Label progress

Clothing pattern pieces on a table

That picture probably doesn’t look like much (esp. given the crappy quality courtesy of my mobile phone’s camera), but it represents a mini-milestone that I thought was worth celebrating – with blog post at least. It’s elements of the first pattern of the first range for the label – for the dress shirt.

I’m sure this will become old hat one day – not even worthy of a blog post – but this being the first is a little victory for me, and one that I think should be celebrated in its own little way 🙂

There are more designs and patterns to come – we’re planning a February launch to wholesalers (for the summer 09/10 season) of around 6 pieces with a few variations for each – but this is the first off the ranks. It’s also the first “tangible” (i.e. “real world”) artifact that’s resulted from the work I’ve been doing on the label. (It’s also further than I ever got before, so it’s nice to be over the first hurdle.)

We’ll be using it to create a fit sample – that is, testing the basic pattern for the cut etc. – and then we’ll be developing patterns for the variations on the piece.

I’ve been speaking to Bronwyn at RiseUp productions about manufacturing. She has been working for some time to develop a Fairtrade/ethical supply chain for manufacturing clothing and textiles, and has really covered all the bases.

So the first samples (dress shirt and t-shirt) will be coming from RiseUp within the next few weeks, Murphy willing. Hopefully I’ll have more to report soon.

The research project is also complete. The final report provided a lot of clarity on where we should focus. Big props to Nat at Red Rollers for doing such an amazing job, and to the 6 research participants who shared just a little of their lives to help us along.

Big props also to Susan Goodwin (who’s designing the range) for guiding me through the process – her generosity of knowledge has been a tremendous help.

In fact, everyone I’ve dealt with so far – Paula from the Fair Trading Co, Nick at Organic Cotton Advantage, Nat, Susan and Bronwyn have all been extremely generous with their time, knowledge and have each been immensely supportive in their own way. It’s been great so far – I hope the positivity continues (although I am sure there’ll be some challenges on the way)…

I’m learning a lot, which has been great (I love learning – one of my favourite things in the world) – but I’ve still got a way to go. I’m doing a short course with RMIT on textiles in August/September which I hope will help me along as well.

Oh, and during the research period I also decided on a label name (i.e. the “Soko Loko” moniker is no more). I’m speaking to some folks at the moment about developing the visual ID, so I’ll announce the name when I’ve got a nice logo to show y’all 😉

The Affair

I was chatting to a friend of mine a little while back about my plans to start a label, and they mentioned that a friend of theirs was putting together a tshirt label with some cool designs.

I’ve also been wanting to find some more obscure tshirt labels since Threadless tees are seemingly popping up everywhere nowadays. Plus I wanted a bit of a change, given most of my tees are Threadless already.

In watching my Facebook news feed I saw they’d become a fan of the-affair, figuring that was the label they were talking about, and sure enough it was them.

I checked out the website and subscribed to the blog. I dig the tees and the branding, and the other week took the plunge and purchased two tees.

More about my impressions of the tees and American Apparel over the jump…

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Fashion Exposed

Last weekend I went to the Fashion Exposed exhibition at Darling Harbour. The last time I attended the event was in Melbourne 4 years ago. If nothing else, this year’s event was a firm indicator of how little has changed.

Granted, there were a few booths with organic cotton, hemp or bamboo offerings. Bamboo Body were there, along with Eco Wear and Pure Pod – but there were probably less than a dozen offerings in the full exhibition center area, and of those only one had menswear (tshirts).

The organisers claimed that there was an “eco-fashion” precinct – but this turned out to be 6 stalls, one of which was linen, and the other was Drizabone – included because they use Australian sheep which is a “natural fibre” (supposedly we’re meant to overlook the immense damage sheep grazing causes on the environment.)

I spoke to a couple of merchandising and shop-fitout suppliers at the show, and it seems that they haven’t yet received word that “green is the new black”. Not one could answer even the most basic questions about eco-friendly shop fittings – they had none. One at least made an attempt, claiming their mannequins were recyclable, but I’ve yet to find evidence to back up that claim.

There were two paper bag companies I spoke to – one responded to my question about recycled bags with “you’d want to look at our natural finished product”. When I asked about the recycled content of the bags, he acknowledged there was none!

Paper Pak, on the other hand, seemed to have a good range of blended recycled material with sustainably managed virgin pulp – and the sales rep didn’t try to bullshit me. He explained that they used water based inks, improving the enviro credentials, but that the adhesives were problematic from a biodegradability standpoint. Still more research to go, but a good start at least on that front.

Overall it was worth the visit to review – but not overly inspiring. I’m currently also reading Eco Chic which serves as a stark reminder as to why I got into this game in the first place. But more on the broken-ness of the system in another post…

Work/life update

I’ve been a bit quiet around blog-land of late due to general busy-ness in life and work (including a presentation I did for the Investor Weekly Branding conference last week.)

Consulting biz: Zumio

Preparations for my consulting biz are going well – the name is Zumio, and I’ve started a blog (of course!) covering work related stuff – esp. posts on social media and networking, with a bit of emphasis on non-profit/social change.

I was waiting until I’d created the site design etc. that reflects the Zumio visual ID etc., but it might be a couple of weeks before that’s done, so worth making mention of it now…

I’ve got a few bookings already post my departure from working as an employee at Digital Eskimo. (Happily I’ll be continuing working with the eskimos as a freelancer on some projects into the future.)

Menswear label: Soko Loko

The menswear label has a “working title”: Soko Loko – I call it “working title” because I’m still working on sourcing a designer and developing the business plan, so I’m not 100% sure the name will stick.

I’ve been busy attending another series of courses at Sydney Community College covering a lot of the practicalities of starting your own label in NSW. Susan Goodwin, who designs and runs street-wear label Rocket Fuel, as well as freelancing for some more well known labels, is running the courses. She’s been an invaluable source of hard-won information about the industry, how it ticks, and how we can make our own label succeed. (Further courses are planned in May – keep an eye on the college’s site if you’re interested.)

Over the next month or two I should have a bit more to talk about in that regard (as much of my time has been focused on establishing the consulting gigs). Suffice to say that so far things have been progressing well.

Fuzu

My band Fuzu have been on a little bit of a self-imposed hiatus as we search for a keyboardist (we’d been jamming with someone who’s unfortunately moving to Melbourne) and finalise the artwork. Toby has come up with some promising photos that may become the cover art, so hopefully it won’t be too much longer…

In related news, we’re no longer the only Fuzu in town – seems a certain gorilla at Toronga Zoo liked the name, which apparently means “to graduate”.

Strange, but true…