USA Fashion Manufacturing Behind the Scenes - Part 2
(update: while we've paused manufacturing for our Kid's Pants and Journey Shawls, we hope you enjoy this little behind the scenes post about how our accessories are made.)
We're all about transparency and integrity in what we do. For this reason, we've chosen to document every portion of our ongoing production run - our biggest ever as a company.
If you're a fan of our products, an entrepreneur of your own or simply looking to get informed about what ethical fashion production looks like then we think you'll really enjoy this series.
To read Part 1 about all the pieces that go into pre-production of an ethical fashion line click here.
Now for Part 2 of our series.
Ethical Fashion Manufacturing - Behind the Scenes
Something we're immensely proud of is we knit, dye, cut, sew and distribute all in a 30 mile radius of downtown Los Angeles, California. That's a ridiculously small footprint in this business and something we very consciously designed!
The heart and soul of this operation is our cut & sew team. Everything goes through them and they’re ultimately in charge of seeing only perfect product travel out into the world. It's run by a mother-son, Margarita and Rufino, duo that are like family to us (as with a family, you go through a lot of ups and downs together!).
If you've followed our story you know that we're extremely passionate about ethical fashion production. When you see our videos and read our posts about the importance of buying local and using your wallet to vote for the future of fashion that you want to see, it's because we know the hard work and passion that people like Margarita and Rufino put into their work. By supporting ethical business your purchases really do make a direct difference in our communities, while creating positive ripples worldwide.
This production is more complex than usual because...
A) We're making our 3X Longer Kids Pants on a commercial scale for the first time. Whenever doing a product for the first time unexpected challenges come up - as we note below in our summary section.
B) We're making every product in our portfolio - our best selling headbands, our worlds-only organic cotton hair ties, and our 100% Fairtrade and plastic-free scrunchies.
Every product requires a different processing flow so this is again where that logistics degree mentioned in Part 1 would come in handy!
The Complexities of Eco-conscious Dyeing - A Case Example
We use 3 different dye houses in our production cycle.
One is for our organic hair ties, one is for our solid colour headbands and kids pants and one is for our specialty colours like our popular ENSO Batik Headbands, Journey Shawls and Kids Pants. This is because each facility specializes in one form of dyeing and we are devoted to getting the best dye jobs possible.
For our headbands we cut increments of our white fabric (different increments based on whether they’ll be solid or specialty dyed to accommodate different dyeing techniques) and then send them out to their respective facilities for dyeing.
Every colour must first be approved in the form of a “Lab dip” - literally a small piece of our fabric dyed to match our chosen colour (we use Pantones, an internationally recognized colour index, as reference) - before production dyeing takes place.
Once all the dyeing is complete (typically 4 to 5 days if everything goes according to plan - which it doesn't always) we pick up all the fabrics and return them to our cut & sew facility.
There, the newly dyed fabric is spread (as in the video below where we're spreading Tencel for our Journey Shawls) into layers up to 20 deep. A paper print out of our pattern is then placed on top and a hand controlled cutter is used to cut out the fabric for the headbands.
These 20-deep cutouts of our fabric are then transferred to the sewing tables where our sewers take over. For most of our products we use a stitch called overlock which is most seen in athletic clothing like yoga pants. It’s ridiculously strong and reversible - characteristics that align with our core values of quality and versatility.
Once sewn, they’re ready to be ironed, have labels applied and packaged in their recycled shipping bags.
Though that covers the whole life cycle of our headbands in production, here's what we actually got done in this first week of production:
HEADBAND PRODUCTION WEEK 1
All fabric was cut into increments and dyed according to Pantone specifications. On first inspection this was our best dye run yet - not a single fault!
Fabric is now back at our Cut & Sew and will be spread and cut for sewing this week. If all goes to plan sewing will begin late this week and headbands will be packaged for delivery to our shipping warehouse next week.
ORGANIC HAIR TIES PRODUCTION WEEK 1
Since Alicia Silverstone went on record saying LILA Hair Ties are a staple of her wardrobe, we've had our hands full just keeping them in stock.
Elastic for ongoing colours was dyed and cut for hair ties this week. We are also lab dipping new colours. The first round of samples did not come out to our liking so we're waiting on new lab dips this week. Once they are approved, dyeing will start. If all goes according to plan, our newest batch of Hair Ties and AUREA Headbands will be ready to ship to warehouse late next week.
MULTI-USE JOURNEY SHAWLS PRODUCTION WEEK 1
All fabric was spread and cut this week for our very popular 12-outfit-in-1 Journey Shawls. Sewing was started but is very labor intensive due to number of button holes. Sewing continues early this week and products should be ready for dye by Wednesday or Thursday. We are also launching new solid colours and are waiting to receive approved lab dips for new colours. Stay tuned.
KIDS PANTS PRODUCTION WEEK 1
In an unexpected twist, our pattern had to be adjusted last minute to adapt for higher than anticipated shrinkage during the dyeing process. Though we had already anticipated shrinkage, we sewed a trial pair and had them dyed just to be sure. When we got them back they'd shrunk more than expected so we had to return to our Vancouver pattern maker to adjust the pattern for additional shrinkage. The pattern is now right and the Kids Pants were spread and cut yesterday. Sewing began today and the pants will be ready for dye Friday.
Burning the Midnight Oil
What all this amounts to are some very long days, working with an incredible team that cares deeply about making the best products going. Sometimes while here in L.A. working so hard, I forget that other people have lives to get at home to (I don't know many people here so I essentially just work!).
On Friday night, as I was sitting in my car typing out witty (*cough) Facebook stories for our audience, the last person in the factory headed for home, locking the parking lot in the process. I guess they missed me typing away in my car because when I finally finished writing and started up my car I looked up to see myself locked in!
My production lead eventually came back but having a few hours in the setting sun to gather the thoughts of the week wasn't all bad. I'm just happy I didn't have to wait till Monday to get out!
There you have it. Full transparency on where we're at. We're working really hard to have these products all complete by first week of September so that they can start shipping. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for daily updates straight from the factory floor.
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