Posted by: Play Out Designers | June 24, 2011

Elastic Waistband…Jacquard?

As part of our underwear design, a main component of the style is going to be a 1.5-inch wide elastic waistband. This is a design and comfort component you see on a lot of men’s underwear, but not women’s. And why not?

Yes, I know that Calvin Klein also makes a version of these men’s boxer briefs in women’s bikini’s. But, on the whole, designers stick with smaller waistbands for women’s underwear – like this Victoria’s Secret bikini cut, for example. Jockey, Hanes, etc. will have waistbands like this for women. The other important aspect of the Calvin Klein design to note is that the CK name/logo is woven into the elastic waistband. For our women’s underwear, we want to have our logo woven into the waistband.

In fact, calling the waistband an elastic waistband at all is technically incorrect in the fashion business. A manufacturer will correct you on this. This type of trim is known as jacquard. What’s that? I know, we had no idea either. It’s a complex process of weaving a pattern, in this case, a logo. Jacquard can be done using many different kinds of materials — including elastic fibers, to create the stretchiness needed in a waistband. A mechanized process of weaving that, in the 21st century seems to be a given in large manufacturing now, it revolutionized the process of textile manufacturing in 1801. Named after its inventor Joseph Jacquard, the machines first used punch cards with punched holes to control the textile-making process. As of the mid-1980s, jacquard weaving is done on electronic jacquard looms.

So how do we have our waistbands made with our logo in them? Contact a manufacturer of knitted, woven and webbed elastics. There are numerous directories online of worldwide manufacturers of fabric and trims for the apparel market. The two that we use the most and have found to be the most reliable and easy to navigate are Fashiondex and in New York City, The Fashion Center. The Fashion Center website is also a useful resource for all aspects of the NYC garment district, from navigating shops open to the public to finding a patternmaker.

I have been in close contact with two very helpful companies that make jacquard waistbands — North East Knitting, Inc. and Rhode Island Textile Company — to develop our waistband. The biggest issue is the minimum order requirement. Since the looms are so large and complicated to set up, the minimum order amount can be anywhere from 5,000 yards to 20,000 yards.

That’s a lot of waistbands!

Posted by: Play Out Designers | June 19, 2011

Starting a business is hard!

/whine. No, really.

Hope you all are still with us. Big blogging fail, clearly, the past two months. The thing about a blog is, ya know, if you want people to read it, you kind of need to write it. Just saying.

So what have we been doing for 2 months? Falling behind. But, we need to keep telling ourselves that this is a process, and it’s going to take time. We aren’t on any major deadlines (except for having product for Pride season, one year from now) so we can do our research, take our time, make some mistakes, work things out. And even if we don’t have any physical product or stepping stone we’ve created in our hands, the thinking process is actually necessary for getting these things – so it’s not a waste of time, really.

Investing the first large amount of money is one of the most difficult steps, that is easy to keep putting off. The past 2 months were about solidifying our goals and determining how we wanted to move forward. The main decision: find a manufacturer, have everything professionally produced. We’re perfectionists, and for a while had contemplated sewing the first round of production ourselves, but really, we have no experience with sewing. We’ve learned a lot, but the product wouldn’t have reflected the perfect design that we want. So once we made this decision, we needed to go ahead and start researching and contacting manufacturers to move forward.

The other piece of exciting news? We met with our lovely lawyer Lindsay to draw up our LLC paperwork. We’re about to be official!

And — stay tuned for posts in the next couple of weeks to learn about waistband manufacture, sourcing fabrics, locating manufacturers for small product runs and more! We promise – they will be posted soon!

Posted by: Play Out Designers | April 15, 2011

sewing? err….

Let’s just say that I have never, ever used a sewing machine. No problem, we can learn anything! We decided to borrow a sewing machine to give it a try (Huge thanks J.!!). I drew a pattern, we have some fabric and… Of course we are not really good at it, that was expected. More interestingly, we don’t really need a sewing machine. We need a SERGER machine.

“An overlock stitch sews over the edge of one or two pieces of cloth for edging, hemming or seaming. Usually an overlock sewing machine will cut the edges of the cloth as they are fed through (such machines are called ‘sergers’), though some are made without cutters. The inclusion of automated cutters allows overlock machines to create finished seams easily and quickly. An overlock sewing machine differs from a lockstitch sewing machine in that it uses loopers fed by multiple thread cones rather than a bobbin. Loopers serve to create thread loops that pass from the needle thread to the edges of the fabric so that the edges of the fabric are contained within the seam.” Wikipedia

Basically, all the seams you have inside your t-shirt and most of your clothes are done with a serger. What is magic is that the machine cuts the extra fabrics when sewing it together, allowing you to have a clean edge. This kind of seam lets the fabric stretch, which is perfect for what we want to do.

Three threads overlocks

We also needed another kind of stitch: the cover stitch, which is the one you will find on the bottom of a t-shirt.

Cover stich

Of course, to do this cover stitch you need an interlocking machine. A lot of industrial machines do both overlock and cover stiches  but not so many “hobby” machine. We finally found a 5-thread Singer that does both and bought it.

I have to say, it is amazing! Easy to use and gives you fantastic results. Maybe not fantastic enough yet, but good enough to work on patterns.

Posted by: Play Out Designers | April 7, 2011

Fabric Shopping, Round 2

Following our first trip to the fashion district, we were a little discouraged – but also determined to learn what we needed to know to make this work, and create the underwear we want to make. First, we looked at the composition of some of our favorite pairs of underwear. Mostly, these are cotton/spandex or elastane mixes. These types of fabrics are stretchy, and the natural fibers make them comfortable and soft against the skin.

Second, we hit the Internet. We had done this before, but there was so much to read and so much information out there, we didn’t know where to start. Ok, we still didn’t know where to start, but having been to the store and felt the fabrics, we could narrow down the search. In knitted fabrics, the yarn is looped together to create the fabric – loops such as you can observe in needle-knitting, just smaller. This allows the fabric to stretch and still return to its form. Generally, this is how fabrics for t-shirts are made.

Third, we sent out an email for help. Both of us have attended the Burning Man arts festival in Nevada. Many people that attend this festival have experience making their own clothing and costumes – we thought someone on the Burning Man email list might be able to help us. Indeed, we received a response right away from a friendly Burner eager to meet up and share her knowledge. The funny thing is – D. is also French! So, we arranged to meet up in the fashion district and be taught. Sylvie could get to speak a little French too…

D. told us so much helpful information! To get us started, she took us to some of her favorite fabric and trimming shops in the fashion district. She showed us where to find the cotton fabrics, and how to feel the fabric to determine if it’s made of natural or man-made fibers. They do feel very different, but it’s not something we would ever pay attention to before considering fabric to make our own underwear.

This is NOT the type of pattern we are looking for.

The biggest problem that D. mentioned, that we soon came to realize was very true, is that these retail stores don’t stock much fabric with new, interesting, or exciting patterns. Generally, they are solid colors or old 70’s print fabrics. Creating underwear with fun/cute/cool patterns is our main goal. Where can we find patterned fabric? Our next hope: the design, fabric and textile shows in New York in April.

Posted by: Play Out Designers | March 23, 2011

Garment District 1, Play Out 0

Fabric: 1. Cloth – any type of cloth made from woven, knitted, or felted thread or fibers 2. Texture – the particular texture or quality of a kind of cloth

Cloth: 1. Fabric – fabric made by weaving, knitting, or felting thread or fibers

Textile: 1. Fabric – cloth or fabric that is woven, knitted, or otherwise manufactured 2. Raw material used for making fabrics, e.g. fiber or yarn

One of the most difficult parts of starting a fashion business with no fashion knowledge is figuring out what, exactly, fabric is. Consider the above definitions – they are all used to define each other. Is there a difference? Does it matter?

When trying to figure out what we need to construct our garment, “Fabric” is a big question mark. What does type mean? What does composition mean? What are the weaves – and do they matter? (Yes.) There’s fabric made of natural fibers, man-made fibers, organic fibers; stretchy weaves, knit weaves, ribbed, corded, looped, etc. you get the point. There’s a lot. What do we need and how much?

Yes, this is what it looks like. Overwhelming, no?!

Overwhelming, no? This severe lack of understanding became painfully apparent the first time Sylvie and I wandered into the garment district to buy fabric. Ok, we didn’t ‘wander’ per-se – we had a goal in mind to buy fabric. However, the garment/fashion district in New York is a seemingly vast maze, and a lot of the fabric stores are closed on weekends and do not have entrances or signs on street-level, meaning they are mostly only accessible or known about to those in the industry. Also, if we don’t even know what we’re looking at or looking for, how can we explain what we need to the salesperson, who is most likely preoccupied and seemingly unapproachable? Yea, not so easy.

We stood in the aisles, looked around completely overwhelmed and lost. We didn’t buy anything…How are we going to start a fashion business with no knowledge about fabric?

To be continued…

Posted by: Play Out Designers | March 14, 2011

A brilliant idea?

A quick presentation: I’m Sylvie, I’m a scientist and I’m french. So, pardon my accent english.
Our story began last december. A few days before christmas, I came home to find a overly excited Abby. She just had a brilliant idea. She spend 4 hours looking for underwear for me for christmas. And she didn’t find any. Nothing. Nada. Rien du tout. She always says I’m picky. I guess it’s true!
After this useless search, she looked around to see how to do underwear. Logical, no?

Here is the brilliant idea: WE ARE GONNA MAKE AND SELL UNDERWEAR. The ones we like and we know a lot of people will like.

Errh… Let’s just say, not really like that.

So, here we are. On the pro side: a good idea, a good niche market, good network possibilities in this market, a potential secondary market, not too many competitors. On the con side: no experience whatsoever in fashion or business, but eh, we can learn!

The purpose of this blog is to share with you our endeavour and, hopefully, our success along this process. We hope you will have some fun laughing at our questions and mistakes but also solutions. And we wait for your questions and comments to help us all find solutions.
Welcome all to the Play Out Underwear blog!

talk to you soon,