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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.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The End to a Frustrating Year

Well, today is January 1, 2012, and I look back on this whole last year with some regrets and some joy.  An entire year passed by and I had nothing new produced.  The disappointment I feel about this fruitless year runs very deep.  BUT, the experience I have gained brings me back to the joy I am feeling now.

After struggling with the pattern designs of everything we worked on, most would say we wasted a lot of time, but what I take from this is how much we gained.  Jillian has blossomed in her pant designing.  She has figured out the secret to make these pants fit properly. 

The children’s jeans are in production now and I can’t wait to see them.  Jillian has finished all the samples for the youth and teen sizes and they have been sent off to the factory to have the denim samples made so we can test the sizing on our models.  She is currently redesigning the men’s jeans with great success and then she will remake the ladies jeans with our newly designed waistbands.

So, 2012 will be the year of our pants.  Once we know they are a successful fit, we will start adding different fabrics and styles.  Hopefully, we will have even dress pants by year end.  The fearful part is finding a new factory to manufacture the non-denim fabric pants.  My trusted friend, Andy Yen, only manufactures jeans and khakis, so any other material will have to be made by another garment factory.  That will create a new issue to be solved.

Jillian feels that she will be able to design T shirts, blouses and dress shirts this year as well.  We will see how that goes.  This also involves finding another factory to manufacture them.  I return to China again in May and that project will be at the top of my list.

Some really exciting news happened in December as well.  CNN wrote a story about Downs Designs and published it on the front page of their website.  It ran the whole day on Sunday, December 11, 2011.  The story is actually still showing on their blog page called In America.  I am overwhelmed with the response.

On their blog page, In America, people have a place to comment on the stories.  Well, in the reporter’s writing she mentioned that she spoke with me while I was in China visiting the jeans factory.  Oh boy, it caused quite a stir.  There were over one hundred comments from some grateful people and some not so kind comments from pro “made in America” people.  It took every ounce of restraint not to respond to their cutting words.  But if the “naysayers” knew anything about my journey, they would not have been so cruel.  What was so amazing were the many people that came to my defense.  It was very emotional for me.

These “naysayer” have no idea the struggle it was to find someone to work with me.  When I first began to look for a manufacturer, I thought it would be easy to make my jeans here in the US.  But when I searched for a factory, I was told jeans weren’t made in the US and one women even hung up on me when I told her what I was trying to do.

The one place I spoke to about manufacturing my jeans, was in Allentown, Pennsylvania.  They were very nice, but when we discussed the cost, I was blown away.  A pair of small children’s jeans would cost about $20.00 to manufacture.  How could I sell them with a reasonable markup to sustain a business when the cost was more than I could charge?
So after hearing from the naysayers, I again revisited the idea of getting them manufactured here in the US.  I looked at all jeans factory’s websites to see what they manufactured.  The places that make affordable jeans looked like work clothes; no style or fashion at all.  The manufacturers who make stylish jeans sold for over $250.00 a pair.  Can you see my options here?  I don’t want to be forced to make jeans that aren’t in fashion for my customers just to keep them affordable.   After all, isn’t this point of what I’m doing? 

But, because of the media coverage, I actually started to get orders for our ladies jeans.  Since the ladies jeans are really all I have to sell, and some ladies Tee shirts, I am very excited.  I am finally starting to sell something. I have all the software necessary for my shipping department,but haven’t really had a chance to use it.  So I made a few mistakes along the way, but I think I have finally got the hang of it.

The best news of all is that they are a very success fit.  That’s what I needed to hear.  Until I actually had customers wearing our jeans, I really didn’t know if they were designed properly.  But when the repeat orders started to come in, I knew Jillian had done her job.  One young lady now owns five pairs of our jeans, even though we only have one style.  There is one thing I would change on them and that is the waistband.  I love our newly designed waistbands and I think it will add a new dimension.  The current ladies jeans are marked down because of the pocket size on the larger sizes, so that is something else that will be redesigned as well. 

But I’m sure of this, everything we design the first time will probably need improved upon once our customers let us know what they like and don’t like about our clothes.  Our sizes, being the first of their kind, are blazing the trail in fashion.  Jillian has an opportunity to create something that has never been done before and she has taken the “bull by the horns” and is doing a fantastic job.  I couldn’t be more proud of her.