We all have goals. These are tangible landmarks, milestones, numbers we wish to reach through planned action- To have your product in 50 stores by 2012, to gain press in 5 major publications, to showcase at a major trade show, to open a new office, hire employees, travel overseas….. We log these goals in our brain, our planners, and our business plans.
What about our hearts??
To keep my heart open and my brain a little less overwhelmed, I strive to have a meaningful and regular yoga practice. There is one aspect of yoga that continuously brings me strength, peace, and sometimes joy. Setting an intention. After warming up for a couple of minutes, most yogis suggest that you close your eyes and set an intention for your practice. Something you can always come back to, and focus on during the tougher moments of the practice. And it works!
An intention is different from a goal. It is the value you put into the "now"- To act courageously, to show compassion, to make decisions with integrity or my personal favorite, "To feel good about stuff."
Just like a difficult yoga pose, goals can be overwhelming, distant, and difficult to reach. By setting intentions, your heart gives your brain the tiny reminders it sometimes needs to balance the present with moving forward.
The benefits of setting an intention have spilled into my crazy world of entrepreneurship and self-employment. As we commence the new year, a lot of goal-setting occurs, I have spent countless minutes making lists and setting plans myself and Single Needle. At the times of pure bogged-down-ness, I try to step back, breathe, and remember my intention.
More often than not, I am able to trust my intentions and get a good nights sleep.
It was one of those mornings. You can’t seem to get yourself out the door, forgot your keys, where are your sunglasses, no time to make coffee…. So you treat yourself to an over-priced trendy café coffee, and zoom out onto Western Ave, which at this point has become your personal race track/Frogger adventure. In the midst of dodging cars, the woman in front of you stops short, and your coffee launches itself from the cupholder to the floor of the car, you haven’t even taken one sip. Ugh.
This tragic episode occurred on my way to interview Steve Rich, the owner of Leonard Adler & Co.
As I entered the office, with a frantic-I-spilled-my-coffee look on my face, Steve returned it with a calm, “I just brewed a whole pot.“ Thank God.
For the next hour, Steve and I sipped our coffees and talked about the history of Leonard Adler, the economy’s effect on the local apparel industry, and building a community (you knew I would throw that one in there, right?)
Leonard Adler was established in 1903 as a fur-manufacturing supplier by a man named Joseph Adler who was Leonard's father. Steve Rich’s father, who was a furrier, would bring him to the State/Lake building
to wait in the car and watch for the meter maid while he bought supplies from Leonard Adler. In 1961, Steve graduated college and wanted to be a pharmacist. His dad had other plans; he wanted Steve to start selling tailoring supplies for the new family business, Rich Supply House. The idea didn’t go over too well, as Steve will admit, he didn’t even know what a tailor was! Nonetheless, he cruised around the city in his 1954 Mercury with a suitcase full of seam bindings, thread, and trims. For 10 weeks, he peddled supplies to local tailor shops but soon saw a ceiling to this business model. As any business savvy entrepreneur would do, Steve started calling bigger clients and getting larger orders. By the early 70’s, Rich Supply House was one of the top 5 tailoring suppliers, selling to accounts in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
In the meantime, Leonard Adler had decided to sell his family business. Steve took over Leonard Adler & Co in January of 1985, he kept the Adler name because they had been in business since 1903 and had reached a wide customer base.
Through 50 years of being an independent business owner, Steve has sought opportunity and adapted his business for the current market. His first location selling as Leonard Adler was next door to Columbia College, which had a blossoming fashion design program. At that point, Steve started selling supplies to students and is now the preferred supplier for all the local design programs.
And let’s face it; the fashion map of Chicago has had its ups and downs. Steve admits that he has lost a lot of the bigger clients to overseas sourcing and manufacturing; Marshall Fields, Carson Pirie Scott, and Bloomingdales. But the recent economy has resulted in an influx of young designers. And he strives to create a supply shop that caters to the small designer.
Leonard Adler & Co is now located at 3018 W Montrose. When I asked Steve to describe his shop in a few words, he replied, “We sell garment construction supplies”. And that includes not only thread but also buttons, zippers, fusible, linings, elastics, snaps, hook and eyes, seam bindings, men’s waistbands, size labels, care labels. Steve elaborates, “We carry the highest quality merchandise. Most of our elastics and fusible are made in the US.“ He also mentioned that they are starting to carry leftover fabrics from local designers, which will be available by the yard.
Emerging designers, fashion students, and the at-home creatives all must visit Leonard Adler. The variety of supplies available is truly the highest quality for any/all garment construction. And let’s say you are having, “one of those mornings”. Only this time, you are in the middle of production on a Men’s trouser, the factory calls to ask why you did not drop off the zippers for the fly. But you did drop off the zippers. No, there are no zippers at the factory. Then its time to race up Western Ave. and grab some last minute zippers from Leonard Adler & Co.
Leonard Adler & Co is as passionate about building the local fashion community as we are! Stop in there anytime and Steve will counsel you on what to buy and where to go in this city to get your project complete.
Also, he will be hosting our Apparel Industry Networking event on Sept. 6th, 6:30-8:30.
Join us in building an apparel-minded community in Chicago.
The design duo behind Sir and Madame
, Brian and Autumn Merritt exude an inspiring sense of entrepreneurship, design savvy, and positivity. And it shows through their whimsically curated boutique, thoughtfully composed men’s and women’s collections, and renegade business spirit. the entrepreneurs
Both were around 25 when launching their first business in Chicago, Solemates. In true entrepreneurial spirit, they saw their youth as an advantage. Brian pointed out that when you are young, you have time to figure out the points of business that work for you.
Their advice for young entrepreneurs? Build a foundation with a good team, and if something isn't working in your business then change things up. In Brian and Autumn’s case SoleMates essentially became the testing ground and launching pad for the Sir and Madame product, enabling them to transition into a new location, an expanded brand, and continual growth.
The Sir and Madame storefront breathes the warmth and charisma of a deeply narrated apparel brand. Every detail stays true to their design aesthetic, “Classic with a Twist”.
To begin the design process, Brian and Autumn refer to an ongoing arsenal of images and choose the most visually impactful. Autumn reminds us, “We’re not designers by trade, we just like what we like.” From there, they create a story. That story will carry them through the entire design process. For the current theme “Wartime,” Brian says, “We both were just pulling a lot of images of war.” After sharing their collected images with each other the collection evolved into “Wartime All Day”, focusing not on combat gear but the everyday styling of citizens in times of war.
the couple thing
Of course we had to ask how it works to design and run a business with your significant other. As most design couples, the Sir and Madame team contribute their individual talents to the operation. Autumn brings retail management experience where Brian has more business experience. Autumn designs for the womenswear and Brian designs the menswear. The overlapping design decisions, such as fabric and trim choices, are shared. And when they need a tiebreaker, they always revert back to the original story for the collection.
We’ve noticed that Sir and Madame is pretty active on Twitter. When asked about it, Brian bursts into laughter and admits he began using it during the SoleMates days as a joke! Apparently after a few too-honest tweets, Autumn put up the Madame hand. No more tweets for Brian! Nowadays he enjoys productive tweeting for the store and constantly updates with new looks. Autumn values that Twitter enables you to stay connected with not only with customers, but also suppliers and manufacturers. “More important than promotion, is the ability to grow your support system and business community.” Above all, she feels it enables you to support people who are supporting you.
the online shop
The Sir and Madame online store
is gaining momentum but most importantly, it has increased exposure for the brand. Many popular blogs have featured Sir and Madame’s apparel and accessories as must-haves while the online shop is getting attention from international retailers.
, and Tweet
with Sir and Madame.
On August 2nd, join us at Sir and Madame for singleneedle’s monthly Apparel Networking meeting.
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The places and faces of the Chicago apparel industry, a city once packed with apparel designers and manufacturers, continue to inspire me everyday. At the Vogue Fabrics
warehouse in Evanston, I encountered a proud 3rd generation owner eager to share a piece of Chicago’s apparel history.
In 1945, Sean Sussman’s (current owner of Vogue fabrics) grandfather, Sy Sussman , returned from war and bought a pickup truck. With that truck, he drove to NYC, filled the bed with rolls of fabric, returned to Chicago, and knocked on the doors of dressmakers with premium designer fabrics to sell. Shortly afterwards, he opened his first storefront in Evanston, his first sale was a 10 cent spool of thread.
Nowadays, Vogue Fabrics has 2 retail stores, a warehouse in Evanston, and a catalog with customers around the globe. Although I was hoping to reveal a secret wholesale fabric resource for Chicago’s designers, owner Sean admits, “Our heart is in retail.” Yet he assures me that they have a leg up on the competition with quality fabrics at a decent price. Depending on your project, I agree. The shelves are stocked with fabrics that range from knit jersey to wool gabardine that is sourced through distributors, jobbers, and mills from California to China.
My recommendation to the fashion, at-home stitcher- Definitely visit Vogue fabrics! They will always have a variety of fashion fabrics, decently priced and well organized.
My advice for the designer/ start-up apparel brand- Don’t hesitate to browse the shelves of Vogue especially if you are in a pinch. They just might have the last minute fabric you need. And if you are buying a whole roll or more, wholesale pricing might be available. Some fabrics come with the option to order more from the distributor.
Vogue Fabrics is a large contributor to our local fashion community and they have been successful in supporting designers near and far. Keep an eye out for “It’s Sew Easy” broadcasting on PBS, (only available on YouTube in the Chicago area), Vogue supplied all the fabric.
Follow Vogue on Facebook
Here's what Tracey Glibowski of Cerato boutique had to say about new designers, #localfashion, and Chicago vs. LA & NYC:
is a blog for apparel-focused design entrepreneurs. If a new designer wants to be taken seriously by a retailer, what are some tips to successfully impressing a buyer?C:
They definitely should do their research about the store...what other lines does that store carry, what are their price points, what type of aesthetic and experience does the store have. The designer should want to make sure it's the right fit for their brand as much as the store wants to make sure the new designer fits with their store. SN
: With the current state of our economy, do you think support for local designers has increased? If so, do you expect that support to stay when/if the economy recovers?C:
I do think it has increased, not just with local boutiques buying local designers, but customers getting excited to shop local designers. Customers get really excited when they pick a beautiful dress off the rack and then find out it's from a local designer. I hope buyers and customers continue to support and shop locally once the economy recovers a bit more. SN:
Some designers pigeon-hole (in the words of Kristen Amato
) themselves as local (Chicago) designers. Amato advises to remove this label and embrace being a "designer" - not constricting your location. Since Cerato is 90% local product, how does your boutique focus on growing your featured designers outside of Chicago? Or, do you focus solely on raising local awareness? C:
Cerato Boutique has received a lot of press, some of it nationally. So we like to promote our local designers whenever we have press opportunities. We have recently launched with an ecommerce partner - www.taigan.com/cerato
who features amazing products from around the US, so we hope that is great exposure for our Chicago designers as well. I also would never underestimate the power of social media...that certainly doesn't have any restricting boundaries, we have people following us on twitter from all over the world. I enjoy promoting, embracing and celebrating the talent that is here in Chicago (as well as the other designers we carry). SN:
"Chicago fashion" - this phrase, often gets a smirk, some raised eyebrows, and even a scoff when uttered. What's up with that? Is this changing? Can it change? Or, will we always live in the shadows of NYC & LA?C:
I do think it will be hard to be perceived as "cutting edge" or "on the forefront of trends" as NYC & LA, but if the Chicago fashion community continues to be a close network and continues to showcase the talent and quality of lines we have right here in our city, we will be taken serious as a city to find talented designers.
Thanks to Tracey for answering our questions! Look our for a #localfashion tweet from @ceratoboutique
Join the conversation and leave comments below!
-- the SN team
Two girls meet through a Craigslist ad. One needs patterns for a startup golf apparel collection. The other needs a logo and branding material for a freelance apparel design business. They meet for coffee, and email, and meet for coffee again. Projects come in that need both eyes, the apparel designer and the graphic designer. So they share. They decide to focus on what they are good at: IDEAS
Singleneedle is created, a product development company.
Occasionally they ask themselves, Who is singleneedle?
We are tomboys, deep thinkers, and do-ers. WE HAVE GOOD IDEAS. Then we talk them out with people, analyze and explore them, turning them in to GREAT ideas. Sometimes we make mistakes, but then we figure out the part of our idea that isn’t working. Sometimes we need an afternoon coffee. We are good listeners. Our work ethic is ridiculously strong and occasionally it is our weakness. We like to laugh. And read books. And to dream BIG. We are believers.
We believe in our clients and their ideas. We help them to refine, enhance, and execute their ideas. We understand dreams.
has a blog! If you've been following Maria's blog via tumblr
, please continue to do so. She will be posting personal blog entries, pictures, and fun stuff.
We hope to focus this blog on a look inside the industry, providing you with resources, advice, and above all, knowledge!
Stay tuned for our very first post. (This one doesn't count.)