We are a few short weeks away from releasing the first of our Spring and Summer button-ups!
The development for these shirts began last June, and we are now finally at the point where things are looking shirt-like when we visited the production facility last week in Vancouver.
Development, for us, begins with researching design inspiration and looking through fabric samples from our supplier in Portugal. We find constant inspiration through vintage craftsmanship and garments. This season, we came across some French denim work jackets that we fell in love with, and found a beautiful colour palette of fabrics that remind us of small-town countryside signage. A match made in heaven, we thought, and a great starting point to inform the design process.
For us, design ideas come pretty quickly. As soon as we have a solid idea, we make a sample ourselves to see if it translates to a 3-dimensional shirt. I draft the patterns for the designs we want to try, and then I make them using a domestic sewing machine. For Spring, we had two rounds of these samples as our first ideas needed a couple of adjustments - such is the journey through development.
We make our in-house samples out of muslin - an un-bleached, inexpensive cotton that’s made for the purpose of development. Once we’re happy with our designs, we pass our patterns onto a local pattern maker who digitizes them - meaning she copies each piece, one at a time, onto pattern making software so that our manufacturer can print out what’s called a marker - a roll of paper that’s the same width as our fabric with the pattern pieces printed in the order and arrangement they will be cut in. The goal of the marker is to create the tightest puzzle of pattern pieces as possible, so we avoid wasting fabric un-necessarily and make the most of what we have.
It’s very important to us that we have a close connection to the people that make our shirts. We want to see the collection as it unfolds, meet everyone who’s part of the process, and be available to visit without needing to hop on a plane. In fact we managed to do one better - it only takes about half an hour to walk from Power Of My People HQ to the production facility. Every time I take that walk I think about how much we’re being spoiled and can’t believe we managed to find such a great situation. I think it comes through the finished shirts that we’ve had such seamless access to the whole process.
When the marker is ready (this can take from a couple days to a few weeks, depending on how much the pattern maker has on her plate), our factory will cut and sew a sample of each shirt in the fabrics they will be available in for Spring. The goal here is three fold - to ensure that the craftspeople understand the pattern, that there are no fit or construction issues that we missed during our in-house sampling, and to make sure the designs work in the fabrics they will be produced in. We also wear these samples, wash them and try and beat them up a little to make sure they meet the level of quality that we expect.
So what happens if something’s not right? If the fabric doesn’t suit the design (which happened with one of the styles this season) we re-assign that fabric without too much hassle. The fabric in question is a beautiful, crisp oxford cloth, so the fabric was easy to place with a different style, and the shirt that didn’t suit it worked better in our 100% linen that has a softer drape. Problem solved!
What about if the pocket suddenly looks too big? Or the hem too short? Issues like these are communicated back to the pattern maker and depending on the problem, another sample might be needed before we’re all satisfied to move ahead with production. If everything’s great with the first samples? Then hi-fives all around - let’s move ahead to production!
Each step in the development process I’ve described, if done well, will get us closer to the goal of making the best button-up you’ll ever wear. If we skip one step, one checkpoint, then we would be failing at that. Integrity is built by using the best process, and respect is given when you can repeat it every time. No detail is too small to be important.
Next time on Get To Know Your Shirt Better - I will pick up where we left off and take you through the production of our Spring + Summer 2016 collection, and will share with you the eleventh hour addition that made it into the line up at the last minute!
In the meantime, do you have questions about the design and development process of our shirts? Is there a missing link that you’ve always wondered about? Drop us an email at email@example.com and say hi.
Co-owner, Shirt Person
Power Of My People