First Year Retrospective
We just observed the one year mark here at Mobilized. It certainly feels like we’ve come a long way from a virtual standing start and have officially arrived at the Beginning where we will have an opportunity to fully gauge reaction to our products in the marketplace.
Our first year was really about product development, sourcing, and establishing relationships with a variety of creative professionals and craftspeople to bring our vision to fruition. Timing is everything and had we waited, say another year, to start up, many of the people on whom we rely would be fully booked up and not taking new clients.
Local productive capacity is definitely constrained as larger players expand their domestic production and subcontract work to smaller sewing shops, potentially “crowding out” independent brands like us. All in all, we were fortunate to forge our these relationships when we did.
We’re advocates of local manufacturing and refocusing some of our national energy to re-establishing elements of our manufacturing base. Apparel is such a personal thing, and it seems reasonable that it’s design and production should be close to its prospective customers. This was certainly once the case when the Bay Area boasted some 800 sewing shops. Globalization along with the “dot-com” explosion and its attendant spike in real estate valuations decimated the industry. Word on the street is that we’re down to something like 100 sewing shops most of which are small, family run operations.
These local sewing operations require a skilled workforce in which each person must be a generalist as well as specialist on one or more machines. We’re not talking about machine operators but craftspeople who have developed and honed their skills over a lifetime. The choice of the word “lifetime” is intentional as this is a rapidly aging workforce made up largely of immigrants. Sewing is demanding work both mentally and physically. In fact, our business is often reliant on the sharp eyes and skilled hands of one or two individuals. These individuals are not being replaced as their first generation children pursue other careers. Did I mention sewing is tough work? So, there’s the conundrum that we face in our quest to maintain our production here.
We’ve also had to adjust our product design based on the capabilities of our local sewing contractors. This is called designing for production, and it’s simply a reality which places some constraints on our designs. Constraints are not necessarily a bad thing and often serve to focus our attention on simplicity in form and function. We must also select materials that our contractors can reliably sew. Ventile® and waxed cotton are both challenging fabrics in that there is really no room for error, for example, removing and re-sewing and errant stitch. Incredible attention to detail is required. Our first run of 50 units of the F1 M1980, Urban in Ventile® was essentially a trial run in which production techniques were developed and tested. We probably could’ve selected a more forgiving and less expensive fabric for our inaugural production run.
There were a number of lessons learned in this first year, which is expected. The good news is that we emerged intact and energized with a product, the F1 M1980, Urban, in Ventile® and dry waxed cotton from British Millerain, which we can reliably produce at the desired level of quality. We will add the Garrison Series in 2013, that includes a four-button sport coat, a lapel vest, and a pair of trousers. There are several additional products that are in the conceptual stage at the moment.
Now that we’ve arrived at the Beginning, it’s time to devote a considerable amount of time and energy cultivating our relationship with you, our customers and prospective customers. As the 2012 holiday shopping season gets underway, Mobilized will begin to focus in earnest on sales and marketing. This will be the major area of attention for us in 2013 as we work to transform Mobilized into a recognizable brand and establish our sales channels, both online and on the ground in the form of popup retail events in and around San Francisco. We will also explore traditional retail partnerships to get our products into select shops, one of which is currently in works with more details to follow in the coming weeks.
We hope to see those of you who live in the Bay Area at one of our popup retail events in the coming weeks. For everyone else, we plan open the online shop on black Friday to kick off the holidays.