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.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

2011 is Overwhelming!

OMG, we have so much to accomplish at one time it’s almost overwhelming.  No one could ever believe what is going on at Downs Designs.  On the surface, it appears not much is happening, but behind the scenes our office is buzzing with work.
Here’s a summary of what has happened since January through April, 2011:
At the same time our first shipment was delivered early in the year, the first samples of the children and youth sizes arrived as well.  We were excited to see them.  They looked great, but we still had no idea how they would fit.  But we were so busy unloading our first shipment, getting adult fittings and preparing the website store to open, that the youth size samples were put on the back burner.
I also decided to use Cara’s graphic design skills to create some fun graphics for about 1000 of our plain colored shirts.  I found a local printer in the area to do the screen printing but the process was slow.  We averaged about one shirt color per week and we had 8 colors.    But it was fun watching the plain color shirts get a facelift.  Here are pictures of just two of our different designs.

Now that our first order had arrived, the news media started to take notice.  Michael Cardamone, my marketing agent, had put out a press release.  Then our local newspaper, The News Herald, called and wanted to do a story about Downs Designs.  I was thrilled, of course, but so disappointed about our men’s jeans.   
Next, The Plain Dealer called and wanted to write a story also.  Wow, this was really exciting.  The Plain Dealer is a huge newspaper that reaches the entire Cleveland area.  Here's a link to the story in The Plain Dealer:


Also at this time I made an appearance on a local program called “Good Company”.  The interview was only 5 minutes, but it was an opportunity to tell my story.  I was so nervous, but I managed to get through it.  If you would like to see this interview, here's the link:


Next both Channel 5 News and Fox 8 News called about doing a story.  I couldn’t believe this.  The article in the Plain Dealer drew so much attention.  I was excited to have the publicity but still felt very sad about not having men’s jeans.  But in spite of the problem with our men's jeans, I couldn’t pass up these opportunities. 

Because of the local media coverage, we started to get local business.  We were getting calls for private fittings from all over Northeast Ohio.  My main problem was I didn't have men’s jeans.  But our fittings for women's jeans went very well.  The jeans looked and felt great on our women clients.  The women’s shirts looked great as well and the graphics added so much more to the plain colors tees.
Finally, we began working on our children and youth size samples.  We started to make calls to our youth size models.  I also managed to get my granddaughter to stand still for a fitting.  We found another 5-year old boy whose mother was willing to help out as well.  I found a few more volunteers to do more fittings and after these fittings; we learned we had quite a bit to adjust on the samples.  It took weeks to accomplish these fittings and time was passing very quickly.

It’s now March, 2011, and still I have no children or youth sizes.  I know people have no idea what is involved in designing clothes.  I would not believe why it takes so long to create a pair of pants and a T shirt myself if I was not involved.  It all sounds so simple, but the truth is, it’s incredibly difficult.  Nothing is easy or quick and I’ve learned a very hard lesson with our men’s pants that we cannot rush anything.
The second set of children and youth jean samples arrived, but we still had more work to do.  We immediately started making adjustments again to our patterns so the factory could get started working on a third sample jeans order.  The sample T shirts got finished and should arrive the first week of May.

While we were trying to repair our men’s jeans patterns and make adjustments to our children and youth sizes we also find some issues with our large size men’s T shirts as people started trying them on.  We decided to make some changes in the men's adults T shirts as well.   OMG, I felt like I wanted to explode inside, but I had to keep going.
The internet was not bringing in the orders like I thought it would, but, if I speak frankly, I was really relieved.  I liked the local traffic for now.  It was a better learning experience for us.  Also, what I saw coming into our shop were very elderly parents of people whose children were between 35 and 50 years old.  Their parents were typically in their 70’s or 80’s.  This age group generally does not shop online or even have a computer; so I realized that the adults would more than likely not be the main source of my business.  I knew I had to  get the kid’s clothes finished as soon as possible.
Money was getting tight as well.  I've been working on trying to get more financing.  But, what most people don’t realize is that I am completely self funded.  I have been investing thousands of dollars per month into this company for over a year and half with full time employees, manufacturing expenses, travel expenses, office expenses and much, much more.
But, truthfully, I am not fearful or worried.  I know that this business will flourish one day and I am where I’m supposed to be.  I feel that everything will fall into place in good time.  My dad always told me that "anything worth having is worth waiting for".  So I hope people will be patient with me…

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Our First Shipment Arrives...Oh No!

The air shipment containing 5 of every size jean and tee arrived between Christmas and New Years.  I immediately start calling our models to see how soon they can come into the shop for a fitting.   Our first model to arrive was Timmy.
Timmy fits the Charlie/Michael style pant.  Once we determined his size we have him try them on…right away we see problems.  The pockets were too small and too low, the thigh portion of the legs were a little too tight, the elastic wasn't tight enough and the back rise was about an 1 ½” too short.  This was not good!  Boy, it appears we have made some miscalculations.  But, in spite of these issues, Timmy still looked great.  Because he is so small, the problems weren't that noticeable.  He really loved them.  We put him in one of our T shirts and the shirt was a great fit.  At least something went well.  We hem his pants and get some photos.  What a handsome guy he is! 
Our next model to arrive was Kelleen (the “Diva”).  We have a small problem with the pockets on the ladies jeans also.  They weren’t graded properly and I’m not happy with the placement.  We try her in both the Diva jeans and the Emily Dip Downs and she favors the Dip Downs.  Our little Irish girl loved the Kelly green T-shirt so we get her dressed for the fitting.  We put a hem in pants and she loves how they both fit.  She just loves her new clothes in spite of the pocket issue.  We get more photos.
A few days later, Charlie and Sheryl come in for a fitting.  The Sheryl jeans fit Sheryl very well, just a quick hem and she was ready to wear them.  She chose the pink shirt. Charlie on the other hand was not so simple.  His shirt fits great but again the jeans aren't right.  Oh dear, we have problems for sure.  

We tried to get Jonathan in for a fitting but he just couldn’t make it.  We managed to find another model his size, but he wanted to remain anonymous.  But at least we got to test our big men’s size jeans…and again, the pockets are too small, the rise is too short and the waistband is just too loose.  I’m really at a low point now!
Michael and Emily have their fittings and, of course, Michael's jeans have all the same problems but Emily's fitting was great.  She feels most comfortable in the Diva style jeans. 
Lori was away until April so I was unable to fit her in the Lori Jeans.  But I was about her size, so I test the fit.  Wow, they really felt good and I loved how comfortable they were.  Everything seemed okay with the Lori Jeans but once Lori gets back, we’ll do a proper fitting on her and get photos.
By this time the balance of our shipment arrived.  The truck pulled up to our warehouse door and we were ready to unload it.  But inside that truck I knew there was 1300 pair of jeans with problems.  I can’t explain the bitter/sweet feelings I had on this special day.
So I made a hard decision not to sell the men’s jeans online at all.  I had about 600 pair of men’s jeans that were a complete disappointment.  Because of the pocket problems with the women’s jeans, I decided not to sell them at full price; I just didn’t feel they  were up to standard either.   
So we finished the website store with photos of our ladies jeans, our unisex shirts and our women’s full figure shirts.  Since the men’s jeans had so many problems I made the tough decision to have them all remade.   I was really upset over this, but there was nothing more I could do.  I knew I must continue to move forward.