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As Takona is all about talking and communicating, and is itself an exploration into the unknown for me, I feel it is good practice to share the story and ideas clearly and openly, there have been several learning experiences and stories along the way and there might even be some useful advice for others like me who want to start something but don’t know how.
As this is predominantly a clothing brand, and I want to help others considering starting their own, this section is quite long, I’ll explain how I found a way to make the clothing, and some of the thoughts and decision I made along the way.
In my day job, I’m an account manager for a large logistics company, I had received a lead one day for a shipping fulfilment company who were looking to explore their carrier options, and so I went to meet with them. During the discussion they mentioned that the business also had an in-house sister company that does design and clothing printing which could be combined with the fulfilment business. I had explained the premise of Takona and how I was hoping to keep the manufacture process external and work to a lean stock system, having each item made as the order came in. This was well within their scope of capabilities and so the fundamentals of the basic clothing manufacture capabilities were set.
The main factor to decide with the clothing was how it was going to look and feel, there are four main types of T-shirt styling:
Heat Transfer Printing
The design sits on top of the material and is made of a vinyl like material that sticks to the fabric but can deteriorate over time, it has a the capabilities of printing the design and applying to a pre-made t-shirt as the orders come in, however the quality is inherently lower, but you can put any colour design onto any colour material. As Takona was to aim to be a higher quality feel and look, the cheaper feel of transfer printed tee’s put me off this option.
The design is split into it’s primary colours, then a screen is made for each colour, the colours are then applied in turn until you have the full image printed onto the t-shirt, it’s very simple for one colour prints, and can lead to a higher chance of misalignment for full colour prints. The biggest drawback for me was cost, each screen, for each design, needs to be made, the initial set up for a single design means that you have a larger capital expenditure which is then fixed and cannot be tweaked without a full set of screens being re-made. As I’m self-funded and not capital rich, this was out the window.
My original idea had been to do high quality embroidered clothing, so I was keen to explore this avenue, there were two main issues that arose. MY supplier didn’t have the equipment to embroider in house, so would be adding stages to the manufacture process and in turn cost, and their suppliers could only do minimum order quantity runs, this threw out my plan for lean production of made to order products and so would need to be looked into later down the line. I eventually came upon another company who can do embroidery on an item by item basis, the margins in this style are much lower, however the initial stock investment is also lower and new designs can be made and sampled much more cost effectively, it can also be fulfilled directly from the supplier, the only drawback currently is that customised packaging and notes can’t be included with the embroidered goods.
This works similarly to the heat transfer printing only the design isn’t stuck to the t-shirt, it is bonded into the material, this gives a higher quality effect to the printing and resembles the look of a screen-printed item. There are two draw backs to this style, firstly you can’t have 100% cotton t-shirts as the ink can’t bond to all-natural fabric, meaning there has to be a synthetic mix product. Secondly you currently can’t print lighter colours onto dark materials meaning every design has to be printed onto a light material, this is why the printed designs are on White or Grey T-Shirts. This style of printing does however work with my lean production style, and combined with the fulfilment capabilities of the company allows Takona to make every printed item as it’s order, as taboo as the word is, this method works like a customised drop shipping. If you were looking to start a clothing company on a shoestring, this is what I would recommend.