Manufacturer’s blogs

Considering the number of blogs out there, it’s amazing that there are so few DE bloggers. I’ve found exactly two. If you’re manufacturing and blogging, do sing out. Once there’s some momentum, I’ll add a sidebar to list you all.

For now, meet Adam over at Twisted Spokes (thanks Julie & Phil). He makes messenger bags and shows bag construction in process as well as providing links on sourcing and advice. From his site I found a nifty step by step on bag making from Inertia Designs.

The older of the two blogs is Zolowear by Darien Wilson of Austin TX. Darien’s been a part of our community for quite some time although she doesn’t comment being so busy but I’m glad she’s got a blog so I can keep up with her progress. Darien makes baby slings although she also makes slings for kids to carry their dollies. The challenges of manufacturing that Darien describes will be very familiar to many of you. The cutey on the left is Darien’s boy Clark. At right is Darien.

And speaking of manufacturing and blogging, I sometimes traipse over to NAM (National Association of Manufacturers) for a Red State -their words, not mine- view of manufacturing. Bill’s not too fond of them either. Still, I don’t know why NAM so gleefully links to Despair Inc when many of us suspect that Dr. Kersten most likely used some of their most prominent members as source material. Speaking of Despair Inc, Dr. Kersten has posted some new training videos that are a real laugh -if only they weren’t all too realistic. You can lose half a day over at; a classic internet site. This has always been my favorite page over there.

Regarding NAM, there’s some interesting stuff on their blog. They’ve posted a bunch of video clips in a series entitled Cool Stuff Being Made on how different things are manufactured; everything from hearing aids (vintage clip, not PC), chocolate -from bean to bar-, clothes (Patagonia), even cars courtesty of Toyota. Back in the 50’s, NAM sponsored a weekly television show called “Industry on Parade” billed as “a pictorial reviews of events in business and industry” so they even have some vintage clips they reclaimed from the Smithsonian. The vintage stuff is just loaded with all kinds of eco-socio-political not-so-subtle messages meaning classic examples of cold war era marketing via education.

NAM’s Friday Follies series is also pretty funny. If you thought your dog was crazy, you should see this.

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  1. Bill Waddell says:

    My only beef witth NAM is they purport themselves to represent American manufacturing when they actually represent American manufacturing company owners. They are essentially a lobbyist for that special interest. What is good for owners is not necessarily good for employees or for the U.S. (Remember “What is good for America is good for GM and vice versa”? I don’t buy it.)

    When NAM and the factory owners want all of the barriers to offshore outsourcing knocked down so it will be easier to close factories in the US and open new ones in third world countries, instead of doing the work it takes to make their plants here leaner and more profitable – well, that is where NAM and I part company.

  2. big Irv says:

    I applaud Mr Waddell’s stance on NAM. Call a spade a spade. Sounds like the AAFA, as it relates to sewn products and footwear, have taken a similar viewpoint to NAM’s in which they represent the best interests of American clothing manufacturers and brand owners themselves.

    I have looked at Evolving Excellence. I’m in way over my head there, but I get your drift and respect what you are doing. I’ll continue to read and learn.

  3. Jason says:

    Hi there Kathleen!,

    I consider myself to be a DE starting out very slowly. My blog is about Japanese fashion and my bags, which I post on my blog, when they are ready to be sold potential buyers can then click on the links which takes them to ebay. I like using ebay as it was easy to set up. I have not looked into putting in my own online store on my blog yet as I currently live in Japan and even though I speak a little Japanese, I don’t think its enough to communicate these needs.

    My bags are made from vintage Japanese kimono or Japanese fabric. I do prefer to just use kimonos as I am trying to create a sustainable fashion line.


  4. Andrea says:

    I blog too…although I don’t update as regularly as I should. I am not producing many of my handbags now…but I still think it’s manufacturing in the purest sense :)….

  5. kathie sever says:

    wow i didn’t even know darien had a blog! and she’s a long time compadre.
    i started off wanting to blog about manufacturing, thinking it could be a great eye opener for some of the small boutiques that i was working with to get a broader sense of what all i was up against when i was calling to let them know their order was going to be late. i really don’t process through writing, though, like many bloggers seem to, and i found it hard to relive the rigours of the day again while trying to post to my blog. plus, i found it challanging to not come off sounding like i was the floundering novice that i was (am?) although i’m sure that there might have been an audience who would have loved to laugh at my rookie mistakes.
    now i mostly put up pictures with one line captions because i’m too bloody lazy to post a full entry.

  6. Alison Cummins says:

    I immediately went to the dog video… and did’t get it? What’s happening – is there a toy with a laugh track hidden under the cushions distressing the dog?

  7. Kathleen says:

    I immediately went to the dog video… and did’t get it? What’s happening

    The dog is nuts. The laugh track is only in the beginning (it was on a tv show), after that it’s just kids giggling, presumably at their own dog. The dog’s leg has it’s “own personality”. The leg is trying to horn in on the dog’s bone which explains why the dog is growling/attacking the leg for trying to get his bone. The dog is just crazy. Speaking of nuts, here’s a video of a cat and a rooster.

  8. Jeff says:

    Although the is not a DE, he interviews successful NY De’s and industry icons, is very insightful. Besides FI, it’s the only site I visit daily.

    Check out todays upcoming interview with Richard Chai. He even invites bloggers to ask questions. It’s not necessarily meant to have a technical bent, however, all de’s can learn from the sartorialist regarding the street. Even Bergdorf Goodman sites this man as very influencial. Its mostly daily photos. Very clean, easy to visit. I hope you enjoy it as I do. Check out the archives.

  9. Cinnamon says:

    Wow, I have to disagree with you Kathleen.

    I could probably send you links to a hundred or more DE’s with blogs. They’re generally youngish (under 35), urban, of the deconstructed/reconstructed mentality. They’re not bringing in $100K salaries, they’re trying to get by, but they’re out there. I have two blogs on my website. One where I solely discuss my crafty/business interests, and one where I have more of my personal thoughts, political rants, etc.

  10. Kathleen says:

    Hi Cinnamon. Of course -you’re right! What was I thinking? Jeez, I’ve already been dope slapped a couple of times, thanks :). As Andrea brought up, I forgot her too and I do know you’ve both been blogging. Of course I do. I can only apologize. I apologized to Andrea privately but since you brought it up, I may as well do it publicly because I’m bound to discover yet more DE blogs not on my screen and since the real goal is to scare them out of the underbrush and integrated into a larger community, I’d say this effort has been successful.

    I don’t mean this negatively but I get no traffic from your crowd so they fell off my radar screen. I’m sorry more of them don’t come here and I don’t know what to do about it. And I’m guilty of public blindness. Mea culpa (sincerely).

  11. Christina says:

    Hi everyone, I have just started (I don’t know how long I can keep saying that but I still feel that way, even though I an getting there) my own website with attached blog. I just post each time I add a new item and I like to pretty it up because the aim of my site is to sell, sell, sell! But reading about the DE comments I am wondering whether I should start a ‘warts and all’ blog about the daily goings on of my little business. I understand kathie sever’s comments, mistakes are great to learn from (especially other peoples!), but it’s true… you don’t want to come off sounding like a novice.

  12. Cinnamon says:

    No offense taken, I can understand why you’d forget about them/us. Several folks have emailed me and thanked me for posting about you and that they’ve found you to be a great resource, if somewhat intimidating.

    Many of them consider themselves “crafters” instead of DE’s and since you’re geared for a production environment with a very professional focus, I’m sure some of them are intimidated. The mindset that I’m close to finally breaking free from, and that I know many of them struggle with, is the notion that they have to do everything themselves. Reading your book affirmed that’s a destructive mindset, but when you feel that your work is so personal, its hard to break out of.

    Christina, I understand not wanting to sound like a novice or a hack. It’s a fine line to walk. But I’ve gotten feedback from customers who really liked that I wrote about how my scissors broke, or that I sewed through my finger. I figure I can’t beat Target on price so I have to do it with quality work (which is hard to show on a website) and with personality. Essentially sell myself as well as my product. Sell that I care about the quality of my work, that I adore my customers and the nice or constructive comments they give me, sell that I make mistakes but I do my best to fix them and learn from them.

  13. Hi guys!
    My name is Angela Johnson and I am a DE. I don’t have a blog, but I do have a website at I have tossed the idea around about having a blog, but I don’t think I know enough about them to understand the benefits of having one. Any opinions? I think I’m a little afraid of them because I would feel so vulnerable. I used to have a comments page on my site and although I had 99% positive comments, there were occasssionally mean people on there who were just there to spew hate for no reason and it would cause me to doubt my work…even though logically, I know it shouldn’t. Is a blog different from a comments page?

    I do recieve these daily Fashion Incubator blogs, and find them informative to read, so I wanted to let you know that I’m out here! Thank you!!!!

  14. Jason says:

    I agree with Cinnamon, Christina and Angela about their thoughts of being considered a novice, hate mail/comments and walking that fine line.

    I too am not so sure about the ‘warts and all blog’. I do feel that it is important to have a close relationship to our customers. I believe this is where I will get the most important feedback and promotion too.

    I guess my question is. ‘How far do we go?’. I don’t have an answer to that. Perhaps we just go as far as we are comfortable. I had a person emailing me wanting know how successful I was selling online, and why I started and so on. I was happy that I got that email, don’t get me wrong and I answered some of the questions too. But I didn’t give them all the information as I didn’t feel comfortable with it. (Oh, and it didn’t come from a customer) But on the other hand I thought of Kathleen and her point in her book about not thinking that everyone wants to copy your ideas.

    Also, a thought about joining the community (Actually I’ve been thinking about it all day.) I am already part of this community (as well as some other DE’s ) however, yet another question. ‘What do we do once we have joined up?’ Do we support each other and advise? or will we be just links on this website? ( which I am sure we are all happpy to be on) I know some of us produce similar products but for different market segments. Will that be an issue for us? And what about Coutorture? DE links would be great to have there.

    So I am throwing some questions and comments out there for all DE’s to think about and comment on. Let me know either here or my blog. Hey maybe this should become a DE carnival!

  15. Esther says:

    I actually have three blogs. My two major blogs are tied to my business. My first is tied to my online store where I post new products and my newsletter. Second is my design blog, Design Loft where I post all of my design musings. I design children’s clothing and I think it has been a long neglected technical category in the industry. I hope someday I can meet up with others doing the same thing and hammer out some of the issues I keep running into.

    I have received varying benefits of having a blog. My biggest benefit is increased traffic to my store. In the mean time, my design blog helps me to work through my thoughts. The difficulty is in starting to write. It is hard to come up with a theme or topic. But after you start, it is hard to stop!

    If you are not familar with blogging, start with Blogger. It is probably the easiest. If you wants lots of bells and whistles you may try wordpress. Since I know designers don’t have lots of time to blog, Blogger is the quickest and easiest to learn.

  16. Christina says:

    I too have been thinking about the DE blog all day. The aim of it, for me, would be to share techincal information, so it would not be aimed at customers at all. I do have a blog on my online shop but I write for potential customers. I was thinking of starting a ‘technical blog’ – similar to this. But if we all start doing this there may be too many to keep track of! It would be great if there was one we could all use together to ask questions and give answers… I suppose this is it Kathleen?
    One just for the art of making clothing.
    For instance, yesterday I pulled out an old piece of fabric that I had bought many years ago. I could not remember what the fibre content was, I did a burn test then could not remember what that burn test was telling me! I will go through my old notes from college and see if I can find out, or maybe I will try to find an answer online somewhere.
    This is just an example of the kind of thing I would post on my blog if I was to start one like this. This would be helpful for me (as someone might just answer the question for me- quite lazy) or I could investigate myself and post this on the blog to help others.
    FYI- I finished my course in 1995 so my notes are a bit old and dusty, but I have kept most of them.
    Also, I have not worked in the fashion industry at all since leaving college (but have never stopped sewing for myself, friends and family), so this kind of thing is really helpful for me.

  17. Kathleen says:

    I too have been thinking about the DE blog all day. The aim of it, for me, would be to share techincal information, so it would not be aimed at customers at all. I was thinking of starting a ‘technical blog’ – similar to this. But if we all start doing this there may be too many to keep track of! It would be great if there was one we could all use together to ask questions and give answers… I suppose this is it Kathleen?

    Well yeah, that’s kind of what I had in mind, this blog to be DE central with a blog roll as needed. Specific questions could -are- being dealt with in the forum. I could post on other topics as they’re brought up depending on demand, based on questions people send to me.

  18. jinjer says:


    Interesting point on the “crafters.” I am personally guilty of having lambasted that set (it’s just sour grapes: they’re actually selling product while I’m just thinking about it). I feel/felt guilty for NOT being a crafter–I tend to hang out with crafty types, and they always wondered why the hell I wasn’t in the market (I’m waiting till I have the resources/skills to sell a more professional product?) Then I read Kathleen’s book, and had a glimmer of hope. Then I read a book on the history of the original arts and crafts movement towards the beginning of the 20th century, and felt I understood my place in the market.

    Interesting thing to note: it was born of a belief that arts & crafts conceived of and made entirely by one person were inherently better than mass produced products. But while most of those that adhered strictly to those tenants, it was the people who blended the new aesthetic approach with mass manufacturing that attained the most success and lasting respect: think Tiffany, Wedgewood… Anyway, what they realized, I presume, was that it’s ridiculous to reinvent the wheel when you can hire skilled craftspeople who are languishing for work…We can do the same, yes?

    (okay, those of you who caught my inference, yes, I hope to be a Tiffny or Wedgewood. Um. Doesn’t hurt to dream big, does it?)

    The other thing that’s been interesting me is the really, really long history of mass manufacturing in China. The had it figured out hundreds of years before England, at least when it comes to porcelain and clothing. It puts a slightly different, and more urgent spin on outsourcing: perhaps it’s not just cheap prices that drives manufacturers to China; are the Chinese more adept at mass manufacturing??

  19. Christina says:

    Thanks Kathleen, I didn’t even notice the discussion forum and now that I have had a look that is exactly what I had in mind. Just a quick note (observations) on some previous topics; I went shopping yesterday in Melbourne (australia of course!) I bought a skirt in one shop which was a size 6 (quite rare to find size 6, though I am usually a size 8) then I bought a pair of ski pants in another shop and they were a size 12! Also… ever since the camel toe discussions I have noticed a few around… back and front, though what are they called in the back I wonder?!

  20. Jason says:

    I agree with Christina and Katheleen’s comments too about a ‘technical blog’ ‘and this blog to be DE central’. So I guess this blog is the place where we can all come together to meet and discuss technical or business information. However it would be a good idea if there were a live chat area here too. What do you think? ….Oh and I plan to put my bio and join the forums shortly.

  21. Hi Kathleen! I’m glad we discovered a blogger such as yourself. We’ve been manufacturing for over 30 years now at our backpack factory in Vietnam. We very recently started our own blog. It had been a long time coming but we finally got to it. Thanks for the article by the way. It’s motivated us to blog more about manufacturing and what we’ve learned over the years.

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