Looking to start your own fashion line? If being part of the fashion industry isn’t hectic enough, finding out where to start when it comes to the production process can be quite the hassle. Scouring through Google pages to find the right contractors is difficult when you often don’t have a reputable source to vouch for their products, and understanding the product development process can be difficult for first timers as is. Stitch Texas is a product development contractor that works as the? middle-man between designers and manufacturers to ease the fashion development process, with services including tech packs and production management. Although Texas may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking fashion product development or manufacturing, (Hi, China!) American produced garments are having their moment in the sun, too.
Having Stitch Texas right in our backyard is a dream come true for any up-and-coming Texas designers, with services currently managed in Austin and Dallas.? I had the opportunity to interview Stitch Texas owner Vesta Garcia about the company’s process and the changing atmosphere in Texas Fashion.
Krizia Aponte: What is your background in product development? What was your initial inspiration to launch Stitch Texas?
Vesta Garcia: My partner, Kristen DeRocha, and I have been in manufacturing for over 12 years apiece. We started out developing and manufacturing our own lines, then gradually started working with other folks to bring their designs to life. We both have a passion for the back end of apparel production, so when we were offered the opportunity to do development and production management for an existing industry leader in Dallas, we jumped at the chance. Stitch Texas was born out of that relationship.
KA: What types of products does Stitch Texas work with??
VG: We work with a wide range of apparel and sewn products, children’s, women’s, men’s, accessories, swimwear, gear. Anything that we don’t do is listed on our website, and we can usually refer folks to specialists in those areas.
KA: Do designers often underestimate the product development process? How does Stitch Texas ease the difficulty, if any?
VG: Folks underestimate a couple of things. First, they underestimate how many skilled technicians it takes to get from a sketch to a quality clothing item. Pattern maker, sample maker, grader, marker, cutter, stitcher, not to mention all of the folks involved in sourcing of fabric and parts, as well as those who do embellishments and pleating and bias and covered buttons. When you have that many people involved, it’s going to cost money. We help by explaining the process before it starts, and by estimating development costs right at the beginning. Second, they underestimate the time it takes to develop a product. We recommend that designers work a year out from their market/launch date. We won’t even consider taking them on if their timeline is shorter than six months. It’s too stressful and there’s a good chance that they will miss their deadline, which nobody wants.
KA: When approaching product development contractors such as Stitch Texas, what materials and information are generally needed from the designer? (Aside from a sketch)
VG: The more information a designer can bring to us, the faster, more accurate, and more cost effective we can be. Sketches, inspiration photos, reference samples, fabrics, notions, technical illustrations, labels, everything helps. The one thing that slows us down more than anything else is when designers haven’t chosen their fabrics yet. They should at least have something close to what they want in hand when starting development on a style.
KA: What challenges do up-and-coming designers face today when it comes to manufacturing their products?
VG: No one will be surprised when I say money is an obstacle for many folks. It can cost $500-$1000 to develop one style. And so much of the cost is front-loaded, before you ever sell a stitch of clothing. But even with money, the apparel industry can seem frustratingly opaque and insular. It can be hard to identify companies that would be willing to work with a new designer. That’s where we come in. We have relationships with many different sources in the industry and can quickly place folks with the contractors that can help them. In doing that, we are also providing a service to the contractors. They know that if we send them a designer, the designer is ready to move forward. Apparel contractors just don’t have time to educate folks; Stitch Texas does this all day long.
KA: How has Stitch Texas helped the local economy?
VG: We currently employ four people, plus me, here in Austin. And by turning out quality production runs, we enable local designers to thrive and build their own companies.
KA: Is there an overall shift in the fashion industry regarding the manufacturing of products, such as moving more production back to the US?
VG: Everyone in the industry is abuzz about re-shoring. We just returned from LA and heard from vendors over and over that they’ve never had so many new clients calling. We have several people contact us every day looking for help. The big difference about the industry now, as opposed to before everything moved overseas, is that small designers rule the roost in US manufacturing. With the internet, designers can sell directly to their target market and can sell for enough money to pay for the higher wages in the US. The current crisis in the industry is the average age of most industry veterans. Everyone who worked in factories back in the heyday is about to retire. We are running as fast as we can to capture and pass along the knowledge, but it’s a challenge! One way Stitch Texas is trying to meet that challenge is by offering professional development opportunities to industry professionals in the region.
KA: Do you have any advice for designers looking to get into product development or start a fashion line?
VG: Network. Listen. Try to work for/with someone who is already doing what you want to do. Get on a plane and visit LA or New York for fabric trade shows.?Do not, I repeat, do not try to source by Google.?Visit MAGIC to see folks selling their clothing lines.
See what Stitch Texas is currently up to on their Facebook, and take a peek at their past and current projects!