A.C. Baker Apparel

Welcome to the new and improved blog all about A.C. Baker Apparel

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A.C. Baker Apparel

A.C. Baker Apparel

Wow...I better not let this blog go fallow as Kathleen at Fashion-Incubator posted my link. For all of my 3 readers, I have been busy with other things...I hate to say it, but myspace has actually been sucking a lot of my time. I Thought I was above it! Anyhow, I will get back and do a real post, but for all you F-I visitors coming to find out more about me and what I do, just know that I will post more soon, but feel free to peruse around. This stuff is mostly about my journey through the handbag process, but there's other stuff too. Thanks for visiting and I will post again soon.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Oh, woa is my Saturday Night

I can say that my life consists of working selling advertising, working sewing handbags, working being a mother and wife, and working to keep my sanity amongst all this working. I haven't forgotten about our dear friend Jean, but haven't found the time to explore.

Last weekend I spent an entire day sewing and planning with Deb, my stalwart Jiminy Cricket. She keeps me real, yo. Someone remind me to post a picture of her. The great thing about Debbie is that she has been in the production realm of this business for a long time. She is creative, patient (has to be with me hangin' around) and mostly willing to at least entertain many of my crazy ideas. She has a way of laying down logic so that you truly understand how she came to her conclusions. I rarely if ever disagree with her, and those of you that know me, know that I will argue ANYTHING. (sad).

Speaking of Debbie, I have to digress and tell you about a project we did together. The back story to this is that I am trying to get really good at production sewing; not because I want to do it as a profession, but because I want to know exactly what folks who work for me are doing and how to be completely reasonable to work with in my expectations of production.

A few weeks ago we jointly did a production run of pleated skirts for another designer here in town. Quite a lovely project. I won't name anyone in the interest of being completely respectful of the designer. The goal of the project was to walk a mile in production's shoes (and make some extra $$).

Debbie was great, she put me on serging and pleating while she did the finishing. I did do some hemming on a few pieces, but mostly she took care of the final steps. I was really paranoid about doing a good job and I messed up a couple pieces that had to be redone. When I asked Debbie if I really was useful to the process, she said something that struck me as profound; she said that you have to put people on the line where they will do the best, and although I messed up a couple pieces, she could see the improvement of my work over the course of five or six peices. It made me feel good to have shown improvement, and by the end I could pleat with the best of them.

We had to also determine a work schedule. We had to have 130 skirts done in a two week time table, so we had to detemine how many a day we could collectively finish. I was able to put out about 12 skirts a day (my steps) and Debbie was able to put out about 15 finished skirts a day. This meant that I had to have all my steps done before she could do hers. It was gruelling....but gratifying at the same time. When you look at a pile of sewing sans errors you get this strange sense of pride and accomplishment. There are a lot of things that can go wrong when you set a work schedule...kids get sick, cars break down, sewing machines break. It's not the same thing as punching a clock. You are on deadline because your designer is on deadline. If they have to eat it, so do you...so you work until midnight and after your day job (if you are a real production person, you don't have a different day job). It's incredibly intense and the stakes are high.

Working for a designer is a trip. I didn't interact directly with the designer (although I know her), Debbie was the project leader, so she did all the negotiating, price setting, etc. There are a few things that inevitably happen

1) Fabric doesn't come in on time: This cut our time frame down from 4 weeks to 2 weeks. Thankfully the designer adjusted her numbers. We couldn't have done 250 skirts in 2 weeks between 2 people.
2) Certain fabrics don't work with the fabrication: Again, this designer is seasoned and flexible. We opted not to do those skirts and it was fine. This designer likes to roll up her sleaves and help to get the job done, as well.
3) Changes at the last minute: This wasn't my favorite thing to have happen, although Debbie handled it with aplomb. Even though it seems like a simple change (adding buttons), it adds time onto the production of the thing which increases the price of the garment, etc.

When doing a production run, there is definitely a heirarchy. This isn't a bad thing at all. The phrase "Too many cooks spoil the soup"comes to mind in a situation like this. Debbie ran the whole thing like a well oiled machine. She knew just where to put me and how to navigate around my work schedule. She new my skill level, and she had worked with the designer before and was able to pretty much predict all the little snafu's. I was greatful that I could take direction and leave the rest up to her. I didn't have to figure anything out. I bring this up because often people want to fight for supremecy. In a production line it would hurt the process. You absolutely have to have a production manager; someone to make sure all the pieces are in place and the work flow is smooth.

I learned so much from this experience and I truly thank Debbie for training me and throwing me some work. I can't say that I could handle a run on my own, but I can certainly sew better than I did before, and I have a far deeper appreciati0n for contract sewing.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Bits of things

This day marks my second attempt at blogging regularly, so dear reader, watch as I blather on about....ummm. I guess I really didn't plan my blog for today. The most recent issues on my plate are:

Premium denim and how it holds us hostage (the attack of luxe casual)

When will I sit down and do another 6 or 7 hour stint at the sewing machine?

The legitimacy of Jean Baudrillard (whom I just learned of yesterday...I will post more on him)

Starting with sewing: I just have to say that doing your own production sucks. What's more is that I am preparing for a "craft show" so I am also deciding what I think will sell the best and I will eat what doesn't. It's all a part of my master plan, but it wears on the nerves when I feel like I am so close to getting where I want to be. I just want to jump ahead in time and have it all be done. On the other hand, I am getting intimately familiar with my bags, the process and how important good construction is to a product. I revisit this one a lot with my bags as I am always learning new things about the process that I created. Seems weird, considering I invented the method to my madness, but the road to self discovery is often redundant. I figure that I am taking one for the team (me, myself, and I ), it'll just make me more endearing to my future production team and my depth of understanding for their plight.

On premium denim: When will it end?!!! I am so sick of $200 jeans that I could spit! REALLY PEOPLE!!! I think a great pair of jeans is great, but premium denim often fits worse than Levi's and costs way too much. I can think of about 200 reasons why you should buy your jeans at Mervyn's and spend your boutique money on cool things like a Rebecca Beeson suit (or at least part of a suit) or a really neat handbag designed by an independant designer that no one else could ever hope to have(hint hint)! Now, I have heard through the grapevine that premium denim is on it's way out, so we'll see. The most disturbing thing that premium denim brings to the table is a quasi unrealistic casual view of ourselves and surroundings. It's like we're saying to ourselves and the world that we don't take anything seriously....we are willing to spend hundreds of dollars on a product that illustrates our ridiculousness. Just my opinion and I am sure many will disagree with it, but at heart I truly am a traditionalist. Well, I do have a stripe in my hair, but after that...

On Jean Baudrillard: I don't know much (my buddy Mona Mis introduced me last night), but he is an art historian philosopher that has some interesting theories on our perception of existence with technology. Heavy stuff all around. I will do some study on the matter and report back. What's really interesting is that the guy is still alive. Even if you don't agree with a philosopher, it's nice to know that they are still living and breathing among us, and not just some name in a textbook.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Inspired to write

Okay, I know I probably lost all 3 of my readers for not blogging for so long, but frankly, I couldn't get myself out of the over-busy hell that has become my life. So, this morning, instead of sitting down at the sewing machine before work, I decided to do some reading of some of my favorite blogs and get inspired to write something.

My Recent favorite fashion blogs are:

Almost Girl (thanks for the Besame' article)
Final Fashion
Verbal Croquis
Fashion Incubator

All of the women who run these blogs are fabulous and insightful...does me good (can someone tell me how to post links?)

San Francisco Fashion week is just around the bend and I am madly trying to lose 10 pounds so that I can fit into something cute. I have been in the fashion industry for 3 years and have yet to attend a fashion function. Bizarre. Well, that's what you get when you are a struggling designer behind the REDWOOD CURTAIN. Either you make it up as you go along, or spend a lot of money traveling...I think this year I will spend the money, making it up is way too hard.

The first and foremost reason for attending at least a portion of fashion week is to get a bead on how fashion shows are produced. The rest is purely selfish: I want to go to some workshops, see what's coming around the bend for the pacific northwest, and have a great time. My buddy James Reid (www.theotherphoto.com) will be photographing models for model bootcamp. Check out his website, he does great work.

I also want to check the lay of the land because I have been accepted to participate in Appel and Frank's Fall Fashion Fete (www.appelandfrank.com). As soon as I pay my $$ I should be set to show on September 14th. It'll be my first foray into the bay area with my A.C. Baker Bags....Many thanks also to Jennifer at Porcelynne, she owns Porcelynne Boutique and Gallery on 14th Street in SF (www.porcelynne.com) She has agreed to host a trunk show for me on September 15th (so I can maximize my time there) and, bless her fashiony little heart has also agreed to help me with the Appel and Frank show...so go to Porcelynne and spend mad amounts of money on her great designs!!

I think that's all for now. I am going to make the effort to get a little education on how to post links and such. Stay tuned for new stuff.....

Monday, April 24, 2006

Hello...and welcome

Hello all...I have been a baaad blogger. No new updates, really. I hereby solemnly swear to blog more often.

Seriously, where are all the comments....opinions...anything? Well, I shall perservere nonetheless.

Things are heating up in the land of A.C. Baker Apparel. I have a new design which I will post pictures of as soon as I have the final touches on it. I am also planning a fashion takeover in good ole' Nor Cal. I am hosting the first ever shopping night at Indigo Night Club and Lounge (for those of you who want to know more about this fab-o club you can visit them at www.indigonigthclub.net) in September...the 14th to be more specific. Otherwise things are rolling along at what seems to be a snails pace. I had an enlightened moment the other day when I was about to complain about money to someone....it hit me like a ton of bricks...the world does not revolve on money....it's CONVENIENCE. It's kind of like the moment when Chuck Heston looks up and proclaims "Soilant Green IS PEOPLE"...yes, kind of like that.

The explanation for such is that people will buy something they like...but if it's too hard to get it they move on. People will spend their money on the stupidest crap that makes no sense whatsoever, but if it's convenient...there you go. Grocery stores have used this tactic for years!! So how come I just realized this? Well, that's a conversation for another day...but the point is that in order to sell anything, it has to be convenient for your buyers.

How this relates to ACB...fashion, the world at large....how do we make fashion more convenient for people...especially without a retail spot. Now, I should probably open up an e-commerce site. I think that would be the best...ebay is highly overrated and way too much trouble....but there's more. I mean...what is the right mix of service, convenience, price point, etc.? This is largely rhetorical, for every business it's different...but for independant fashion I think we almost beg for this information. If you have a website, how could you possibly ever set yourself apart from your competition?

Anyway...I think I will try and implement some things and see what I learn. If there is anyone out there reading, speak up and let me know what you think!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Avoidance behavior...and how to avoid it

As I sit here at 20 to 7 on a Friday, I realize that I don't have much in the way of excuses...I work too much (way too much) I am stressed out about money, blah, blah, ach.

I routinely avoid things that need my attention when I have a spell of cognitive dissonance..I like that term. Kathleen used it on one of her blog entries and I thought I would usurp the phrase. I haven't gotten the bags to the Garden Gate, I have been worrying about fabric sourcing and being incredibly and continuously alarmed that I am having trouble finding what I need. Dissonance. I avoid things when I can't immediately figure them out. I let them simmer in the bottom layers of my consciousness...such as my diaper bag design and my messenger bag design. But thankfully the diaper bag design is settled in my mind.

On a lighter note, even men have started noticing the AC Baker Bag! I have had 2 clients (advertising) that have complimented the bag that I carry! Normally a male client will compliment your shoes, your jacket, really anything (appropriate) but NEVER will they compliment accessories. I was thrilled. Both wanted to know where to get them because someone they knew would be interested. Of course my pat answer is "go to my blog" (so if you guys are reading, thanks for stopping by). I would love to say, "Go to the Garden Gate", but I am lagging so far behind that it might be Christmas till they get there! (not really)

Plans Change...
It is in my general plan to do an e-commerce website. I am thinking that it'll be the end of summer before I get there. I have also changed my mind about wholesale markets. Initially when I went to the GGAA show in SF a couple of years ago, my line tanked. For all the right reasons. The line was good, but my price points were too high and I misunderstood the reason for the show (and I was in the wrong category). This time around I have had a great opportunity to test my market and learn about the different shows out there. I will do it again and scrap the craft shows (no pun intended there) . As Kathleen (www.Fashion-Incubator.com) has pointed out, push manufacturing creates a lot of waste...wasted money and extra inventory. Right now, I am just not in a position to waste my resources....but they are fun, and I will do at least one when I can afford it.

Keep checking back...I will post pictures of the bags in the Garden Gate so you all can see that they are finally there...with Kate's permission, that is.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

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YEAH....more lovely bags

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Evolution of a handbag pt 3...the leap

Well, I didn't need ANY marketing materials at all. Great. Kate at the Garden Gate loved the bags, gave me great feedback. Mostly it was that the bags needed more structure (see Fashion Incubator tutorial coming up...more on this in a minute), more pockets, a hard bottom. Well, I couldn't accomodate all of what was expressed, but I did make some changes. I added webbing to the straps (very sturdy), I added fusible interfacing to the shell so it will stand on its own, and I added a zip pocket large enough to fit keys and a cell phone.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that as a designer (and future retailer), that I hate consignment. No really, I H-A-T-E it. I think it's a pernicious practice thought up by satan himself to screw manufacturers. BUT...in the case of the Garden Gate, it is a necessary evil. Why? you ask.

1) Kate is a fabulous woman who has a great reputation and is well...just great
2) Because I've never wholesaled my bags, neither of us could really figure out a good price (I wil elaborate)
3) See number one..oh, and I trust her
4) In a previous life she made the most fabulous jewelry and sold it...so she knows
5) I would do this for no one else...well, except for my friends with boutiques cause I love them

Warm fuzzies aside, this is a really valuable opportunity to test market my bags. Apparently in the retail world handbags are as mercurial as seasonal lipstick shades. One of the first things that Kate showed me was all of the bags that bombed. Thankfully, having had a healthy background in retail, it was obvious when she pointed them out. Still, I offered to make 5 completely different handbags and agree to 2 price points...one high and one a little lower (I'm not gonna tell what they are, you have to go and see for yourselves).

When it comes to figuring a wholesale margin (I won't bore you with all the math) there is the standard mark up and then there is what you can sell it at. It is a very delicate balancing act of your market, your cost of goods, and your number of units to break even. At times this is a simple calculation but often it's really difficult. The reason is that, were I to take the standard margin, my cute little AC Baker Bags would be about 90.00. I don't think the market can bear that price point, nor do I want it to. If I wouldn't pay 90.00 for an AC Baker Bag (and I made it) why should I expect anyone else to? Many "crafters" discount too far. Personally, I don't consider myself a crafter, I consider myself a manufacturer and I need to do this for actual money. The bottom line is that if Kate and I can determine a price, then I know what profit margin I can take and that will inform everything else...So hats off to Kate for letting me do this in her store, which, BTW is on the Plaza in Arcata CA.

A note about consignment....Since I was so adament about hating it, I should say how I came to that conclusion. The basic line here is that the logic doesn't amount to much. You extend merchandise with no obligation from the retailer or control over how it's sold, you are completely liable for any shop wearing, or damage (a good retailer will pay, but most don't), and you have your money tied up for 30-90 days with no guarantee that you will be able to make anything from that item!! In return, the retailer gets to stock their store with items that they are not responsible for at all.

To be fair, some stores are great...but why go there. When you wholesale something they get the benefit of owning it, paying a little less for it, and you get your money. See, when you manufacture something your money is tied up for anywhere from 3-8 months on a normal selling cycle. When you consign, your money is tied up in that item for another 60-90 days...it doesn't work for me generally speaking. Part of the reason (other than test marketing) that consigning these bags for Garden Gate is okay is because it's a cash out deal. I paid cash for the materials and made them myself. I am supplying 5 bags (not 25). That's why this case is so different...in case you all were wondering.

On to other things...I will be setting up an ebay store in the near future, so look for news about that soon.

As soon as I figure some stuff out, I will be posting my craft show schedule, so look for that too.

Here are pictures of 2 of the five bags to go to the Garden Gate. The geisha lining fabric goes with the black and red swirl bag, the blue lining goes with the brown dot bag...I think that I am going to call these bags circles, dots and swirls...

Let's see how techno groovy I am today...I may need to post the images in a separate post.