JC Sprowls is a custom suit maker who attended the recent show at the Denver Merchandise Mart. By all accounts, this show is a home sewing show. Normally I wouldn’t include a trip report like this on Fashion-Incubator but I know that a lot of DEs starting out will attend this sort of show because it is less intimidating. However, even if you’re really new, I’d encourage you to pass on these sorts of shows because you’re just not going to get what you need. Still, you don’t have to take my word on it, this is what JC has to say -and by the way, you can always get an updated month by month listing of all shows at Infomat.
I’m afraid there isn’t much to report on the front of this “trade show” I was invited to. The jobber I spoke to gave me a comp pass to enter the event; and, of course that meant I spent a reasonable amount of time at his booth discussing his wares and buying a few cuts to show my gratitude. This particular jobber’s goods are primo! And, I bought about $700 of sample goods for some upcoming projects. Their inventory is primarily mill ends, meaning limited supply and undetermined stock for an industrial application. Other than their trims and linings, which are consistent and available in larger quantities, I will likely place the majority of my custom-make (i.e. cut length) and retail business with them.
The show, itself, was a craft fair. The Wool House (retail division of Ruby International Textiles) was the only industry jobber in attendance. There were several hand-painted and hand-dyed fabric & yarn booths there; but, when I asked about lot size and quantities, their numbers were too low (and, prices too high) to be of interest to DEs or manufacturers, in general. I apologize that I didn’t gather any of their contact information; but, I couldn’t think of anyone in the FI community who could have benefited from their offerings.
There were *a lot* of household machine dealers hawking their wares. It seems the hottest thing on the household market right now is a 6-needle embroidery machine. The price tag, however, is cost-prohibitive, and, in my opinion, opportunistic. These household grade 6-needle machines by such makers as: Brother, BabyLock, and Janome retail in excess of $15K, plus the cost of software ($5-7K). I’m saddened by this price on several levels because I feel these makers are taking advantage of misinformation in the marketplace.
As an aside, I can easily rep several 9- and 12-needle industrial-grade embroidery machines (i.e. Ricoma and Taijima) and the requisite operating software for significantly less (complete setup between $12-20K). It would be very easy for me to set up a booth at one of these events and outshine, outproduce, and outprice the competition. The only hurdle is coaxing the household sewist to not be intimidated by industrial equipment.
Gadgets were prolific! I saw a lot of “electric scissors”, completely overpriced and easily breakable. In other words: worthless. I thought to myself: “why this crap when Reliable, Consew and Gemsy make excellent motorized rotary cutters for significantly less?” If I see one more “Purple Thang” I’m gonna use it to gouge someone’s eyes out! Why should I spend $7 for a plastic gadget that a long tapestry needle or sharpened chopstick (read: FREE) can do for me? I can’t stand clutter around my sewing machine; and, I *hate* uni-tasker tools. Compulsion is apparently the most effective marketing tactic in the home sewing segment of the market. Incidentally: there wasn’t a single Fairgate rule, hip curve, or tailor’s square anywhere to be seen.
A curiosity of note: there were at least a dozen custom clothiers hawking their products, namely “how-to-draft-the-perfect-pants-pattern” type of systems. I briefly perused each of these and couldn’t help but giggle inside. I plied some of the presenters, gently, and off-to-the-side, about how they conceived of their idea and how they codified their system. Some were open and gracious, others were defensive. What I was able to ascertain is that none of these folks have ever drafted a flat pattern – which, is a shame. I think it’s a shame because if one can’t use a system to develop a pattern, how can one analyze what needs to change or be modified and codify a system after-the-fact? I’m not trying to be a snob, here, I simply don’t understand where they’re coming from.
There were a couple small pattern manufacturers, there, too. I’ve already forgotten their names (it’s a short drive from the Mdse Mart to my apt), which should say something. One pattern company had some patterns out of the envelope on display. To me, this is an invitation to fidget and analyze, which I did. I opened up a pattern for a child’s hoodie and walked the pattern – the seam lengths did not match on the sides, the neck, or the sleeves. The vendor was an older gentleman, who tells me that his wife wanted to be a designer, having made clothes for her kids and grandchildren all these years. They (presumably the couple of them) recently bought a CAD system with a plotter and she now publishes her “designs” for sale. My initial perception was that she’s cranking out patterns from the CAD library and isn’t making them up to prove/test and
grade. I say this because they had about 100 different styles for sale (i.e. plastic bag, cover sheet, instructions); but, no sewn samples.
There were a couple local designers selling art-for-wear, which I think is great! Their designs cannot be replicated on an industrial level; but, I’m happy they are making a living doing what they love to do. In all honesty, I thank this group because, without them, the Wool House wouldn’t have been there – nor would I have been.
There were 2 bookstores in attendance selling some college-level textbooks, some of which I already have (e.g. Crawford, Rasband, etc). Their subject range consisted of sewing method and fitting. When I inquired about pattern drafting, pattern grading, and style libraries, they told me flatly: “We don’t have much call [market] for that kind of thing”.
My overall impression was that this trade show was not for me. With the exception of the Wool House, there was no real reason for me to be there, as a manufacturer. My goal was to survey jobbers and fabrics on the market; but, I can see I need to go to Fabric World for that.
Though, there was an interesting piece of technology I couldn’t keep my eyes off. The Wool House uses a service called Creditel (http://www.creditelcorp.com/powerswipe.html). They offer a device called Power Swipe which couples with your Nextel cellular phone to process credit card authorizations using cellular technology. Any of us who are tired of chasing NSF checks or declined credit card charges after a trade show should seriously consider this type of solution. It mitigates risk to a real-time response as long as you’re near a cellular tower!