Photo by Enis Yavuz

Photo by Enis Yavuz

Before I dive in to this week’s letter a few quick updates: After discussing the various challenges we had with the way the made-to-fit muslin Riding Jacket prototypes fit our beta-clients, our partner for the software enabled pattern modification has offered to remake one of the jackets, trouble shooting the issues we had with the waist and chest fit as well as length issues in the front of the jacket.
 
I will let you know when we find out if these changes have resolved our issues with the pattern adaptation work.
 
I also wanted to tell you about my tour this week of the Garland Shirt Co., Brooks Brothers’ made-to-measure shirt factory in Garland, North Carolina. In a town of roughly 600 residents, the shirt factory employs 250 of them with living wages (News & Observer). Walking around, seeing their set-up and talking to the team reminded me of how important sewing manufacturing is to provide stable, good paying, working class jobs in rural places.
 
There is some concern that this factory might close. It makes me angry to think about these people loosing their jobs when they are so needed in rural places. We have got to figure out a way to save and then regrow this sort of work in our rural communities. According to staff at the factory, Brooks Brothers discontinued its women’s made-to-measure blouses in the 90s due to low demand. (I wonder if this is lower demand in comparison to men’s shirts combined with a more difficult fit problem, but this is just speculation on my part).
 
It is time to revisit made-to-measure for women. The women’s apparel market is larger than the men’s. We, the women who make up the $150 billion dollar domestic women’s apparel market, have enormous fit issues, not getting better with a shift to online purchases (poor fit is the top reason cited for the 20-40% return rate for clothing ordered online). I believe this is an engine to drive growth in U.S. manufacturing. Once we have determined if the available software is good enough to make a business around made-to-measure for women’s trickier fit issues, we will be able to determine where we are on this path.
 
So I want to talk for a moment about entrepreneurship and fairy tales because I have been thinking a lot about the stories we tell (and latch onto around entrepreneurship) and how they compare to real life as I observe my path to producing my vision becoming both wider and longer.
 
Somehow in the entrepreneurship story we have created a fairy tale. Women love fairy tales. Much like the prince that lifts a woman out of poverty and into a beautiful castle with all the gowns and parties she could imagine, we have an entrepreneurship story about deliverance. We work and work and work until we get that one thing (e.g. fancy news article, TV coverage, large VC funding, priceless incubator, dream client etc.) and then our struggles will be over. We can buy and have whatever our version of gowns and parties we dreamed about while watching Cinderella (or substitute your dream vacation, or fancy art supplies).
 
We read these fairy tales in entrepreneurship. And this is how it is told: struggle, struggle, struggle, mopping the floor for evil step sisters (or working that job you don’t love where you are under appreciated) and then one day…[insert special, magical occurrence – making $1million dollars on Kickstarter!] and her life was never again the same. In the later few years of my business, after I would get that article written, or successfully get in a local boutique or get that beautiful prototype, or reach my iFundWomen goal I began to realize that this story is just a fairy tale.
 
I would confirm this with entrepreneurs I would describe as “having made it” (in the castle!). And they would confirm, there was no moment that changed everything and allowed them to bask in the glory on Easy St. Each win was put into proportion by a whole series of challenges the followed. And then we face the reality that everything dies at some point, or changes into something we don’t recognize. We don’t see Cinderella’s funeral, or a bigger power coming to seize prince charming’s castle, leaving her to return to poverty and yet, this cycle and ebb and flow is much more in line with reality. And it may seem harsh, but it just is.
 
So what do we have left when we blow away the fairy tale like a dandelion gone to seed? What is there left? It sounds so sad, but it is not. It is just real. And working with reality has a greater impact on this world, than working with illusions. So what is there left in front of us? Each moment, the beauty of our creation, determination, one foot in front of the other and our mind squarely here. So rather that striving for the fairy tale, waiting for that special email around the corner or next month, or next fall or next year, I am just here in this moment creating. Not easy. My mind wants to run off to the next thing. But the real work happens in this moment. Right here.
 
Thank you for your support for my work and your continued ear to listen to the ebb and flow of it all.
 
Sincerely,
 
Reid

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