Last October, I had been doing a tutorial series on copying sewing processes from other products in order to improve the quality of your products. These (5) entries also explained why service providers are not going to want to sign your confidentiality agreement because for most companies, it’s the processes -not the product- that really makes a difference. Anyway, the fifth entry of the series was a product and quality review of a handbag made by a DE named Beth Mitchell. My review explained all of the production related mistakes she made with the bag, things that most designers don’t see in their own products. There’s nothing wrong with being a DE but you don’t want people to know you’re a newbie by looking at your product quality. Beth could have had “Target” tattooed on her forehead, it was so obvious. Oh, and that’s how other companies decide on a knock off target. If you have a cute idea but the product quality is atrocious, you’ve made yourself a target. I’d strongly encourage new visitors to review those entries for detailed tips and information. As a reminder, below is a photo of the bag.
Anyway, in my review of the “Beth Mitchell Originals” bag, one of the topics I mentioned was whether her idea was even original (it was similar to a Kors bag). It was cute and Gigi liked it too so I lent the bag to her so she could take it apart for a closer look (there were lots of problems with it). Then yesterday, Gigi posted an update on Beth’s bag. As it turns out, Beth’s bag isn’t original. Rather, it looks exactly like a home sewing pattern that Gigi found (and bought) on ebay! The pattern was from a designer named Bobby Breslau and it is quite a bit older than Beth’s bag. Gigi compared the patterns of both bags and says they’re nearly identical, down to the too-small-for-your-hand inside pocket.
I just couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. Just how many times have I said that using a home sewing pattern is deadly to your business? The quality of the sewing is governed by the quality of the pattern. Home sewing patterns are awful. Don’t use them! There is just no better way to announce to the world that you’re an amateur than to use home sewing patterns for production. Maybe you can’t tell but that doesn’t mean we can’t. How else do you think new designers are targeted for knock off? Besides, using home patterns is illegal; you can be sued. At the time I wrote my review of Beth’s bag, I had no idea she’d used a home sewing pattern. In retrospect, her use of the home pattern explains everything about the poor quality I found in her bag. Insult to injury, I cannot tell you how many designers using home sewing patterns have tried to get me to sign a non-disclosure agreement. How can you protect a design that’s not even yours? I guess they want an NDA thinking nobody can tell on them.
A cute idea will only get you so far. You’ll need the rigors of engineering to carry you the rest of the way. In summary, if you expect to succeed in this business, you’ll have to hire a professional pattern maker. If you took patterns in school but have never worked in production, be afraid, be very afraid. Do your own first patterns but hire somebody to clean them up. That is the only thing that will keep your products looking professional. Don’t be a knock off target. Give yourself a fair shot at it; buy and read the Entrepreneur’s guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing.