About the writer

My photo
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.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Finding Cara

The holidays came and went very quickly.  Jillian was frantically working on the children and youth size jeans and tees.  She needed help!  In China, they celebrate their Chinese New Year for almost the whole month of February.  During the month of February everything shuts down and nothing can be manufactured during that time.  So we had to see if we could finish the children and youth size patterns in time for them to make our samples before they went on their month-long holiday.  

So, in January, 2011, I hired another designer, Cara Junker.  She and Jillian knew each other because they both went to the same design school and Jillian spoke very highly of her.  I trusted Jillian’s judgment and brought her on board.  What a great addition she was with many unique skills of her own. She was well trained using the Illustrator program so I put her to work designing some unique graphics for our young-age T shirts.  She got to work right away.  I could see she was going to bring another dimension to Downs Designs.  I was amazed by her creativity   Anything I ask her to design, she would come up with a really unique graphic.  I wanted the kids and youth line to be fun and I wanted them to have some choices besides solid colored shirts since all I was making for now were jeans and T shirts.  I’d certainly found the right person for the job.
The girls worked very hard to get our patterns and artwork completed so they could be sent off to the jeans and shirt factories where samples could be made.  Time was running out and every day was valuable.  In making the children and youth sizes, we really didn’t have any models.   We had a  12 year-old girl and a 13 year-old boy but that didn't give us enough different body shapes.  Jillian had to base her calculations on other things.  One way was by scaling down the adults sizes.  The other way was buying pants and shirts from a store in young children and youth sizes and taking their measurements.  Then we could modify those measurements according to what we knew about the unique body of shape of a person with Down syndrome.  We knew these clothes from the store would not fit, but using the proportion differences that we knew from the adults, we felt we could come up with a pattern that might be appropriate. 
Finally the first patterns and the artwork for the children and youth size jeans and tees were completed.  Off they went to the factory.  Again we wait. 

Getting Ready for our First Production

While in China, Jillian and I picked the fabrics for our jeans and T shirts for the adults, youth and children sizes.  Even though we were only working on the adults for now, we were planning ahead for the kids and youth sizes.  Now that we were home, we had to wait for samples of our adult sizes to be made.  It seemed like an eternity but finally by the end of the September, the first samples of our adult jeans and tees finally arrived. 
When they finally arrived we only had one size from each style.  This was a problem because we didn’t have models that fit the sample sizes they had made. It was a challenge now to test our samples.  So after we had a few fittings, we had to make some hard decisions as to whether we felt our jeans were ready for production.  We made some big mistakes in judgment and when I look back now, I have many regrets.  We didn’t realize these mistakes at the time.  The most obvious mistake on both the men’s and women’s jeans was the pockets and zippers.  We had failed to grade the pockets or the zippers.  The fact that we only saw the one size was why we didn’t notice.  What this meant was that the pockets and zippers on the smaller sizes were the same size as the ones on the larger sizes, but on the larger sizes, they were too small in proportion.
We also had a problem with the waistbands. Never having made this type of waistband, we were unsure how much tension to put into them.  So we miscalculated the waistbands in the bigger sizes.  Our samples looked okay because they were not in the largest sizes, so we did not realize this big mistake either. This was a big miscalculation on our part that I would ultimately pay for later.
Time was passing quickly and I needed to get the production started.  It was now the end of October and I was hoping to have the jeans and tees in before Christmas.  The     T shirts were very simple, but the jeans were much more complicated.  They had been a challenge from the beginning. 
Well, plans didn’t go as expected.  We had a huge problem near the end of the jeans production with the men’s “Dip Downs”.  The factory was worried the elastic we had chosen might not be strong enough to hold up the men’s denim. Remember these were very large sizes and denim is a heavier fabric.  More testing had to be done.  Finally, we made the decision to use double elastic to make them stronger.  The testing process took more time than was planned and then sewing the double elastic into the band took even more time as well.  But finally the jeans and tees were ready for shipping.  By this time it was almost the end of December, so receiving them by Christmas was out of the question now.
Due to their minimum order requirements I had ordered 2000 shirts and about 1300 pairs of jeans.  This was bigger than I needed at this time but I had no choice.  I was so excited to see the finished products so I asked them to ship 5 of each size of both the jeans and tees.  Air shipping was very expensive, but I thought this smaller shipment would get us started and I also needed to get pictures for the website of our models wearing our clothes.  I knew if I got a few pairs of every size in sooner, I would have each of their sizes when the first shipment arrived.  Remember, the samples didn’t actually fit our models. 
The rest of the order was coming by sea.  This would take about one month.  The ship would leave China in a shared container to Los Angeles.  Once our shipment arrived in Los Angeles, it would be picked up by a trucking company and delivered to our warehouse in Mentor, Ohio.  Now we wait.