As a former DME (Designer for Manufactured Efficiency) and patternmaker, I’ve used a number of different inventive techniques and strategies to set a foundation for my Philadelphia-based made to order label, Damiano. By overseeing the entire development process from sourcing to production, I’ve been able to prioritize quality and efficiency. Here are some of my most coveted, and perhaps unconventional, tools and methods:
Design and Development
Streamline the process while producing less waste, mess, and cost in the initial stages of design. Utilize these tools of the trade: Adobe Illustrator, Graphics Pen Tablet, and a 42” Wide Format Printer.
Illustrator For Clean Idea Generation
Save paper waste, storage space, and writing utensil costs by going virtual. When it’s time to review your illustrations, throw your monitor up on the big screen and edit in style. Also, drafting technical flats is more efficient when you have all of your information in the same program.
Illustrator For Patternmaking
As a patternmaker by trade, I use Adobe Illustrator to draft custom slopers and create clean, production-ready patterns and markers. I also invested in a used 42” wide format printer for the capability of printing in actual size and on-demand. Using less physical storage space, and recycling all waste, I’ve found that computer patternmaking via Illustrator is the way to go for efficient operations.
Sourcing and Production
Streamlined sourcing and a bespoke production model are essential to an efficient, self-funded small business. Buying and producing in bulk, without a large customer base, wastes space and ties up precious funds. Take time to properly set-up tight supply chains, quality control systems, and avoid stocking inventory.
A Tight Supply Chain
Finding a vendor who carries your supply goods in stock, and in multiple variations, reduces lead-time and streamlines the supply chain. Vendors who carry in-stock goods often have low minimum order quantities, which is essential for catering to small businesses. Sourcing domestically, Damiano buys from two favored fabric vendors specializing in silk and silk blends. They always have the same specialty fabric in stock, and offer low minimum quantity orders. Producing on a made-to-order basis, Damiano is able to buy close to exact yardage from her vendors for each production order. This allows her to have no excess supply, and no wasted funds or inventory.
Quality Control 101: Keep Some Labor In-House
It only takes one mistake to lose big. No matter how detailed you may be, some manufacturers may miss integral details (i.e. cutting your high cost red 4-ply crepe instead of red charmeuse). When using high cost goods such as silk, it’s worthwhile to keep your fabric in a controlled atmosphere to avoid damages and mis-cuts. By utilizing the aforementioned computer patternmaking and marker printing methods, Damiano is capable of laying efficient markers and cutting fabric in-house.
No Pre-Order = No Inventory
When starting a company with no pre-orders in hand, producing excess inventory can be a costly mistake. For low volume made-to-order purchases placed via our website, I currently hire local seamstresses to complete the work. Hiring hourly and as needed is often less costly than paying sample price at a manufacturer. You also have more direct control over desired sewing methods, time spent, and quality.
Plan for the future
It is important to keep the original integrity of a company intact when expanding. For Damiano? We’ll be setting up a retail storefront in Philadelphia. It’s my eventual goal to integrate the made-to-order process with a showroom style shopping experience.
Follow Alexandra on Instagram @Damiano_Collection, and see what’s new at www.DamianoCollection.com.
If you’re starting your own line, you’ll need to get familiar with sourcing. Sign up for our free Sourcing 101 e-course today!
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