This is a guest post by Shannon Whitehead and Kristin Glenn of All of Us Revolution.
There we were, sitting in a dimly lit room with a Nicaraguan woman, negotiating the price of making clothing samples. In Spanish. Three months ago, we would have laughed at this prospect. Impossible.
How did we get here? We’re just two post-grad travelers — a business major and a journalism major, and she’s asking us which design school we went to.
Yet we’ve found ourselves in a steaming hot developing-world country, budgeting both of our entire life savings, and working our rear-ends off to find a way to live on our own terms.
Our idea is simple: a versatile, affordable and highly functional line of eight pieces. Designed for the traveler and minimalist woman, each piece can be paired to create over 100 different looks. All created with fair trade labor and organic cotton.
Coming up with the idea was the easy part. But through the process of starting a clothing line, we’ve learned that these steps are similar to the steps in any process: be determined, learn a lot, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
The world of fair trade, eco-friendly and responsible manufacturing is taking off. We’ve heard of several fashion-loving travelers who’ve started their own import businesses. The opportunities are ample, but if you want to design, you have to know where to start.
- Learn. We bought Kathleen Fasanella’s designer’s-bible, “The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing.”
- Get ideas. Surf the web, boutiques, magazines, everything. Get a really solid idea of exactly what you want your line to look like.
- Start drawing. You will probably suck at it at first. But practice makes perfect. The easiest thing to do is find a free “croqui” online – a sketch of a proportional woman, on which you can draw your clothes. Trace. Practice. Recycle the paper. Practice again.
- Start gathering the details. How many buttons do you want on your shirt? How big should the hips be? Measure yourself. Measure your friends. Google your favorite brands for their sizing charts. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but before you can meet with a pattern or sample maker, you have to have this “spec sheet” of details.
- Set up meetings. Get quotes to have your patterns made. Bring samples of clothes you own or have bought with similar qualities. (“I want seams like this, and pockets like this.”)
- Congratulate yourself. You’re already made leaps and bounds ahead of most aspiring designers. The goal is to just do it — you don’t have to know everything, and people will help you along the way.
Of course, it doesn’t stop there and it gets even more complicated with what comes next: Sourcing. Producing. Shipping. Selling. But we’ll save those details for a rainy day.
Since September 1, we have been documenting the launch of our new business venture through our blog. We write about the entire process of building a clothing line, while trying to inspire others to live the life they’ve always wanted. We’re not designers or fashion gurus, neither of us have even worked the floor in retail, we’re simply two girls trying to escape the rat race and improve the world in our own small way.
We’re out to prove that we can have it all, while sticking to our environmental and ethical values, continuing our love affair with travel, and helping others fulfill their own lifestyle goals. With a bit of knowledge, a few screw-ups, and a lot of determination, All of Us can have it all.
The lifestyle and business pursuits of Shannon Whitehead and Kristin Glenn can be followed at http://www.allofusrevolution.com or on Twitter @AllofUsRev.