Kristen Haskin-Sims heads up Krys Design + Manufacturing (KD+M), a factory in Pennsylvania. She’s also got her own line, Krysi, that she produces in-house. Here, we take a tour of her light-filled workspace and learn about the collaborative energy gaining momentum in the design and manufacturing industries.
How did you get started?
I got started because I got bored with graphic design, which is my background. I loved print and working on more tactile projects but when everything starting becoming digital, I was intrigued but grew a little bored of it. I had my own studio as well as teaching but knew that the demand for websites, flash animations, became more in demand than booklets. Hence I started a t-shirt line in conjunction with my studio. The success of the t-shirts evolved into women’s wear called Krysi. I was getting my line produced in NY but when I became pregnant, I decided to produce in-house. As I became vertically integrated, producing in-house instead of outsourcing, I looked around at all the machines I bought and realized I should be sharing my resources. I literally said, “it’s so unfair to keep this all to myself.”
Where you are located? Does your location add to your identity in any way?
I am located in the Germantown section of Philadelphia which is filled with some of the most impactful, yet under the radar, historic sites. One of them being where our facilities are located at Kendrick Mills, a textile factory that made surgical bandages, stockings and trusses. Joseph Kendrick also lived in Germantown and the factory employed over 70 people in at the turn of the 20th century. When we moved into our current location, I had no idea. Not only do we work with emerging brands on product development, sample and small production, but have a job training program to introduce veterans to apparel manufacturing to create jobs. History adds to our identity in speaking to our past to be a part of the future of the reemergence of US manufacturing.
What is your mission? How did you develop it?
My mission is to continue. Whether it’s my brand or someone else’s, I enjoy the creative process. But my main mission is to develop a number of product lines, not all fashion related. The mission is to be a lifestyle brand, expand into other markets – food, cleaning products etc. and also to grow the training facility in creating a workforce for those who need and want to learn a new skill.
Why did you open KD+M?
Because I had a lot of machines that I was using for my own line but realized that others could use this facility as well. We also rent space to designers who need power machines, cutting tables, event space and so on.
Why is your factory unique?
We not only do manufacturing, but we train veterans for specific jobs that come our way.
How has the business changed since it began?
The business has changed because now we have more work than we could ever imagine. We have several more customers, some of whom we’ve had to turn away.
What are your goals for the future?
To own a building and operate out of that, open a couple of retail stores that only cater to emerging brands (apparel, home, or anything lifestyle-oriented). I would even be satisfied with pop-ups and e-commerce to start.
What trends do you see in the industry today?
I see more collaboration between manufacturers. Yes, there’s competition, but there’s also more synergy. For instance, I don’t have a machine that works with leather however, if a potential customer needs a leather product, I work with another factory that has that capacity. I don’t feel that this is anything new, but it seems more normal. Even though I was adverse to the burgeoning digital revolution as a graphic designer, I see more integration of technology and manufacturing.
What does being Made in USA mean to you? Why is it important?
It is important because it creates jobs, grows the economy and just the pride of making things again on US soil.
When did you begin producing your own line? Before or after starting your own factory?
I started before I opened my own factory. I was getting my products made in NYC.
What was your guide when starting out? Where did you learn about design and production?
I learned through my cousin who was a fashion designer. I didn’t get to know him until 2007-08. I had these repurposed jackets that were made out of cargo pants and inventory from my T-shirt line. Everyone loved these crazy jackets but my problem was, I didn’t know how to make them more “normal” or at least production quality. So when Kelvin, my cousin, and I met. I showed him these jackets which he helped make a pattern and first sample. He also showed me how to use the power machines and really introduced me to that whole world. I was using my grandmother’s home machine to make my samples. Kelvin died in 2008. However, through experiences, working with other designers and mistakes, I have been able to develop collections and staple pieces within the collections that are always described as unique.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Usually, nature and random mistakes I make while I drape. I never studied fashion, so I have no clue sometimes of what fabric is supposed to do until I test it and see how it falls on the form. But I like the unusual discoveries in this process.
What is the vision behind Krysi? What kind of client are you designing for?
I design for the independent woman who doesn’t really follow trends but likes and appreciates the unusual. I love Japanese designers who push the limits yet maintain create wearable items that one can work to work, going out to dinner, or any other social engagement. Dare to be Different has always been the underlying philosophy.
Why did you decide to start Krysi?
It happened by accident. I never wanted to be a fashion designer or manufacturer. But I primarily started the line as a response to growing interest in specific pieces.