Okay Friends! I have been keeping a secret for the past year.... and I finally get to spill all of the details. Keep reading below to learn how I managed to break into the cut and sew production industry at 20 years old with zero connections.
As many of your know, currently in my business, I buy blank shirts and screen print on them. Screen printing is very much in my roots, but for a long time I have thought about creating those blanks- and maybe making more than T-shirts one day.
I grew up sewing with my grandmother, Bonnie. She bought me my very first pink singer sewing machine when I was 8. For many years it sat on a shelf in my basement, until recently when I knew it was time to take Hey Friends to the next level. I have dreamed about cut and sew production for a lot of years, and it has really been on my mind. So much that I was tired of thinking about it- so I just decided to do it.
In March of 2022 I started researching production companies and immediately stopped because It was quite literally terrifying. The minimums were crazy high, language barriers, and it was a huge financial investment I was not prepared for. So, I shoved this idea back to the corner of my brain and tried to forget about it. This lasted a few weeks but I couldn't shake the idea, and I just had a gut feeling that I needed to explore this some more.
So in June, I made the same Google search, and this time I got much further in my research. I sent the first round of emails to production companies all based in the United States- I wanted my line to be made in the USA, but this made my plan a bit harder because apparel production is not a huge industry here anymore, labor and wages have deterred people from making clothing in the United States. The sweat shop industry in China and Bangladesh has dominated the fast fashion world, where they focus on quantity and not the quality of their products. I knew from the start that this was not something I wanted to support.
I could talk all day about the fast fashion epidemic that is happening over seas currently- but that is a blog post for a different day- back to the story!
I sent the first round of emails to production companies in June. I then chatted all summer with different companies all over the United States, a lot of them did not respond, some were very rude, but it only took one in New York City to take a chance on Hey Friends and I.
In the middle of September I decided on a company in New Your City. I sent in my deposit for development, and before I knew it I was receiving fabric samples from all over the world. I had a specific look in mind- I wanted pink and white stripes. This was hard to find and I almost had to custom print it, but then I was introduced to this textile mill in London, England. They had exactly what I was looking for and the fabric was all organic- another huge thing I was looking for!
I got to work designing the content care labels and so many details I have been dreaming about for years!
On December 30th I got the very first sample. It needed a few tweaks but It was the dress I had pictured in my head for years. In January, I ended up taking my first trip out to New York to make all of my changes in person. I met the pattern maker and got to see everything for myself. This trip was a whirlwind and made me so incredibly excited for this new era of Hey Friends.
Two weeks later I got the final sample with all of my changes and gave them the go ahead to make the rest. The fabric was ordered and I got to work on the marketing and final touches.
This was around the time when I found two pictures of my grandma and I sewing. She taught me to sew when I was 10, and bought me my very first sewing machine for Christmas shortly after. This was the same sewing machine that I used to make the first mock up of this dress. At this point I had no name for the dress and I had just been referring to it as "the dress" and "1028" because that was the style number. However, it was only right, and so naturally fitting that I name this dress, "The Bonnie" after my grandma.
It was so serendipitous naming the dress after her and tied everything together PERFECTLY! I ended up flying down to Venice a few weeks later to see my grandparents. I wanted to have a photo shoot of the dress in the beautiful scenery and tell my gram all about the new name of the dress. I ended up telling them as soon as I got to their house in Florida. I actually secretly recorded their reaction and you can watch that here :)
It felt so good to finally tell them all about the name, and I had my photoshoot all over the island and flew home for a total of 48 hours down there... It was a quick trip!
As soon as I got back to Pennsylvania I got to planning the launch schedule and all of the final touches! I was planning on launching the dress before Easter- however with a few hiccups, and production delays- it tuned into the beginning of May.
And now we’re here! As I am writing this post the dresses are about to ship from New York and this whole thing is launching in less than 3 weeks. I am feeling so many things! I am nervous, anxious, excited but most of all- I am so incredibly proud. Less than 3 percent of clothing we wear is made in The United States and I am so honored that Hey Friends is now in that percentage of clothing proudly many in the USA.
By the time all of you lovely’s are reading this the "The Bonnie" will officially be out and launched! It would mean more than the world if you all checked it out.
Cheers to this new era of Hey Friends!