American Stories: Creating Manufacturing Jobs

Since 2006, the Pattern Makers have been passionately involved in the apparel industry. They specialize in every step of the design process from initial concept, to first patterns, to sourcing, to production patterns, grading, and small batch to large-scale production. The Pattern Makers have worked with great American brands from all over the country, from brands that are well established to those that are just starting out. They hope to help apparel startups navigate the competitive environment of the fashion industry.

Economic Downturn

The Pattern Maker’s founder Sean Bilovecky, a Northeast Ohio native, started his own menswear label in 2006. His label, Wrath Arcane, was defined by its modern aesthetic, domestic production, and use of environmentally conscious fabric mills. Sean also sought to to redefine what it meant to be a designer by making his own patterns. “Designers would normally complete drawings and then outsource it to Asia where the patterns, trims, and fabrics would be completed. But we did everything ourselves,” says Sean.

The brand soon gained popularity abroad and Sean secured a distribution license. Despite its success, the label suffered under the economic downturn in 2008 and, in part, because of the difficulty relying on foreign distributors. Sean came up with the idea to eliminate the middleman and sell his private label directly to consumers–locally.

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Cleveland Manufacturing Hub & Small Businesses

In 2011, Sean and his partner Daniel Deboe founded the Dredgers Union; a clothing store stocked with Sean’s private label line along with other apparel and house ware brands. “When you dredge something, you open a canal, you widen the channels for commerce,” says Sean. The metaphor stood for the resurgence of Cleveland’s downtown shopping district, an area that saw a decline in consumer activity and small business growth.

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 “The idea of designing something, producing it, marketing it, and selling it in the same region used to be a foreign concept,” Sean says. For him, the Dredgers Union was about continuing the tradition of making and selling locally. “Up until the 1950s, Cleveland was the second largest garment producing city in the country behind only New York, which is mind boggling because there’s nothing now.” Cleveland is home to the old Richman Brother’s factory, America’s first vertically integrated factory. “All the vacant buildings down on Superior from 25th to 55th street were abandoned apparel factories. I realized that my studio was in the middle of an apparel graveyard.”

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Launching the Pattern Makers

The Dredgers Union shuttered its doors in 2012 after the realization that downtown Cleveland, and other downtown areas in the Midwest, are still lacking the population and foot traffic to support retail. Although his hopes about downtown Cleveland’s revival weren’t realized, Sean still believed in the comeback of domestically made apparel. In the meanwhile, he was faced with one ultimatum: Get a stable job to help support his family.

Sean started working as the vice president of marketing for a big print company in Cleveland. Wanting to break out of the typical 9-to-5 rut, Sean discovered Maker’s Row. “When I signed up for Maker’s Row, I really didn’t know what to expect. I was just hoping for 1 or 2 emails a month and 5 patterns a month. Now I’m making more than 10 patterns a day, ranging from everything to baby hats, to sports apparel, to denim, to really fashion forward apparel, to aggressive outerwear. Ever since then, the amount of work has allowed me to leave that VP of marketing job and earn more money through my own business.”

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Sean launched his own pattern-making business because he saw an opportunity to provide top-notch services and advice to apparel brands. “At first, working with pattern makers, fabric mills, and factories can be a lot like taking a car in to get an oil change. You have no idea who is working on your car,” says Sean. He went through half a dozen factories in his first few years, but then started making friends in the industry. “Today, I am proud to call almost everyone I work with a friend. This sense of community in an industry is something that I care deeply about and want to preserve, which is why I started the Pattern Makers.”

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The Future of Apparel in America

“At Pattern Makers, we’re really excited to work with startups,” Sean says. More than 80% of his clients are startups that come to him with little or no experience in apparel. “Having been in their shoes, I try to be the factory that I wish I had access to when I was coming up.” Today’s consumers are evolving and shaping the future of apparel in the United States. Increasingly, they want stories and integrity out of brands. “I think the brands that can offer that are small ones.”

“Maker’s Row has a lot to do with that because of the network channels it opens up, which has  always been the biggest challenge for startups. Most designers are at the point of, “I have an idea, how do I get it made?’ and that’s where Maker’s Row sort of connects the dots,” says Sean. “The relationships and the brands that are growing on Maker’s Row are the brands of the future.”

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It’s Manufacturing Month! We’ve got more than 8,000 domestic factories to choose from right here. Plus, speak to our Industry Specialists for individualized attention before you get to production.  

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