When we first conceived of Brass (about a year ago), we decided we would start with a line of 5 dress styles. We saw it like this: 1) A dress is an outfit in and of itself; so customers could buy one thing from us and still have a complete ensemble. And 2) starting a fashion company with one category (dresses) would allow us to test our concept with a minimum viable product approach. While most fashion brands produce at least 12 pieces per season, starting with 5 styles was an intentional move to keep our young business nimble. This allowed us to talk to customers, gather feedback and produce a line clothing that fits their lives. This week we are celebrating the launch of our 6th dress, the Sweater Dress. It has been a true collaboration with our customers, and we can’t wait to share it with you.
We feel incredibly grateful for the dialogue we’ve had with all of you. From the beginning, we sent surveys, we did polls, we exchanged emails – you provided us with such valuable information! And from taking it all in, we learned so much. We got a sense of what styles and colors you like most. We loved reading your responses and compiling the data. We felt like we got to know you better and that we were designing specifically for you. We shared the results of the survey in this blog post because we want to share our processes with you.
In an effort to keep the tradition alive we want to share with you how the Sweater Dress was made. This dress is one of many products directly influenced by you, our customers. You weighed in on every step of the design process, and now it’s time to see your input come to fruition. Here’s a look at how your survey responses brought the Sweater Dress to life.
Step 1: You Helped Us Pick the Style
In August of 2014, as our first five styles of dresses were in production, we sent out a survey asking for feedback on a fall dress. At that time we were also preparing to go to China to visit our factory and see the initial production run of our first collection. Our main factory focuses on woven garments and we knew we also wanted a factory that would be able to manufacture sweaters and knit garments if we ever wanted to expand into this category. Our colleague, Abby, set up a meeting at one of the premiere cashmere knit factories in China. It was an added bonus that one of our favorite account managers from our main factory, Betty, now works at this knit factory. Win-win! At this point we had compiled the survey results and our customers were clearly looking for a long-sleeved sweater dress. We felt this was the perfect product to work on with this new knit factory.
After sampling a few different types of knits, we decided on a gorgeous 100% cotton, 12 gauge, double sided knit. Here’s what that means:
- 100% Cotton: Unlike wool or poly-wool blends there is no pilling with cotton. It is super soft and cozy, but also breathable so you can wear it in the fall, winter, and spring.
- 12 Gauge: This refers to the size of the thread used for knitting. This is a medium weight thread that is neither super chunky or super fine, so it creates a really nice size rib.
- Double Sided Knit: This means that the fabric is knit on both sides. It creates a slightly ribbed texture that makes the fabric more substantial in weight but also gives it some stretch without adding spandex.
Step 2: You Helped Us Pick the Color
We came home from China knowing that our next dress was going to be a sweater dress. But we weren’t sure what color customers would prefer. Keeping in mind that we’re going to maintain a neutral palette throughout the line, we polled customers on Instagram and Facebook asking if you’d rather us do the dress in camel or light gray. The votes were unanimous: light gray FTW!
Step 3: You Helped Us Make a Few Modifications
When we received our first sample back from the factory, we loved the silhouette but thought light gray made the dress look like sweatshirt material. We asked the factory to produce the second sample in charcoal to give the dress a more sophisticated, wear-to-work kind of feel. We posed this edit to you on Instagram and were very excited that you agreed: Charcoal gray it was.
We’re going to pause here for a second to tell you a little bit about the sampling process. In talking with friends and customers over the past few months, we’ve heard a lot of questions about what it’s like to do production in China. To start, we’ll tell you a bit about our process. First, we design and create our dress here at our office in Waltham, MA. We send our design to China with a tech pack that includes measurements and other specifications for the factory. From there, Abby communicates with the factory. The factory works to replicate our sample exactly. They typically use fabric and material they have on hand; many times the first sample comes in the incorrect color. When they’re done, they send the first sample -the PP sample- to us. We put the PP sample on our fit model (aka Katie) and note any adjustments that need to be made. In the case of the Sweater Dress, we had an issue with the arms being too big and baggy.
We take photos and communicate our changes to Abby, she relays them to the factory and we wait for our next sample. The next sample comes in the correct fabric and color. It’s called the SMS sample or the salesman sample. We have been lucky enough to work with great factories that have nailed our changes on the first try. We’ve made minor tweaks to the SMS samples, but not many. Once the fit is perfected and we have approved the measurements, materials, trims, and color, we place our order and wait for delivery. Our shipment of Sweater Dresses will be arriving in the next two weeks. Keep an eye out for our limited run pre-sale that will be going on this week! (Sign-up here to get on our list and get early access to the pre-sale)
Let’s Keep the Conversation Rolling
We love how social media allows us to get to know our customers despite being able to meet face-to-face. Even though we are separated by a computer screen and you can’t see us, we want you to know that we are here reading your reviews, your emails, and your comments on Facebook and Instagram. And we are looking for ways to improve and give you more of what you are looking for. For example, many women have requested longer length dresses. We are so excited to release a dress in February that hits at the knee and was created in direct response to your feedback.
Thank you again for all of the support, advice, feedback and time. We can’t wait to keep talking and learn more about all you Brassy ladies.