Building a brand from scratch involves making a large number of decisions in support of bringing together a cohesive expression of the underlying vision.
I want to share with my customers a bit of that process - how it is that we made the decisions we did and where it is that we would like to go in the future. Ultimately I am most committed to continuous improvement.
SophieGrace was first created in my head when I stood in my closet before a Board meeting and wondered aloud why it was that I could never find a pencil skirt and matching blouse from the same brand. I have no background in fashion or manufacturing. But I do have an extensive background as a woman working in a number of professional environments. I have been a lawyer, a senior political staffer, a business executive and television panelist. I have needed to get dressed to look professional for decades and I have always found it to be a pain the ass. I wanted to fix that problem.
My sister Tayissa worked as a recruiter in fashion for the likes of Lululemon, Aritzia and Old Navy. I gave her a call, broke down what it was that I wanted to do and she passed along the information of her former colleague Lisa MacCarthy. Lisa had been a senior product manager with Lululemon and had recently taken the step into consulting so that she could stay home with her lovely young daughters and work part time. Once Lisa and I connected the vision began to gel and we set about creating the designs and patterns, researching and testing fabrics and testing manufacturing locations.
All this means being bombarded with endless and seemingly limitless decisions. As we moved along over 18 months it became clear that we needed to streamline designs into their most beautiful but simple and functional form. We needed fabrics that neither clung or wrinkled but still looked professional and elegant. And we needed a manufacturer that could consistently deliver quality sewing and timely production. We tested a factory in Vancouver but we were not thrilled with the quality of the final product. We loved another local factory but they were unable to commit to being able to accept another order from us within a 6 month time frame. We had samples made for us in Los Angeles as well. Once again - the production quality was not awesome. They did t-shirts and jeans really well - but working with finer fabrics and lining details wasn't their forte. We then found a group in Hong Kong who offered to make us some samples and working with them was an incredibly simple process. Despite being in Asia, samples were updated in a heartbeat and turn around times were impressive. The quality and CONSISTENCY of the product they delivered was unmatched by anyone else we had worked with. And so we made the decision to manufacture in China. Along with brands like Joie, Equipment, Coach, Prada etc...
Our manufacturer has factories in China and in Vietnam. And - luckily - our product run was completed and shipped just prior to Chinese New Year and the sad continuing crisis that is the Coronavirus outbreak.
But while we have fantastic relationships with our particular manufacturers we are also troubled by the recent events in Hong Kong and the ongoing imprisonment of Muslim populations in China. We don't contract with the government but we are not blind to the issues. So yes, we would like to onshore some, if not all of our manufacturing. At the moment we are testing another new factory in Canada with a new product we are developing (a soft Moto jacket). Thee sample looks good and we excited about the possibility of making some of our product here.
We are also continuing to source and test fabrics. We had initially wanted to move forward with some recycled fabrics we found - but they clung to the body and wrinkled very easily. None of this means we won't keep looking and we have a test of a cupro sleeveless shell in development at the moment.
We will continue to look for ways to be more sustainable and more local while keeping costs manageable for the working professional woman.
Again, we want to be transparent and clear and still set high goals for ourselves.