- Dec 17, 2019
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Incredible. You deserve every ounce of success, Pat. Honestly, there are times I wish I could just buy a tee but I also get up for drop day. Just be ready and you’ll be fine.I touched on this (limited availability, instant sellouts, etc) a bit with @barrettdudley on the last Club Cool Podcast we did. If you'd like to listen to/see that, the clip starts at 32:30:
Before diving into this, I want to first acknowledge that I understand that this can be a frustrating experience for customers who would like to purchase an item from us but are unable to due to lack of availability. It's something we're very aware of and working to improve.
I'm not sure how much you know about me personally or the brand. But I don't come from a fashion background. I've never worked in fashion (outside of retail) or attended fashion school, etc. I was an enthusiast like so many people here that struggled to find what I was looking for (high quality basics). When shopping for clothing, I always walked away with the pervading thought that there had to be something better out there. I came away from so many shopping/buying experiences (as I'm sure a lot of you have) wishing they had done this aspect or that aspect of each garment differently.
When a close friend of mine named Ben passed (who's the namesake for "Ben's Shirt"), I reexamined my life and threw myself into pursuing this brand. We started with no money. For the first two years, while I was learning how to make clothing/working with our first pattern/sample maker, I lived on an air mattress in my friend's entry way in order to minimize expenses. Our initial developments and early runs were put on a variety of credit cards until they were maxed out. When we finally unveiled the brand via the website, our public launch consisted of two t-shirts (a Crew Neck, and U Neck) in Black and White.
I mention all of this to lay the framework through which I hope the position we're currently in will make sense.
From the beginning, we've funded our own growth. The brand is a lean start up that aims to maximize efficiency, working to balance capital expenditures with meeting demand/growing our numbers/development/introducing new categories. We're currently working to scale production and continue to drop larger and larger runs. However, there are a number of things that we're still working to address which will take some time to work out.
Certain aspects of scaling production have been easier than others. We currently produce in three places: our sewing studio, our t-shirt factory, and our denim partner. As far as sewing goes, scaling up t-shirt production (the actual cutting and sewing of tees) has been the least difficult. However, scaling up our fabric production (especially for tees) has proven to be much more difficult. All of our knits (for tees, tanks, and sweats) are custom knit for us (as we've custom developed all of our fabrics). Because we've designed each knit to use very specific yarn, we have faced/continue to face some supply issues due to COVID in sourcing some of those yarns. Supima cotton (which makes up the majority of our tees) has been scarce and has nearly tripled in price due to production numbers (of the Supima crop itself) and high demand, making it expensive and extremely hard to get. Add to that the fact that we use a very specific kind of Supima yarn from a specific manufacturer and you can begin to see some of the issues.
It's, unfortunately, also not as easy as "we're going to make x amount of more tees" (although I understand how it may seem like that from the outside). Yarn is sold by the pallet (which they won't break down into smaller quantities). Each pallet contains a certain number of cones (that is the yarn itself which is spooled around cones designed to fit on a circular knitting machine). Each knitting machine requires a certain number of cones to knit. Often times this math isn't as neat as we wish it could be. For example: if a machine needs 20 cones (I'm making these numbers very square so they're easy to exemplify) and pallets are sold with 45 cones, we can't buy just two pallets, we have to buy four so that the machine has all of the cones it needs while knitting.
In addition to that, fabric is finished (prepped for final cut and sew production) in what's known at "dye lots". Depending on the weight, a dye lot can be anywhere from 300 to 1000+ yards (depending on the weight, heavyweight french terry is closer to 300 yards while tees are closer to 1000). So the amount of fabric that we run has to be increased by those intervals. This is both a challenge financially (as we have to allot those resources) and from a supply perspective (we have to procure enough yarn to knit that amount). We've, unfortunately, been in the position (a few times) where we weren't able to get the quantity of yarn we need to run the amount of fabric we'd like.
Another sticking point we're working though is our sewing studio capacity. We set up our sewing studio during COVID to increase the quality of our pieces, have more control over production, and produce at a much faster speed. Our studio produces everything but our tees and denim. Because of that, it's constantly at capacity. In order to grow its capacity (output), we have to simultaneously add skilled sewers and machines (as our sewers all work in tandem, sewing on the same machine at the same time). This means there has to be a set of machines for each sewer (overlock, single needle, etc). This is capital intensive and requires a large amount of space. Building this out in a city where space is extremely expensive has been a challenge for us that we're continuing to address and work through.
We're committed to addressing these challenges, but it will take time. I believe people who have been following the brand for a while can attest to the fact that things have improved. On the last drop of Heavyweight Artist Tees in Black and White, stock held for a few days as it did for some colors on the most recent Sunset Court Shorts drop. While this is still very quick, it does allow people more time to purchase from us and is reflective of us continuing to increase our production.
All of the demand you see for our pieces is genuine. We're not using limited production to garner hype or as some sort of marketing strategy. We appreciate our customers and exist to provide value to them. This is something as a brand that we're working through and are committed (as we are with every aspect of everything we do) to improving.