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I have a beautiful granddaughter who was born with Down syndrome. She has enough challenges to face in her life and I want to make sure that finding appropriately fitting clothes will not be one of them.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

December Turns Out to be a Great Month!

It’s almost Christmas and I must say that December has been an incredible month for Downs Designs.  I couldn’t be happier these days.  It seems like it’s been awhile since I have felt so good.  We’ve had so many setbacks this year, but I think we’re about to forge ahead now.  Reflecting back on 2011, I feel that it was a year of learning what NOT to do.

December began with a change in our office staff.  Jillian is my only designer again and it will probably remain that way for quite some time.  I want to say that I couldn’t be more proud of her either.  She has blossomed over these last two years and her work has been amazing.   She is truly the creator of our clothing line and I look forward to seeing everything she designs in the future.

Here’s where we stand so far:

Jillian finished designing the little boy and little girl basic jean patterns.  They are both at the factory now in production and I hope to have them in our shop by mid-January if all goes well.  My first order will be a small one, only 35 pairs of each size and there are seven sizes of each (at total of only 490 pairs).  I want to be sure that these are a good fit before I order any larger quantities.  (That’s one mistake I won’t make again.)

I made a major decision about the waistbands.  The waistbands have been our major problem all year.  There is no doubt that all our jeans (and all casual wear) will need to have an elastic waistband, but I want them to look fashionable as well.  I originally started out with the ribbed waistband in our first samples.  They fit well and looked good but I tried to have them designed in denim and it just doesn’t work.  There is too much gathering when you get into the larger sizes for older children and adults and they are not as comfortable.  But when we use a soft, ribbed material instead of the denim, they look and feel SO MUCH better.  This is a picture of how the waistband looks, but the finished product will have belt loops and rivets with a Downs Designs button for looks only.  For the youth boy, teen boy and men pants we will offer two styles; one as pictured and described and the other with a partial elastic waistband which will have a working zipper and button fastener.  

Our clothes are being designed for people with Down syndrome, so we have to make them special.   I have spoken with hundreds of mothers and even teachers who work with children with special needs, and they almost all have requested an elastic waistband.   It’s been a struggle but I’m now at peace with my decision.   Our ribbed waistbands will be standard on all our casual wear.  In this picture you see a sample pair of our "dip downs".  Remember we make our samples in muslin, not denim.

Jillian also finished designing the jeans patterns for our youth and teen sizes and she is now redesigning the men’s jeans pattern.  She made all the muslin samples for both boys and girls in the youth and teen sizes and last week I sent them all off to the factory to have them made into denim prototypes.  We should have them by the end of this year. 

Then the factory will be closed for about three weeks and we have to be patient.  While they are shut down, we will be testing the youth and teen denim samples on our models and hope for a good fit.  Once the factory is back to work, then we can begin again.  I’m hoping that our first denim samples will be good, but there is a big probability that we will need to make a few changes.  If we do, that will mean more samples would have to be made which would take about 3 weeks. So realistically, we probably won’t have the youth and teen sizes until late spring, but I can’t say for sure at this point.  I have learned that things take time and I want to get them right.

Another wonderful thing happened this month.  CNN posted a story on their website about Downs Designs.  I am writing another chapter about that story but the response was amazing.  So I can say with joy in my heart that the year 2011 has ended on a very positive note and I look forward to 2012.  I feel that we are making big strides now and I am confident that there are many more good things to come.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ending November 2011

November is almost over and I must admit that we are finally making some progress now.  I’m excited to say that we've completed the little boy’s jeans pattern and the factory is ready to begin manufacturing.  The fabric has been ordered and they are preparing for production.  The little girl’s final sample is being made now (and I hope it’s the last) and we should have it in the shop by late next week.  If this last sample is good, we can also begin production on the little girl’s jeans as well.  I’m hoping to have the small children’s jeans completed and available for sale by the end of this year.

So here is what we’ve decided to do:  This first batch of the little boy’s jeans will have a denim elastic waistband.  We’ve decided not to make the adjustable waist just now, we’ve had too many problems with the design and I don’t want to hold up production any longer.  But we’ve since decided to use the ribbed waistband again, so the little girl’s jeans will have a different waistband.  And when  we make our next round of little boy’s jeans, we will use the ribbed waistband on them as well.

Most of our problems with our samples have been trying to have a denim elastic waistband that looks good.  But,  it’s just about impossible, especially in the larger sizes.  As the sizes get larger, the amount of gathering is just too much when using the denim in the waistband.  When we use the ribbing material, they look so much better with much less gathering and they are also more comfortable.

The decision to use the ribbing has been a struggle for me because I want our jeans to look like every other pair of jeans, but the bottom line is that our pants will have elastic waistbands and most jeans and pants do not.  But it’s what makes the most sense.  It’s just too important for our jeans and pants to be comfortable and easy to get on and off.  The whole point of Downs Designs is to accommodate those with Down syndrome.  So by using the ribbing for the waistband rather than the denim, this solves so many problems for the look of our jeans.  The ribbing allows the waists to lay much flatter and they are certainly more comfortable.   

Jillian is finishing the patterns for the rest of the sizes.  We are hoping to get samples made of the youth and teen size jeans before the end of the year as well.  If they are good, we hope to begin production on those sizes in the spring of next year.  I won’t promise that we will, but that is our goal at this point.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a whole year since anything has been in production.  I feel that 2011 has been a year of learning experiences for me.  As the owner of this business, there are things I should have done differently, but I chose not to listen to my instincts.  That’s the most important thing I have learned and I won’t make that mistake again. 

All the years I have owned my own business, my natural instincts have usually been good decisions, but this year I somehow lost my way.  But I never dwell on negativity and I won’t look back.  I’m moving only in one direction now…forward!  

Life is nothing but a series of lessons and what we do with those lessons is what’s important.  If we learn from them, then they are good lessons, if we choose not to learn from them, then we stunt our growth. 

Jillian and I have been a great team for almost two years and she has grown so much since we first began.  Her designing skills have come so far and watching her work is awesome.  She has evolved into an amazing designer and I couldn’t be more proud.

Cara is not with us anymore and I wish her well.  I hope she finds what truly makes her happy.

So we’re wrapping up November on a good note.  I couldn’t feel better than I do these days.  I am keeping my fingers crossed to see what December brings us and looking forward to the New Year.  My excitement and enthusiasm for what we are doing has never faded and I will continue with our quest until we reach our goal…to have a line of clothing for people with Down syndrome.  I want to eliminate the clothing challenges that they must face every day and make rolling up pant legs and sleeves a thing of the past.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Back in China for a Third Time October 17, 2011

I think I am now a seasoned traveler to the jeans factory in China.  This trip seems very simple and less complicated now.  I know exactly what I have to do and where I have to go.  I know how much money I need to exchange for both Hong Kong and China because where I go in China does not take American money or American credit cards.  I even know which train to catch and where to get the taxis.  Now if I only knew Chinese!

I think it is probably one of the most important trips I have made.  There are some things that cannot be handled by phone, Skype or instant messaging.  Being here and speaking with the manufacturer face to face is vital and with the language challenges, it makes it much easier to explain our issues in person.

People ask me why I make this trip and I can say with all honesty, I MUST!  If we are to solve the ongoing problems, than I must be here several times a year.  Also picking the fabrics cannot be done through the mail, it’s important for me to see and feel the variety of fabrics myself.  I think the quality of our clothing will be much better by being here in person on a regular basis.  The trip is brutally long and expensive but the value of being here is priceless.

This is not a fun trip or a place I would come for a vacation.  I’m deep into southern China where the living standards are not what most would feel comfortable.  The weather is hot and there is no pollution control.  The streets are packed with people, cars and scooters everywhere and crossing the street is like playing “Frogger”.  No one speaks English and my blonde hair is like a neon sign over my head.  

Andy Yen
But I love the people and all the help they have given me.  Because of one man, Andy Yen, who is   the owner of jeans factory, my interpreter and my friend, I am able to communicate with everyone with whom I need to be involved and learn the ways of the Chinese manufacturers.  He has been my teacher of this industry for almost two years and without him, we could not accomplish our goals. He has persistently stuck by me through all our difficulties and has helped solve many problems during our development.  There are not enough words to describe what his help has meant to me.  He has made Downs Designs his top priority until we finally launch our children’s jeans.  He knows how important it is to get our jeans completed for all ages as soon as possible but he also knows how difficult this has been for my designers and his pattern makers as well.  We are virtually inventing the wheel in the fashion industry.

October 19, 2011
Our first day of full business was an important meeting, probably the primary reason I am here.  I met with his new pattern maker.  He has hired the most skillful of teams to be his pattern makers and sample makers and this alone, speaks of his integrity and his desire to have a successful jeans manufacturing facility.  His standards are very high and his sincerity is beyond reproach. 

Through interpreting only, I spoke with the pattern maker.  I could tell he had many skills in this field.  We discussed the waistband problems that we have been having consistently and I’m hoping that we have now solved them.  The Chinese have their own ways of doing things and it’s important for us to learn their ways.  But after our conversation yesterday, I think they will follow our design style of measuring the waistbands.  It seems that the difference in how they measure has been a large problem and the reason for the constant discrepancy in the size of the waists.  They will make new samples while I am here and I hope we will have good results this time.

October 20, 2011
Our second day of business was spent at the fabric shops.  I chose some other denim options for our next round of jeans.  Once we finish the patterns successfully and I find our first batch of jeans to be a good fit, I want to immediately start another batch of jeans of different fabric and style.  I also want to start some casual dress pants, khaki, black and navy colors.  I want to finally offer some casual dress pants for other occasions.  Here I ran into a snag right away.  I want a wrinkle-free fabric for our casual wear.  NOTHING like it at all!  I must have gone into about 20 shops and not one shop had a wrinkle-free khaki.  Mmmmm, this is a dilemma to me now.

Later that night, I contacted Jillian and told her of this situation.  She checked online and it appears the treatment to make them wrinkle free is applied after they are made.  No one knew that here.  Andy only specializes in jeans, so he was not aware of this method. The store owners don’t speak a word of English and had no idea what I was talking about.  So we must do more research on the khaki fabric.  Nothing is ever simple, that’s for sure.

October 21, 2011
The third day of business blew my mind.  We went out of the city to see the “wash” factory.  This is what actually makes the jeans…jeans.  It’s difficult to explain the amazing process to manufacture a pair of jeans.  It’s like no other fabric in the world.  When we go to a store and buy a pair of jeans, we have no idea all the work that goes into manufacturing them. 

Andy has always talked about the importance of the wash, but I had no idea what he was talking about.  I had to be here to see it for myself.  When the jeans are made in the factory, the denim is in a raw material state; it’s a very heavy canvas like material and the color is almost black.  As I have explained previously, the jeans are made before shrinkage so the calculations must be precisely made before the pattern pieces are cut.  So if the fabric that is used is tested first, the process goes like this:

A sample of the fabric is sent to wash factory where it is put through the chemical process that changes the color and then it is put through a precise heat and time process that shrinks that particular fabric.  For example, if the fabric swatch is 10” x 10” it may shrink to 6” x 8”.  That difference then must be added to the pattern pieces. 

Then the sample jeans are made with the denim in this raw material state and sent to the wash factory.  There the jeans are chemically treated and any fancy stressing is done to it.  Then it goes into these enormous dryers that are set for the precise heat and time the sample was tested.  If it not the exact heat and time, it will not shrink to the proper amount and the jeans will be misshapen. 

So in touring this factory, I couldn’t believe the enormity of it. It employed about 3000 people that all live on the premises.  It was like its own city.  The factory itself was so huge; walking through it all would have taken a very long time.  But we visited each of the departments.  I saw firsthand the many steps to make a pair of jeans and they are done one pair at a time.  This factory does millions of jeans.  It has to be so organized and controlled because hundreds of different manufacturers use the same facility.  The jeans come in by the truckload and the docks where full of truck after truck.

All the fancy coloring is like tie-dying shirts.  One department gathers the area on the upper thigh and sews it together so when it goes through the wash it has the variegated colors that you see on the jeans.  One guy was taking a steel brush to a pair of jeans that obviously was stressing the fabric.  There were huge carts full of stones that they use to stress the denim and other departments spray on a chemical to lighten the jeans in certain areas such as down the thighs.  No one pair of jeans is ever exactly the same.  They are each individually prepared one step at a time.  Then they are put into large vats and the chemical washing is done.  They are then sent to the dryers for shrinkage which is precisely monitored. 

The next step is the ironing of the jeans.  And there are several steps to the ironing process as well.  Then I think the final step is putting the order back together where they are then shipped back to the manufacturer.  There the manufacturer folds and packages the jeans and prepares them for shipping.  How they keep track of every pair is mind boggling.  There is just no way to describe this process.  I have a new appreciation for a pair of jeans now and I hope I been descriptive enough for you to have an idea as well.  Who invents this stuff anyway?

October 22, 2011
On our fourth day of business, Andy had made arrangements for me to visit a new clothing manufacturer, remember Andy only makes jeans.  After the last batch of samples from the other shirt factory, I decided to look into another manufacturer.  Even though I decided not work on the shirts until we completely finish the pants, I thought while I was there I could look into finding a different company.  

Andy told me we would be picked up about 4:00 pm by the representative of another company.  They arrived on time and I was met in the hotel lobby by a sweet young lady named Renee.  Her driver picked us up in front of the hotel and we all headed into Guangzhou.  From what I am learning the factories are in similar districts.  While the jeans are in one district, the other clothing factories are much farther away outside of the city of Guangzhou.

Our ride into the city soon changed very drastically as we drove into the factory district.  The streets became much smaller and the conditions deteriorated very quickly.  This part of town seemed to be the most depressed I had seen since I had been in China.  Poverty was obvious and made me feel very bad. 

We finally arrived at the factory which was in a small building about four flights up.  The factory was just one floor and was in complete disarray. But this seems to be their way.  The sewing was obviously not done in this building.   On appearance, one would have no idea how anything gets done, but the end results are what we see in our stores.  Being at the source is an eye opener.

I will have them make samples for us when we start working on shirts again.  Renee was a very nice person and spoke a little English.  I’m still unsure of what the results will be from this company, but I am more than willing to give them a try.  After looking at the quality of the clothes I saw, I was very pleased with their work but only time will tell.

October 23, 2011
Well, my last day in China came as a pleasant surprise.  Andy arrived around 11:30 am to pick me up and suggested we go to the mountain in Guangzhou.  I had no idea what he was talking about but I was excited to do something just for fun.  He had an unexpected visitor arrive this week, a good friend from college.  He brought him along to spend the day with us and wondered if I would mind.  Of course, I didn’t mind at all.  His friend spoke not one word of English.

We took a taxi into Guangzhou which took about 45 minutes.  We were dropped off in front of a hospital and I had no idea where we were going.  We were in the middle of the city and I couldn’t imagine where there was a mountain.  We walked along a back street for quite some time and then we came upon the entrance to the park.  The weather was very hot and humid.  What was ahead was to my complete amazement.

As we entered the park, we had to climb many, many flights of stairs.  Then the stairs turned into a road and we kept walking uphill.  We continued our uphill walk for about 30 minutes, and then we entered a large park area full of activity.  This was not what I expected at all.  There were people everywhere having a good time.  There were restaurants and areas where people where playing games.  There were small rides for children and even a bungee jump.  What a great place!

We passed through the park area and continued our ascent.  At last we reached the top of mountain. Here was another very active area; so many people!  We spotted a bird walk and thought it might be fun.  So we bought a ticket and entered through the gate; it turned out to be a fabulous experience.  The first thing we did was enter a small aviary alive with small birds of all kinds like parakeets and love birds.  There were many birds I didn’t recognize and we actually got to touch them and some even got on our finger.  I love birds a lot and really enjoyed being around them.

When we left the aviary, we passed by a parrot show stadium.  The show was about to start so we sat and waited.  What a laugh.  The huge parrots put on quite a performance and the finale was spectacular.  The trainer held up a $5.00 bill (Chinese money) and out from a window where the birds must have lived flew a small bird about the size of a pigeon.  I had never seen a bird like this one before.  The bird landed on the trainer’s hand and took the $5.00 bill and flew back into the window that he flew out of.  The trainer held up another $5.00 bill and out came the bird again.  The bird took the money and flew back into the window again.  Soon everyone was holding up $5.00 bills and the bird kept flying out, taking the bills then flying back to drop them in the window.  Andy was so excited, he held up a $5.00 bill and out came the bird, landed on his hand and off the bird went with his money.  It was a clever way to support the parrot show; we had such a good time; I was so glad we came.

When the show was over we walked deeper in the bird park.  It was like walking through a zoo.  There were peacocks and ostrich in huge cages and many other species, some I didn’t recognize.  We saw a black swan and a white swan and many other parrots.  I really enjoyed seeing all the different kinds of birds.  Then we came to what appeared the end of the bird park so we followed the stairs that seemed to be the way out.  Andy thought this was another way down the mountain and suggested we take this way out of the park through the forest.  I kept seeing signs pointing the opposite direction that said, “THIS WAY OUT”.  I told Andy, I didn’t think we were going the right direction and I was afraid we would eventually have to turn around and climb back up all these stairs.  After about 45 minutes of climbing down these stone steps through this beautiful forest on the side of the mountain, there it was…the stairs stopped going down and we were headed back up.  I knew it!  Now we had to climb back up all these steps.  We were hot and tired and I didn’t think I could make it, but I had no choice.  We stopped many times to catch our breath and rest.  At last we made our way back to the bird park and headed back out into the main area. 

I suggested we take a bus back down as we were completely exhausted by this time.  But Andy chose another way down the mountain, the cable car ride.  Who knew our day would turn out like this.  So we bought tickets for the cable car ride and hopped on board one of the cable cars.  The view from the top of mountain was amazing.  We could see the entire city of Guangzhou and all the forest below us.  What a contrast from city to mountain side.
Finally we were at the base of the mountain and headed back to the main streets.  There we caught a taxi and rode back to the hotel.  We were hot, tired and hungry, but we really had a great day.  I enjoyed the experience.  We were all starving by this time, so it was out to another restaurant for dinner.

The night ended with the two buddies watching their favorite sport, soccer.  The two favorite  teams were on TV that night and I just couldn’t let them leave without them watching the game.  They yelled and hollered as the opposing teams played ball and they had a great time.  I finished my packing and prepared for the long flight home the next day.

Andy arrived at 8:00 am the next morning to take me to the train station in Guangzhou.  The traffic was not so heavy and we arrived in plenty of time.  It’s always very sad to say goodbye to my friend so we sat and had a quiet breakfast together and then said our goodbyes at the gate.  The train ride was uneventful and I arrived at the train station in Hong Kong, caught a taxi to the Hong Kong airport which took about 35 minutes and then finally boarded the big jet for Toronto. I had to wait about two hours in Toronto for the plane to Cleveland but the plane took off on time and I arrived in Cleveland about 9:30 pm and headed for home. 

God Bless the USA!

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Children's Jeans Almost Complete

September was a busy month and the designers, Jillian and Cara, have been really pushing to complete the children’s jeans pattern.  They had been working on the them for months.  The four children models that we used all looked good in their last fittings and I felt confident that we’d finally gotten the patterns correct.

The girls prepared their final paper patterns, their sample jeans (made out of muslin) and their spec sheets and I sent them off to the factory for what I hoped was the last sample for the children’s jeans.  It took almost four weeks to finally get the sample jeans from the factory; I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to see them on our models.

The next day (Friday) I called Jessica’s mother (one of our little girl models) to see if she could bring her in for a fitting.  She arrived in the afternoon and when we put them on her (to my utter amazement) they looked terrible.  It was a complete disaster!  I was beside myself; I just could not believe this was happening.  What went wrong?  We were sure that what we sent the factory was correct.  I was furious to say the least!  Another delay was my only thought.  Of course, China was sleeping so I couldn’t call Andy to find out what happened.  My stress level was off the chart. 

The next day, I tried to contact Andy but he was not available.  Of all days for him to be out, I really needed to talk to him.  I felt like I was having a bad dream but couldn’t wake up.  I told myself I had to calm down and stop the negativity running through me but it was just too difficult.  I was frustrated and disappointed.

Finally, Saturday night about 11:00 PM, I headed to bed but, just on a chance, I checked my online connection to Andy and I saw that he was finally online (remember its 12 hours later in China.)  We talked until about 2:00 AM.  I let him know how upset I was and he was upset as well.  He said he would visit the pattern makers to see what went wrong.

Well, the next morning, I finally got my answer.  Andy was able to talk with the pattern makers.  The jeans in question (the adjustable waist style) were made according to our paper pattern as I had instructed.  But our paper pattern was for the shape after they were washed.  Because I was so insistent that they use our paper patterns, they didn’t understand that they should have adjusted the pattern first for the shrinkage so the denim was a little distorted after the wash because the shrinkage altered the shape just enough to destroy the fit.  This is one of the challenges of denim; it’s like no other fabric.  So the pattern makers got busy right way to make more samples for us.

Perfect Fit!!!
On Monday, we had a fitting with our little boy, Danny, for the boy’s jeans with a full elastic waist.  It was perfect!  I couldn’t believe it.  The denim used in the boy’s jeans was a different fabric from the girl’s jeans and they shrunk in the proper proportion and turned out great.  But the pattern makers actually wanted to make the boys jeans again as well and use their own pattern this time, just to make sure that when they go into production, there are no surprises.

Surprisingly, I got the remade samples in one week.  God bless them for their speedy efforts.  In the meantime, I had Cara change the girl’s pattern, I wanted her to make a different shape; there is just something about the adjustable waistband jeans that I don’t like.  She also made another pair with a full elastic waist to try and one with half elastic in the back.

I contacted my daughter to see if my granddaughter would be available to try on our samples.  So Jillian and Cara headed to Michelle’s to see how the three different jean styles fit her.  All three pairs were a size too small, but they were still able to test the fit, nonetheless.   The one remade pair from the factory in denim with the adjustable waistband was a perfect fit, the half elastic waist fit the best though and the full elastic waist had some issues.

Next, our little boy model came back in for another fitting on the second sample from the factory.  Not good at all, the first pair was perfect so I was a little surprised at the bad results on the second pair.

In two days, I leave for China.  Cara made a new sample of the girl’s jeans with a half elastic waistband.  I’m taking this new sample with me and hope the pattern makers can make a sample while I’m there.  I’ll finally get to meet them and work with them face to face.

I’m really looking forward to this trip; we have so much to resolve that can’t be handled over Skype or Instant Message.  I’m also very excited to see my friend Andy again as well; we have a very busy week planned.  I’m going to pick some new fabric for pants, go the “wash” factory to learn about what happens there, spend time with the pattern makers and meet with a new shirt manufacturer.  I’m sure next week will go very fast and before you know it, I’ll be heading back home.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Recap of August 2011

Wow, I’m certainly being tested these days.  I’ve got my mojo back but I’ve been dealing with some challenges nonetheless.  It’s now the end of August and I still don’t have even a sample pair of our kid’s jeans.  Even though the factory really screwed up this time with our paper pattern, we uncovered something else of great importance; so I believe something good came out of something bad. 

Our grading issues have come to the surface and we’re really analyzing how to grade our patterns.  Standard grading does not apply to our special sizing.  So even if we could use standard grading on our patterns, it doesn't work.  So it’s another challenge that we’re facing; but Jillian and Cara are working it out.  It’s a good thing that we had a major delay because it really brought up this very important issue for us.
So, here’s what’s been happening since my July entry:

We prepared for the National Down Syndrome Congress Conference.  Jillian, Cara and I headed to San Antonio, Texas.  We flew out to the conference August 4th and returned home on August 7th.  We packed up our dressing room, one of every size ladies’ jeans and our samples of youth and children’s jeans and tees.  We met so many wonderful people and actually sold a few pair of our ladies jeans.  We got a lot of well-needed measurements of children and talked to lots and lots of parents.  The event was a wonderful experience.
When we got back, we had lots of work.  Our T shirt samples were useless.  They just aren’t right.  But without models, we’ve only been guessing on how to size them.  Now that we’re starting to get more models, I think we’ll eventually get these sizes correct.  We’re trying to finish up the children’s jeans and tees first, and then we’ll concentrate on the youth sizes. 

Next came our local Buddy Walk.  The event was August 20th and the turnout was absolutely incredible.  I believe there were more than 4,000 people in attendance.  I met more people and got more measurements.  So many people were happy to help us, I just couldn't believe it; they are so desperate for clothing that fits their kids.  Jillian was unable to attend but Mom was by my side.
One of my goals to be a speaker actually came to pass.  I was invited by the Rotary Club of Mentor to be their guest speaker.  On August 25th, I was so honored to share my story.  I planned and prepared for days.  Using a Power Point presentation I was able to visually show some of the clothing challenges that we are trying to overcome with our unique clothing line.  The response was amazing.  I can’t wait to have more opportunities like this one. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Downs Designs is Back on Track!

Now it’s the middle of July and still nothing is in production.  Since returning from China in May, I expected to be farther along.  I’m NOT!  But now I know why…I lost my focus and my positive energy.  But guess what?  I found it again.

I have been a strong believer in the “Law of Attraction”.  I have practiced positive thoughts for years and always reached my goals.  When I began Downs Designs, everything I did fell into place as if I was being guided along by something bigger than myself…and it was true. 

Then a few setbacks came along and I got caught up in negativity and then more setbacks happened and then more.  Duh!!!  I let myself get trapped into negativity and forgot all that I had believed in regarding the “Law of Attraction”.  How did I let this happen?

Well, a few weeks ago our good friend came to visit and we got into a conversation about this subject matter.  He was also a great believer in positive thinking.  He suggested I purchase a series of CD’s by Dr. Robert Anthony who is the author of “Beyond Positive Thinking”.  This series of CD’s is called “The Secret of Deliberate Creation”.  So I spent about $200.00 and took his suggestion. 

When the package came it contained seven CD’s so I downloaded them onto my Ipad.  When I saw how long each CD was, I thought to myself, “when will I have time to listen to all these?”  But, after I listened to the first one, OMG, I realized what was going wrong in my life…I’d lost my focus.  I had let myself fall into the trap of negative self talk.  That was not me; I had never been negative or had doubts about Downs Designs or anything else for that matter.  But after several disappointments, I’d lost my way.

Well, I’M BACK!  My fears and doubts are now gone and once I got rid of all that negativity, everything turned the corner.  Almost immediately changes started taking place.  I decided that we would go back to basics and make our own samples as we did in the beginning when it was Jillian and I and our models, fitting after fitting until we got it right.   Why hadn't I thought of this sooner?  But, because I was stuck in negativity, I couldn't move forward.

Here's what has been taking so long...having the factory make the samples, takes too long and we can’t make the proper corrections when the fit isn’t good.  When a sample would come in after 2 or 3 weeks of waiting, then we would have to call in the models, which took more time.  We would make adjustments to the pattern instructions, send them off to the factory again and have them make another sample.  Then we waited!  Another two or three weeks would go by and we would start over again, still not getting a good fit.  In the meantime, weeks turned into months and still NOTHING!

So after listening to these CD’s and getting my head back on my shoulders, my thinking started to change.  Then, with a clear head again, I made the decision to go back to the beginning and do our own sample making and guest what?  It only took one week to make two pairs of jeans for our little girl model.  That would have taken about 6 weeks using the factory sample maker.  What had I been thinking???

But that’s behind me now and Downs Designs is back on track.  Things are going so much smoother now and nothing is standing in our way.  We will have these kids clothes completed very soon now and our youth sizes will be our next project to get under way.

Doubt, fear and disappointment only attracts more doubt, fear and disappointment and that’s exactly what was going on.  I couldn’t get past my own self.  But turning those thoughts back into certainty and excitement has put me back to where I need to be.  Whatever was going wrong is now going right again.  I’m more sure and confident than I have been for months and it feels great!  

Friday, June 24, 2011

Taking our Time

Taking our Time

Now that I’m back from China, I need to focus on a new plan.  I do think that part of my problem has been that I have been trying to do too much at one time.  I have had the jeans factory working on the children’s jeans, the youth size jeans and remaking the men’s jeans.  I’ve had the shirt factory working on the children’s, the youth’s and the adults shirts all at the same time.  I think I have been handling this all wrong.

Sample of children's shirt
So this is my new plan.  We are only going to focus on the children’s for now.  The children’s jeans are the least complicated and so are the children’s tees.   So we will first get the patterns correct for only the children’s sizes.  Once the patterns are correct for the children’s jeans and tees and we’re sure the fit is good, then and only then will I start production.  For the little children, we only have four style jeans:  we have two girl’s styles and two boy’s styles.  One style  has  a full elastic waistband and the other style  has an adjustable waistband.   For the T-shirts, we are preparing the short-sleeved shirts for now and Jillian and Cara are busy creating new graphics for them.

The youth sizes will be much more difficult.  We must make more styles just like the adult sizes.  For the youth girls we are designing a full elastic waistband but for the youth boys, we will offer both a full elastic waistband with a mock zipper and a partial elastic waistband with a working zipper.  We will also have “Dip Down” styles for both girls and boys as well.   So the youth sizes are much more difficult and complicated. 

For the youth size T-shirts we will offer six sizes and two styles for both boys and girls.    For the girls and boys sizes there will be a regular fit around the waist for the first three sizes and the next three sizes up we will offer a full-figure style so they are not so tight around the middle.  We have found this to be necessary for a better fit. 

Because of the fuller tummy on many people with Down syndrome, we have found that these adjustments are necessary; so all the adult shirts will be redesigned as well.  Since we need short sleeve shirts anyway, we decided this was a good time to redesign the adult tees.  We already have full-figured shirts for the adult ladies, but we did not give the men the full-figure design in the bigger sizes.  So we are redesigning the men’s tees because we feel it’s necessary for a better fit. 

So once the youth size jeans and tees are completed and we are sure the fit is good, we will begin production on those.  Then, finally, we will begin to remake the men’s jeans.  Our ladies jeans have been a great fit, but the men’s jeans had too many problems.  It was a tough decision not to sell the men’s jeans, but I knew I had to correct the problems we had with them.  So that will be our last pattern to remake.  We also decided to offer a full elastic waistband for the men’s jeans with a mock zipper as well as the partial elastic waistband with a working zipper.  We had too many mother’s tell us their son cannot work a zipper, so that is something we had to take into consideration.  We need both styles to accommodate these issues.

So as it stands as of the end of June, 2011, we will still have nothing in production.  My nerves are at their very end.  But I must keep going, in spite of the struggles.  We’re so close, yet so far!