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Starting my own label

post #1 of 52
Thread Starter 
Not that I am, at the moment, but I have become increasingly interested in doing this. Basically, at this point, I'm looking for very broad advice on how to do this and how feasible it actually is. I'm not interested in going the normal route (attending FIT or Parsons, working under a major label for several years, etc). I'm much more interested in doing, say, a small indie thing like Jay with absolutely no concern for what is "in," what is fashionable, and what is presently trendy. So, all that said, in the very broadest terms, I'd appreciate any insights, warnings, advice, or anything else.
post #2 of 52
Thread Starter 
Anyone? I realize this is quite broad, but I'm avoiding very specific details at the moment, as I imagine there will be time enough for that in the future.
post #3 of 52
Having dealt with a number of such companies in the past, and being with Jay, Michael, and some others now, I can tell you that it is a tough route.

Jay is by far one of the balliest dudes I know. He funded and built his own workshop, which is no mean financial or technical feat in and of itself.
If you are interested in technical work, you are going to need such a workshop. Otherwise, you are going to be stuck working with mainly plastisol, and maybe waterbased, inks, and a commercial printer, who may be great, or absolutely crappy.

If you are not doing a tee-shirt or hoodie line, you are going to have to learn to be highly proficient with a sewing machine, pronto. Also, you are going to need to find a reliable source of fabric. If you get a bunch of orders, and then run out of fabric, and can't get some (of exactly the same - retailers do not like substitutions - they see it as bait and switch, unless you upgrade from say, wool to cashmere, like Yoko Devereaux's manufacturer did for one piece for the F/W 2004/2005 season) you are shit out of luck.

It is also important to have exposure - i.e. people know you, know your product, know your face. Unless you have backing (i.e. are rich) and have good representation, you are going to have to do a lot of self-promotion, repping yourself and trying to get your foot in the door. It is nearly impossible to sell over the phone. For this reason, it is a huge advantage to be in L.A. or in NYC. You need to be at trade shows (these are expensive, btw. POOL, easily the cheapest of the shows, charges at about 4-5K a booth,) but lots of retailers don't go to these shows, and even when they do, your line is going to be one of several thousand they will pass by. You will be on the phone a lot, asking for appointments with buyers. Be prepared for a shitload of rejection. Have contingency plans (are you willing to sell on consignment?)

Anyway, not to be negative, but there are plenty of "designers" who work as waiters. If you are sure that FIT or Parsons and paying your dues is not for you (you would learn a lot,) be prepared for a long grind and hope that you get lucky.
post #4 of 52
Thread Starter 
While I am not averse to doing hoodies and ts (and, given the relative ease of working with them, it may be better to focus on them early on), it's ultimately not what I am interested in. This, of course, leads to the inevitable: I need to a learn a hell of a lot about fabrics, draping, construction, sewing, and large(r) scale production. I'm just not sure where. FIT or similar would be a natural suggestion, but a friend of mine went there for a semester before dropping it to transfer back to Bard. I heard enough horror stories about the school to know I would be miserably bored at best and losing my mind at worst. Neither sounds like a terribly good deal for 15,000 per year. But that presents an obvious problem: how do I learn stuff I need and want to outside of the fashion school establishment, assuming I don't have connections in the industry? (I don't.) And none of that, obviously, touches on either the problems of dealing with the fashion industry (which doesn't sound like it would be terribly fun) or the general problems faced by small business anywhere. So, safe to say that I won't be starting the business side of things right now, as I'm more concerned with school (and, the truth is, I have interests in other fields I also want to pursue, arguably moreso) and moving out to Orange County in a month. But I'm hoping that I can at least start learning about the actual construction stuff now, and start preparing, at least somewhat, for the business side of things. I'm just not sure where to start, because aside from SF, I basically haven't seen any worthwhile resources for this sort of thing.
post #5 of 52
Get a sewing machine, if you don't already have one. Start thrift shopping and teach yourself how to alter clothes. You will learn a lot from that and it's actually a useful skill, so you won't feel like you're wasting your time. It's the cheapest way I can think of to get experience with different fabrics, methods of construction, styles, etc. New fabric is more expensive usually, and starting a project from scratch is pretty daunting.
post #6 of 52
Oh, you thought that the fashion industry would be fun...

No, that only really works if you are Ryan Seacrest, P.Diddy, or Gwen Stefani. Otherwise, it's a shitload of work. It can be rewarding, but it's still a shitload of work...

Being the non-creative partner is okay if you have the psyche to be Number 2. Otherwise, you'll be constantly frustrated.
post #7 of 52
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by j
Get a sewing machine, if you don't already have one. Start thrift shopping and teach yourself how to alter clothes. You will learn a lot from that and it's actually a useful skill, so you won't feel like you're wasting your time. It's the cheapest way I can think of to get experience with different fabrics, methods of construction, styles, etc. New fabric is more expensive usually, and starting a project from scratch is pretty daunting.
Do you have any suggestions for where to learn (I don't know how to use one, which definitely translates into not even knowing what kind to get)? I am not familiar with any good resources for this outside of aforementioned fashion schools.
Quote:
Originally Posted by LA Guy
Oh, you thought that the fashion industry would be fun... No, that only really works if you are Ryan Seacrest, P.Diddy, or Gwen Stefani. Otherwise, it's a shitload of work. It can be rewarding, but it's still a shitload of work...
Oh, no way. I am definitely expecting it to be difficult, and I am fairly sure I have no idea yet just how difficult it can and likely will be. I'm not interested in fun. I want to do it because I want to create.
Quote:
Originally Posted by LA Guy
Being the non-creative partner is okay if you have the psyche to be Number 2. Otherwise, you'll be constantly frustrated.
Not sure where I gave the impression that that was what I was interested in, but it definitely is not.
post #8 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Arethusa
Do you have any suggestions for where to learn (I don't know how to use one, which definitely translates into not even knowing what kind to get)? I am not familiar with any good resources for this outside of aforementioned fashion schools.

If you head in to Sears or look on Craigslist locally, you can find a pretty good basic machine. The industrial machines that are most often used (for example, if you watched Project Runway at all) are just straight stitch machines, but having a zigzag and some other stitches is important too. You don't really need a lot of bells and whistles for your first. You might check out a sewing forum or site if you can find one.

Learning: they have classes at community colleges and fabric stores on getting started with the machine, and there are lots of books and websites about sewing in general. Harder to find is instruction on alterations - books seem almost non-existent, mostly covering pattern alterations (meaning changing a pattern before cutting it for a new garment). To be honest, this site has more info about altering RTW menswear than most other resources I've been able to find.
post #9 of 52
I suggest you buy books on people like Halston, Vionnet, Worth, Poirot, et al as these people were extremely well-known for their clothing constructions.

Vionnet's bias was absolutely stunning and copied but never equalled. Balenciaga's couture was architectually magnificent.
post #10 of 52
Art school is an utter waist of time. Maybe I'm biased coming from a 4-year university, but the only people who do well out of art school are those that work their asses off in class, and those same people would do just fine without paying 15 k per year. going to art school doesn't make you a good designer or artist. I'd stay clear of that.

I second Labelking's idea. It's incredibly important to not just know, but master the art of construction before you can create anything of notable importance.
post #11 of 52
I think that you are taking it a bit too far here Brian. Certainly, I am generally in favor of a well-rounded liberal education, but I believe that your 4-year university has a strong program in design, doesn't it? You are certainly not going to develop the practical skills that you need to succeed as a designer with a degree in philosophy (or mathematics for that matter). What's more, many of my friends who finished art degrees at four-year universities did choose to take an MFA (often with several years spent developing their portfolio in the interim). From what I can tell, they didn't do this just to waste time and money, but to gain contacts and credibility in a very difficult industry.
post #12 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Arethusa
moving out to Orange County in a month.

You like it, the traffic?

Jon.
post #13 of 52
On a tangent, I think that philosophy, or at least the aesthetics aspect, would bode well for designwork.
post #14 of 52
It's true. A grounded historical framework and a good working knowledge of ancient symbols would be assets for the budding designer as well.

What the hell, why go to FIT when you can spend twice as much and go to the University of Chicago? The core curriculum should teach you everything you need to know to design esoteric clothing that no one else will understand. Of course, you'll still have to learn how to use a sewing machine after you graduate
post #15 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian SD
Art school is an utter waist of time.

in general yes. you do learn things but nothing you wouldnt learn anyways just by 'doing art'....I think you learn more hanging around artists you admire and just having conversations with them about shit. besides, the cost of art school is in the 25-35k/year after tuition and supplies so unless you're from a rich family who can pay tuition in cash, yer gonna be in a lot of student loan debt in a field where you wont make lots of $ right off the bat.
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