production more expensive, when in fact the lining made dealing with the outer jacquard fabric much more manageable and impacted sew time so much that it was necessary! Which leads to our second point...
We worked with our the N.A.bld Concierge Team to develop this first prototype of the bag. We went through two prototypes, and multiple decisions like making the bag reversible before we landed at the final product. Design experts with experience often consider questions or foresee issues before you can and in the long run they save you time and money by avoiding them!
Since we were working so fast, we did all our proto review online. Even though we provided the dimensions for the product (and it came out correctly with those dimensions), we probably would have had some changes based on size, shape, and IRL testing. For our next product launch, we will be getting a prototype in-hand in order to go through these “practical” tests beforehand!
We only had about 72 hours before our launch date upon receiving the prototypes to set up and execute our photo shoot. Unfortunately, because of COVID19, we had to do the shoot at home / outside with a unique set up (more on this later) but these three days were horribly rainy and dark. It was a muted white light but it was still a little too dark to get the effect we wanted. We can always redo these photos with better lighting but depending on the weather is tough. Unfortunately, most shoots (especially editorial) will be done socially distanced for the foreseeable future so we’ll have to keep one eye on our weather app in the near future.
So, as per item 6, our lighting was “not ideal” which drew out the length of the shoot as we scrambled to “make it work.” That said, the additional time spent trying to problem solve actually led to some cool creative finds and effects. At one point, we accidentally took a “Portrait” filter IPhone image of the bag - which we may definitely make into a campaign later - and, in a moment of inspiration, we decided to use some of the photo lighting equipment as our backdrop which gave a cool metallic effect. Neither of these were planned - but that’s when the magic happens! So make sure you leave some time for testing, play and “miscellaneous” shooting.
When we had to source a new lining last minute - we found more diverse and cheaper options at another fabric supplier BUT shipping was three weeks instead of one and expedited shipping costs were $35 or more! Since our brand is primarily on-demand, we didn’t want to increase the sourcing cost and lift to manage, so we went with another fabric from the same supplier to meet our needs. Now we can order both in bulk together and take advantage of any free shipping thresholds or promotions.
Creating should be fun! If you are not having fun, then why are you doing it? Starting a fashion brand is a labor of love and not for the faint of heart. I like spending time with my sister, I love creating things, and I love sparkles. With ITSO, I can combine all the things I love together AND make money. So, whatever your “sparkles” are, make sure you have a lot of it around.
Is now the time for you? Get the course and learn how you can manage and share your production journey with your team or with fans.
30 days was a sprint but a brand is a marathon. We had at least 50% of our week to devote to this. If you have that much time and more! Let’s go for it! If you don’t - don’t beat yourself up. Just set goals and make sure you hit them!
If you have any questions about ITSO, the process or getting expert branding work - contact ITSO at firstname.lastname@example.org.