Why is My Business, United Sewing and Design, a Social Enterprise?

Social enterprises can support families.
Social enterprises can support families. Photo by kazuend on Unsplash

A common definition of a “social enterprise”(SE) could be, “a profit earning business that has, as its primary goal, creating the maximum positive impact possible in society and/or the environment.

As you can see, from this definition, SE’s are profit making unlike not-for-profits. And, unlike a typical business, their primary goal is not to produce maximum profits for owners and shareholders as in a typical for-profit business, but to create positive change in society and the environment. If you’ve read the “About” page on our website, or my profile on LinkedIn, then you know that United Sewing and Design is an SE.

First, a caveat with my explanation. My business is an LLC and so, is not registered as an SE according to the State of Connecticut. The reason that I chose not to participate in that designation, also known as a “B Corp,” is because in CT, to start a B Corp., you are required to register as an “S,” or “stock corporation,” to sell stock, have shareholders (obviously) and a board of directors. This earns significantly more in fees for the state. Additionally, it also requires a layer of reporting to the public about the social or environmental good created by the SE. My contention is that a business can be labelled by its activities as an SE and participate voluntarily in the public reporting without paying burdensome fees. We’ll see how that works out.

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Hiring a Sewing Contractor? Ten Things to Do to Get the Best Results

ake time to prepare for your meeting with a sewing contractor by doing these 10 tasks.
Take time to prepare for your meeting with a sewing contractor by doing these 10 tasks. Photo by alejandro-escamilla

You’re really excited about the new product you’ve envisioned and rightly so! It’s made of a flexible material (fabric, vinyl, felt, rubber, leather, etc.) so you know it needs to be sewn.  You don’t know how to sew but you’re sure you’re ready to take the next step to have it manufactured. At this point, you realize you want to maximize your investment in time and money but you’re concerned about how to explain what you want and get the best quality result. What to do?

There are ten things you can do before you meet with United Sewing and Design or another sewing contractor to insure that you are prepared. These tasks are what I wish all of my customers had done ahead. Thought invested doing these will save money during the consultation period and speed up the time it takes to get started. Sketches do not need to be attractive or perfect. None of the answers to these questions need to be exact at this point. Actually, it’s better if you’re open to suggestions from the sewing contractor you are hiring. They should be able to suggest changes that are right for your product and might save you materials, time and money while delivering the best possible results.

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Get Off the Over-consumption Truck!

trusted clothes post
Photo by Yuriy Trubitsyn on Unsplash

Ever bought a shirt or blouse that you wore once then never again? Perhaps you just plucked it off the rack in that trendy store you like without even really thinking about when, where or how often you’d wear it? Maybe you even bought the same item in 3 colors! Did you take a minute to think about whether or not purchasing something you really weren’t going to use is a good idea? How about what impact your purchase would have on the fashion industry, the environment or the people who made the shirt?

One of the purposes of my blog at unitedsewinganddesign.com, is to present different ways of thinking about consuming and manufacturing soft goods, ways that have less negative impact on our environment, that are sustainable both environmentally and economically and that are fair to workers. Often, when I mention the fine points of conscious manufacturing to fashion professionals, they roll their eyes and sigh or wonder aloud how they are supposed to compete in an industry fueled by constant consumption of trendy clothes and accessories if they don’t take part in the same overproduction/overconsumption cycle.

On Twitter last week, I ran across a post by one of the most insightful organizations that I follow.

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Closing Your Consumption Circle–Three Paths That Will Benefit Your Business

We all know that being a business owner is beyond time consuming. Making decisions to move your business forward, managing people, looking for customers, “can I please have an extra day in the week to do all this”? Why would you possibly want to burden yourself or your staff with finding a way to close the consumption circle at your business? What are the benefits?

Think about how your business consumes.
Photo by Sharon Pittaway on Unsplash

First, let’s define some terms as they relate to manufacturing.

Waste—materials that you have left over from manufacturing.

Upcycle— reuse (discarded objects or material) in such a way as to create a product of a higher quality or value than the original. Ex: turning moth eaten, cashmere sweaters into a coat by cutting and recombining them.

Repurposed—using something for a different purpose than that for which it was intended, altering it superficially in the process. Ex: creating pillows from the leather of a used couch.

Recycled— convert (waste) into reusable material, breaking it down and altering its form during the process. Ex: shredding discarded textiles to produce stuffing for quilted boots.

Closing the consumption circle means taking all of the materials that are not used in the products you manufacture, (the waste), and either up-cycling, re-purposing or recycling it so that nothing ends up in the waste stream on its way to a landfill.

Here are three ways to close the consumption circle at your business and some of the benefits each method offers.

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Truly Satisfying Your Customer

Industry Clothing Construction Methods

In today’s business climate, every advantage counts.  To truly understand what your customer wants, you have to listen to them. This short excerpt from the introduction to my book, Industry Clothing Construction Methods, highlights the essential concept of product benefits and the features that create them. Although the example is apparel, the design of any product could be made more attractive to customers by understanding these simple concepts and making them the core of your process.

“Designers hear the consumer say that apparel should offer benefits. Consumers believe that apparel benefits should help them achieve their goals as individuals, such as feeling more self-confident, gaining respect, saving time and money, attaining comfort during physical activity, attracting a lover, fitting into a social group or expressing them selves. The task for a fashion professional then is to determine what features should be included in the garments to achieve those apparel benefits. The core of the designer’s, merchandiser’s or buyer’s craft in the ready-to-wear industry is to find the right combination of features–silhouette, fit, shape, color, laundering method, fabric, texture, price, and so on–that entice customers to look, try-on, and feel satisfied  with their apparel purchase.”

For more on this topic, additional insight into the apparel merchandising process, and a wealth of concrete information on the construction of retail apparel, add Industry Clothing Construction Methods to your toolkit for manufacturing success.

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Will that Next Big Design Innovation Come From Connecticut?

makerspace logo

STEAM Learning Finds a New Home in CT

“Yankee Ingenuity” is alive and well in Connecticut! As I wrote in my book, Naugatuck Valley Textile Industry,  “The creative spark that inventors and investors shared formed the foundation upon which factories flourished and railroads were built.” The same ingenuity that historically fueled the textile industry in our state will find a home at MakerspaceCT  a “springboard for innovation, and a new way to boost careers and interest in traditional and advanced manufacturing, technology, and hardware development.”

MakerspaceCT is part of the “Maker” movement which is creating “renewed interest for both students and adults in critical STEAM learning (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics)” and application. “MakerspaceCT is currently developing a 15,000sf commercial space in the Historic Colt Building that will be the headquarters for making and innovation in Connecticut.

Find out more!

Re-Shoring 101

Take it from Bill Amos, CEO of NW Alpine Gear, LLC and President of Kichatna Apparel Manufacturing, LLC, you need to thoughtfully consider re-shoring your apparel manufacturing to:

  • shorten lead time
  • get a firm grip on quality control
  • save money on shipping and tariffs
  • attract consumers who care about “Made in America.”
  • Minimize the impact from unpredictable trade policy shifts

Take the time to read his article here, then contact us. We’d be happy to help get your company started on the road to fulfilling your goals.

 

 

High Quality: Competitive Advantage or Pointless Expense?

Last week we explored the idea of innovation as a necessary component of competitiveness for the U.S. sewn products industry. This week, I take up a topic which has been the downfall of the world wide apparel industry for almost 20 years–quality.

Quality as the Problem

Much has been written on the depressing collapse in quality of the fashion industry, most notably by Teri Agins in her book, “The End of Fashion: How Marketing Changed the Clothing Business Forever.” In the 1990’s, one could easily find well made designer apparel at retailers like Bergdorf Goodman, such as fully lined women’s slacks of a pants

beautiful wool, with each pant seam allowance carefully completed with a Hong Kong finish. As Agins points out, the collapse began when giant conglomerates instead of namesake designers became the owners of major fashion labels. Instead of the designer mandating the quality of fabrics and construction; stock holders, demanding ever higher profit margins; began to cut more and more corners. They discovered that the majority of customers had forgotten what their parents knew–garments can be made with quality materials and workmanship and styled with a timeless look. Fortunately for the stock holders, customers had begun to disconnect quality of workmanship and materials from price. Price now became a superficial mark of brand distinction and nothing more. The advent of “fast fashion,” turning around new styles in two weeks or less, was the pit at the bottom.

Customers shopping for ready-to-wear have been well trained to expect poor quality new styles in the shops every time they go in. However, the manufacturing model which enables this system to be profitable is not possible in the U.S.

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Four Strategies You Need to Use for Sewn Manufacturing Success

The global apparel and textile industry began to change about 9 years or so ago.  Back then, I noticed several trends beginning to mature. Notable among them were developing technologies for production, a growing interest in made in the U.S.A., and awareness of labor and environmental issues in production overseas.  Connections began to form between these trends leading to thoughts about strategies that the apparel industry in CT (the U.S.A.) should concentrate on to be most competitive. I believe they are:

·         innovationhanging sweaters

·         high quality

·         educating consumers

·         dedication to “Made in America”

This week, I’ll be discussing innovation. I would love to hear what you have to say on these subjects.

Technological Innovation

The inclusion of the latest technology, such as robotics, in the production of apparel is the single most powerful and expedient addition we can make to create a competitive industry in the U.S. After all, that’s what we here in CT do best, right? Innovation and a can do attitude are the core of “Yankee ingenuity!” The cost lowering affects of technology are one of the factors that are creating the “tipping point” between making the choice to manufacture in China or the U.S. This tipping point represents a call to action that has been growing from a whisper to a clamor so loud that even Walmart is hearing it!

Innovation in Manufacturing Methods

Lean manufacturing, a set of production practices developed in the auto industry to cut waste in manufacturing, is currently being used to advantage by manufacturers such as Joseph Abboud in RI.

It is not so much a hardware innovation as an innovation in thought from the problematic assembly line where workers are isolated to a reorganization of the manufacturing floor into “pods” or groups of workers who complete garments together. Lean manufacturing can cut production time from days to hours, especially when coupled with the computerization of printing, pattern drafting, marker making, cutting and sewing steps.

Software Innovation

Software such as Yunique PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) is only one of the products created by Gerber Technology, one of the world’s leaders in computerized manufacturing support located right in Vernon, CT. Yunique PLM makes it possible for designers and manufacturers to communicate accurately and quickly to insure high quality and profits. 3D body scanning, being spearheaded by [TC]2rd the world leader in body scanning software and hardware located in Cary, NC, is making it possible to easily create a garment fitted to an individual’s exact measurements. AM4U (Apparel Manufacturing for You) located in Palo Alto, CA has created a digital printing process for fabrics which drastically cuts the time needed to print, eliminates the costly, environmentally unsound  practice of dyeing in water and produces a print that is impervious to bleaching and fading.

Employing these products in the manufacturing of apparel in CT falls right in line with the state initiatives to enhance high tech manufacturing. This level of manufacturing  generates professional careers in high paying jobs and the development of training opportunities and apprenticeships for our technical high schools and community colleges.

I am extremely excited about the position in which we find ourselves! The technological innovations being originated in our country, the growing interest in made in the U.S.A., and the economic tipping in our favor are creating an opportunity which we must seize. Please see the links below for more information.

Next week: how quality impacts competitiveness.