Have you ever wondered what it’s like to work in the fashion industry. To make it as an artist, the hustle behind launching your own label, pursuing a career in music or any other creative industry? Halfstack has been pursuing these stories in print form for the last four years. This fall, we’re bringing the insight story to YouTube. We connected with some of Chicago’s most iconic creatives to hear their stories and share their journeys with you. We take you behind the scenes and offer candid, personal conversations with people pursuing their dreams. It’s not as glamorous as the media would like you to think. We are sharing the raw reality behind making it.
In this episode of making it, we’re introducing you to The Apparel Agency. The Apparel Agency is a full service development and production management agency. They worked to bring success to apparel brands for worldwide through their comprehensive plans in private labeling, located in the heart of America’s Midwest. The Apparel Agency is based in Chicago and has a fully equipped team of industry professionals, creative and technical designers. Pattern makers, sample makers and access to production facilities to aid in the development and the manufacturing of apparel accessories, and so much more. We visited The Apparel Agency over the span of a few months to learn more about the process behind launching a clothing label. They let us get a behind the scenes glimpse of what they worked through with clients. In this second episode, we learned all about discover. This is the first step in their creative process with working with brands to launch a label. Make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel so you can keep up with the next episodes of making it, where we feature the next steps in The Apparel Agency’s creative process. These include explore plan and build.
What Does The Discovery Process Entail For Clients?
The first step of discovery is in most businesses and in primarily most agency settings. We have such a variety of clients, especially being that we cater to small businesses or startups. So what we have to do is understand and define an end goal because development is driven by an end result, prototype salesmen samples, full launch production run. We really have to understand what is that end goal? What is the size, the scope of their business, their intentions for sales and their market launch. Then we have to back out timelines, back out resources, back out pricing and costing, and almost develop it conceptually, and strategize the development path before we even begin.
What Inspired You To Launch Your Private Label “The Line”?
It definitely started with the inquiry process. We were getting a lot of inquiries for athletic wear and leisure, and it really spun some ideas in our end that we could develop this wholesale line that can cater to these types of clients who maybe can’t develop right now, or just need some product available, to screen print on, or be able to sell as their own. Then that kind of spawned the whole idea to bring in some trend forward, athletic and leisure pieces. You just sell them outright. Versus having to go through that development process for each person looking for an athletic line. The unique part about our private label is that it’s fully customizable.
The solutions that are layered within the actual line that you see, or the collections that you see are limitless. You can buy it as is, and you can embellish it, screen print it. Our tagline is put your label on it, but then you can also engage with us on our custom development services and tweak it even further. Maybe put in a special color palette, fabrication, or expand on the design details.
That’s what I love about it because you don’t find that with existing distributors or blanks lines. You kind of get what you get, cut their label out of it, and put your spin on it from a very topical place. We wanted to promote our ability to customize (if they want to), and also just simply run production on a turnkey basis.
The other thing about it too, is that we’re not limited. We’re not taking any position in athletic or athleisure. That’s just where we started. So you’ll see swimwear, children’s, and men’s shirting. We’re currently in the process of running restaurant aprons, chef wear… we can develop anything being that we have the foundation of a development agency.
I think the main reason is because there’s, we just saw a lot of potential in there. There’s a void in the market for the type of design we’re doing and fabricated the way we’re doing it and specialty materials. There wasn’t anything in the market that offers clients this type of accessibility to align of this caliber, where they can buy it as is, or they can customize it. That’s really why we launched it. We started off with athleisure and sportswear because that’s what we find is the hottest trending position in the marketplace now. But we’re going to continually grow it, change it and evolve.
What Should Someone Have Prepped Before They Meet With Your Team?
Concepts. Whatever that may be. Is it sketches? Is it Google images? Retail examples that they bought at a store? Any type of fabrication or material inputs? Maybe they have a shirt that where really love the material, but they want to see what they can expand with it. Bring us as many examples as possible. It can direct us to bring all the options to the table that are available within that market. Then kind of helping them just work through different options that they may not know of, but having that initial sample, sketch, or retail image really helps guide us to what is currently available that we could show to them.
Any idea of the direction that they want to take their line in. Oftentimes we offer a fair amount of consultative services even before discovering. We’re helping people understand what they start with, and what type of budget might they need. If you don’t know, it might be nice to just get an hour or two of consultation and say this is what I feel I can handle.
Knowing your role. This is a multi-faceted industry. A brand has more than one position. Oftentimes our clients wear several hats, but what are your strengths, what are your weaknesses, and where will you fill in those weaknesses? Who will you be to the company, and where do you have to hire out or fill in order to keep it going?
Once they go through inquiry phase where they’ve defined the concept, and then they enter into planning phase, we looked to draw that information out of them. What does this look like to you, this new business, how is it running? And then it helps us understand how to build it, not to promise the sun, the stars and the moon, which we can do, but maybe for now, we have something within reach, and we can build a great plan for them to get started.
What Are Your Capabilities When It Comes To Working With Potential Clients & Brands?
I would say first and foremost, we are a high level pool of resources. So we’re not just freelance individuals with a focus on pattern making specifically or limited access to the industry. We work with all markets, all products worldwide. So we have this unique collective of knowledge. Some of us are from small business and domestic manufacturing backgrounds. Some of us are from corporate and overseas production with backgrounds in fabrication technology. We’re very well-rounded. Other than that, we really focus ourselves around our core services, which is what you need to get factory ready. There’s a break between designer and factory. There’s this space in between where you really have to do it the right way to get the results that oftentimes our designers are dreaming up there in their mind, but they don’t know what it took to go from that dream to the factory floor and get results that are on the retail floor. So we really pride ourselves on the fact that we have industry standard tools, templates, staffing, knowledge, resources, and software, and we implement all of that into our projects whether they are small or large.
What Kind Of Brands Has The Apparel Agency Worked With In The Past?
We have many different markets. Athletic and athleisure is a huge one right now. We have a lot of inquiries in companies that we work with for that. Different types of tennis wear, restaurants, entertainment, swimwear, men’s wear, bridal, ready to wear, suiting, anything like that. We cover pretty much all markets, even plush, accessories, handbags, belts, pet clothing, etc. Anything that can be cut in sewn, we can get you to the factory.
Where Can People Learn More About The Apparel Agency?
Everything’s on our website. You can view all of our Services and then be able to contact us through the web (Start Your Project).
Follow us on Instagram @theapparelagency!
Original video & interview by The Freelance Life
Link: Meet The Apparel Agency – Making it – Episode 1: Launching A Fashion Label