Years ago when we were studying in New York City, we saw limitless fashion choices, but practically nothing that checked all our boxes. On one end, there were the glitters of Fifth Ave, high-end fashion, which was neither affordable nor constituted the staple, versatile part of the wardrobe. On the other end, there were staple department store basics that were generic and oftentimes poorly mass-produced. A stroll through Meatpacking or SoHo might reveal some boutiques that sat in between, but too often it was a hit or miss experience and at too high a price point or with too outgoing a design.
So that’s when we began experimenting on our own. We set out to create a line that would be a staple of every wardrobe — a versatile collection — that also set itself apart from the crowd in subtle, thoughtful ways. We took classes in production, worked with folks in the industry and gradually brought our concepts to life. After a couple years of prototyping all sorts of different products and designs, we brought our first line to market last year, in the form of men’s casual button down shirts.
Step 1: Design
Like the staple food in many parts of the world, cassava, we envisioned our line to be minimalist yet never boring, versatile to endless pairings. We went with classic pieces, but blended modern silhouettes and functional elements. For a down-to-earth vibe, we went with natural fibers over flashy synthetics, but also eschewed pure solids for subtly textured fabrics. We surveyed our fashion forward acquaintances, studied designs up and down Manhattan, and experimented with dozens of creative features. We scrapped many these features to stay minimal, but in our inaugural product, we included an inner card pocket and a lens wipe to complement the urban lifestyle.
Step 2: Pattern Making/Prototype
We started scrappy, by waking up early for the free student swatching sessions in the Garment District. We brought back hundreds, and soon, thousands of swatches to Shin’s dorm to sort through. With the shortlist of ones we liked, we returned to ask for larger swatches (10” x 10”) for our stretch and shrinkage tests (done also in a college coin-operated laundry room). After a year of going through New York showrooms, warehouses, and offices of jobbers, we built a strong relationship with a supplier in Los Angeles and have been working happily working with them since.
Casavva’s first patterns were produced at a small studio in Washington DC. After college, Keith worked in DC and this was the studio he learned sewing, alterations and pattern-making. One of the instructors, Rosalie, worked on early designs and prototypes with us, starting from boiled wool sweaters to french terry sweatshirts to, eventually, button-down shirts. Soon the studio couldn’t handle the production volumes Casavva needed so they recommended Maker’s Row.
Through Maker’s Row, we spoke with around 50 factories to seek a manufacturing team that could produce the highest quality sewing, accommodate our fluctuating volumes and meet our timelines. We found a family-run factory in Brooklyn, led by siblings Moe and Eddin. The craft had been in their family for 40 years. We were impressed not only by their well-run team but also by how eager they were to provide the technical solutions for our design vision. Over the years, we’ve spent many late evenings together on the factory floor modifying designs, tailoring features and, more often than not, also having a blast chatting.
Step 3: Grading and Digitizing
Before we digitalized our patterns, we used to carry physical pieces to our meetings. At night Shin ironed and compressed the patterns under her heavy textbooks. As we constantly traveled between DC and NY, we later invested in digital copies using Gerber systems. We also graded a fully custom Casavva size chart from S to XXXL.
Step 4: Testing/Sample
We were naturally obsessive on testing. There was one time we weren’t satisfied with how hot our washers and dryers were, so we literally boiled a shirt in Keith’s kitchen to test how the fabric responded to maximum heat. Another time, inspired by the 100 day challenge of Wool & Prince, Keith wore a prototype Casavva shirt for 3 months straight, every single day. We were proud to say the challenge passed with only a few buttons falling off, and we immediately put in a new standard of fastening buttons.
Step 5: Ordering Materials + Production
For our flagship flannel, we worked with our supplier in LA (mentioned above). When it came to the myriad other production ingredients, our suppliers recommended Maker’s Row once our studio could no longer handle the production volumes. Maker’s Row provided us with a great selection of suppliers and factories. For instance, Shin learned that South Korea was well known for high-quality optic cloth, so we tracked down a supplier in Garden City (Idaho) who carried South Korean fabrics for our lens cloth feature.
Through Maker’s Row, we found a family-run factory in Brooklyn that could produce the high quality sewing, accommodate our fluctuating volumes, and meet our timelines. We were impressed not only by their well-run team but also by how eager they were to provide the technical solutions for our design vision. Over the years, we’ve spent many late evenings together on the factory floor modifying designs, tailoring features and, more often than not, also having a blast chatting. For every other detail, from buttons we get from Dallas, to labels from West Orange, Maker’s Row ensured we always worked with the best in class American businesses.
Step 6: Launch
Years after we began exploring in the garment industry, we launched our flannel shirt line on Kickstarter. We had never brought any of our previous products to market, so we didn’t know what the reception would be. But we really felt this was a good product that fulfilled what we saw lacking from the beginning. After a humble campaign we exceeded our goal and set the sewing machines to action in Brooklyn.
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