From Concept to Garment
We are a people-centric brand, we are inspired by you, we base many decisions on what we learn from your feedback. Being a small and growing brand allows us to be responsive. We can cut right through to the juicy feedback that helps us to grow, improve and also importantly lets us know we are on to something great. With feedback always comes questions, lots and lots of beautiful questions - to see more, learn more and hear more. The questions part of the feedback has been harder for us to answer. Not because we don't want to but because when you're working, head to the grind it's not that easy to stop, take two steps back, evaluate and explain. So as the founder and wearer of most/many of the hats around here I (Brandy) wanted to share a quick explanation of the lifespan of our basics from concept to garment.
It all starts with a concept.
An initial idea can come from many different places. When designing, I'm not looking to create the latest style, and I am not looking to create something I personally want (though very tempting). Ideations come from many places, I am genuinely inspired by real life. I take into account a combination of survey feedback, your feedback in emails, responses on our Instagram stories. Finally, I am continually keeping my head up in the world, watching how people are dressing in real life. Usually, initial ideas start somewhere raw "a versatile dress", and then with all the complied information, we have received (sales data, feedback, etc.). Then I work to design the best possible versatile dress.
side note: We are a small (self-funded) business, we don't have the benefit of deep corporate pockets, so have to be incredibly intentional with every style. Which might be why sometimes it may seem like we aren't listening when you ask for things when in fact we are, we, unfortunately, don't always have the budget to go there yet.
Drawing and specifying.
Usually, many multiple versions of one basic are then drawn out. Until each and every detail makes sense for maximum wearability, fits with FRANC's vibe and also falls perfectly into our existing collection. Once that perfect balance is met (perfectionist problems), the process of measuring and sizing each style starts. When it comes time to work with our pattern maker, we work very smoothly together because my communication is clear. From there we order samples, make changes if need be and continue until the style is perfection.
side note: often we start each season with many new styles, but once those initial samples arrive I often scrap some designs. For many reasons, but usually, it just looked better in my mind, or we aren't there yet with our budget and we hold them for a later day.
Choosing colours and lab dipping.
Since we custom knit and dye all our own fabric we have the privilege (and the stress) of choosing our own colours. The process of selecting colours is similar to how we decide on styles. We compile the information gathered from you: after-purchase surveys, on Instagram, etc. I also watch closely in the real world to see what colours are actually worn most often. Colours are another area we need to be really intentional with as each colour is an added cost and also an added garment to the world.
side note: We try to choose colours that are seasonless for many reasons, so each item will stand the test of time in your closet, and it won't go out of style before the lifespan is up. Also, we aren't always able to restock every style in fresh colours each season. Restocks are dependant on how well an item has sold and how much stock we still have left on hand, if we still have a substantial amount of stock we cannot restock (yet). Everything we do starts with intention.
Ordering custom fabric.
When it comes to our fabric, it's all custom, our knitter orders our custom spun yarn from Korea. This yarn manufacture is an approved Tencel manufacturer since this is a trademarked fabric they are very picky with which suppliers they allow spinning their yarn. Once the custom turned yarns arrive in Toronto, our knitter then starts up the large knitting machines and knits our fabric in bulk. From there it is delivered to the local dye house (also in Toronto) where the fabric gets dyed, washed, dried, finished and rolled back up. Then it is shipped to our factory (also in Toronto).
side note: Using a trademarked fabric as Tencel allows us as a small business to ensure our yarn supplier is also ethical. It is not easy as a small business to have our hands in every aspect right down to the farming, primarily since we use a blended yarn. So using a trademarked fabric allows us the peace of mind that this early-stage or our fabric production is done right.
Somewhere in between all of that fabric work, we place an official order for production, this order is heavy on detail and lays out how many items per size and colour we want. Which is probably one of the toughest jobs, as each season the ratio sizes per style that sell are totally different and always surprising. We also order labels (also from a Toronto supplier) if we don't have enough on hand for production - along with everything else we might need to piece together our garments.
side note: We try our best to anticipate which sizes you will order to prevent over and understock. But since we are growing and new customers are finding us daily, it is a moving target, but one we are always happy to try and hit.
Printing markers and cutting fabric.
Our factory then reviews our order, we are so lucky to work with such an excellent and collaborative crew. They begin printing our "markers" for each style. Markers are the pattern pieces laid out to maximize the use of fabric and cut down on fabric waste. They then hold our markers and have them ready for cutting when our material arrives, they can dive into cutting each style.
side note: No matter how mindful they are with cutting, there is always fabric scraps. Some scraps are used for tying and bundling of styles. Sometimes if the pieces are large enough, we donate them to other small businesses. And we are always on the lookout for a local fabric recycling program so we can upcycle what isn't able to be resued or upcycled - if you know of any, do reach out.
Sewing and finishing.
Once all our fabric has arrived, and it's our turn for production, the process of sewing begins. Sewing is done in stages, each seamstress sews a portion of the garment depending on the machine they are an expert on. It's a process that takes a few weeks, one we never even attempt to rush. Lastly comes finishing, each garment goes thru a process of each seam being double-checked, extra threads are clipped, and any issues or defects are then flagged. Each style then gets bundled by size and tied with a fabric scrap, and we then pick it up as a whole.
side note: Our factory, is our partner in business and an extension of Franc but not owned or operated by us. They are located 30 km away from where we work – which allows us to pop in at a moments notice. This close distance also helps to keep our carbon footprint incredibly low. Learn more about our factory here.
Hangtagging and quality control.
Once a style arrives, we measure each size to make sure it matches my initial specifications. If something does not meet our specs, we make a note of these changes. Many times things can change in production, as it's very different than sewing one single item for a sample. I try to account for these possibilities when designing. If not, I alter my expectations when and if changes arise as it's always slight and often, it's a happy improvement. Each and every item is then meticulously checked, folded and tagged, then stacked and packed away for orders.
Photos and listing.
Photos come at different stages. Sometimes if we are lucky, we can order samples of our styles early, and we can plan a smoothly run photoshoot with a wide range of real models. Other times we aren't quite as lucky, and our factory doesn't have time to sew samples because they are in the depths of production for another brand. We make it work and plan photoshoots realistically each season and try not to stress about it. This sometimes means planning very last minute, which can make model calls and booking tricky. From there, it's a lot of data entry, fun marketing planning, executing, launching and lots packaging and shipping of orders - a whole other lifespan of tasks.
We are working through most of our most asked behind the scenes questions, this post covers a whole lot of them. There are more to come and if you have any questions or curiosities please do share them in the comments!