Starting my own contracting business in the Apparel industry has prompted more than a few people to ask me, “Well, why should I hire you?” My journey of experiences, learning and growing is a long one. When I was five years old, I told my parents that I wanted to be an Artist when I grew up. From that day forward, they channeled all of their own artistic energy into me and encouraged my every aspiration. My dad built my sister and me a painting easel, my mom taught me how to sew, and we all learned new ways of crafting together. I’ve been sewing since I was seven years old, crafting and woodworking since I was ten, cutting up and creating my own outfits since I was in high school, and when it came time to choose a college major, it felt inevitable for me to go into Fashion Design. Needless to say, my heart has been in this industry for as long as I can remember. But let’s fast forward a bit to my very first “real” job. That’s what everyone is really asking about, right?
I was lucky to be coming into my first full-time role from an amazing internship with ANF the year before. The University of Cincinnati goes above and beyond in training its students to be prepared for the real working world when they graduate. Because of this, I already had 18 months of work experience under my belt, and knew that I wanted to be a Technical Designer. My entire Tech Design internship was spent taking notes during fittings, creating technical sketches in Adobe Illustrator and learning, learning, learning. I was absorbing every little bit of information that I could find within those walls, and I was beyond lucky to have Karen Steidle as my manager. I guarantee you have never met someone as patient, kind and talented as she was with me during those first years together. She pushed me to learn new ways of looking at garments, patterns and people that would shape me for the rest of my career. I was not always the easiest Assistant to work with, but she took every day in stride, and for that, I owe her a debt of gratitude I could never repay.
In the processes of Technical Design for Apparel, there are numerous tasks to mention, but the biggest ones I wanted to immediately master were running fittings and communicating with overseas vendors. What was so brilliant about Karen’s managing process, and one of the reasons that I am able to tout my current level of expertise in this field today, was that she encouraged me to wait, watch, and learn these skills before I really owned a significant portion of a brand’s work. I took notes in fittings for an entire year before I ever picked up a safety pin. I typed out comments, made diagrams, and marked up fit photos for proofing, editing, and re-typing before I ever emailed a vendor. I mastered the art of email, digital patterns, and in-office meetings before I boarded any airplane to visit a factory in person.
I came off as a polished, intelligent, organized and talented Technical Designer to everyone around me. And then I actually became a polished, intelligent, organized and talented Technical Designer. Practice became habit, and habit turned into a way of life. I have no idea what kind of professional I would be today if Karen had just thrown me into the deep end of the pool at ANF. I’ve been a part of so many other companies that overwhelm young employees, and we do them a genuine disservice by not guiding them in the right direction. It was this time in my career that answers the question, “Why should you hire me?”
Patience, curiosity and understanding are now the cornerstones of my practices with Apparel. In George Leonard’s inspiring book, Mastery, he defines the five essential keys to mastery as: 1) Instruction, 2) Practice, 3) Surrender, 4) Intentionality and 5) The Edge. After twenty years as a professional in the Apparel Industry with a lifetime of love for the craft, it is The Edge that I have reached that makes me a unique and special person to hire for any company. I know the rules and the guidelines of designing, pattern-making, producing and planning an Apparel line so well, that it’s time for me to break those rules and make them my own. If you’ve ever been told that traditional Apparel manufacturing will take 9-12 months to complete, from beginning to end, I am happy to sit with you to figure out how to throw that rule out the window. If you’re concerned about not having enough up-front cash to purchase your first inventory for your brand, let’s talk through the numbers together and make the cash you have in-hand work for you. And my favorite: If you’re convinced that the garment you want to make will fit poorly or suffer in quality because of unique parameters you want to put into your brand, then I am the creative thinker to help you overcome those obstacles and bring your garment to life.
Hiring a contractor can be scary, and starting your own Apparel brand can be daunting. There are so many steps and processes involved, but nothing is ever impossible. It would be my honor and pleasure to work with anybody who has an Apparel idea in their heart, and just needs some help in bringing it into the world. So if this message resonates with you or with an idea you’ve been playing around with, let me know! I’m only a short note away.