Honoring Craftsmanship

It’s oddly ironic today that my mind is on craftsmanship, but with the the craziness that surrounds cyber monday (of which we are participating, too!) I thought it’d be a nice contrast to reflect on the beauty of making great clothing. We talk about craftsmanship a lot at the office. Having been told by many manufacturers that our products are too difficult or time intensive to make, it can be a challenge to refocus factories, customers, buyers and retailers on quality, not quantity.

Hermes, which was one of the founding fathers of the “slow clothing” movement, recently did a beautiful artisan-inspired art installation on the lost art of creating quality clothing. Yes, Hermes is a luxury brand and out of most everyday consumers price range (including myself!), but I admire how they’ve championed contemporary craftsmanship. Here’s some details on this inspiring installation:

“Contemporary Craftsmanship” // Hermès: contemporary artisan. A unique interpretation by CuldeSac™.

Like every season, Hermès launches its new collection of accessories inspired in the maison’s brand values.

“Contemporary craftsmanship” highlights the brand´s savoir-faire and the artisan´s work through a contemporary prism portraying Hermès accessories as timeless objects of art.

Time and balance, discipline and precision, craftsmanship and raw materials, curiosity… And the artisan’s maxim: bringing objects to life.

Nine installations with artisan soul designed by the creative team devised a magical tour around the 400m2 stately house, emulating the behind the scenes environment of the atelier, capturing the magic and values of the artisan work.

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Thankful to Be a Small Business

It’s Thanksgiving week, and for most people that means gathering with friends and family to eat a good meal, celebrate a happy and healthy year, and most of all reflect on all those things in life we take for granted. But as a small business, we’ve never needed a holiday to count our blessings – each day has it’s ups and downs, successes and failures, and part of being a successful business in this economic climate is celebrating those everyday wins.

Take for instance our move to US manufacturing. Bringing our apparel business back to the US was priority number one for our executive team, and when we transitioned business from Sri Lanka to North Carolina, we counted our blessings. Anytime you switch factories is a big risk for a company – will the new factory pick up where we left off? Will the product have the same quality? Same turn time? Can we fulfill all our orders? We answered all those questions this year. And, more than once, we failed. We didn’t get every order out on time. We had some quality problems. Our COO, a seasoned fashion and apparel veteran, has spent months on the floor with our workers showing them how to make our product and having tough conversations about craftsmanship and quality as we were making our garments. But despite the setbacks, we’re thankful. Our business model is greener than it’s ever been. We’re close enough to our factories to see School House clothing being made, and touch and feel our garments on the assembly line. And we’ve never had more public support for what we’re doing. Each day it seems we get a new email congratulating us on doing the tough work we’re doing to help rebuild our economy, and putting those priorities before making a profit or always getting it right.

And among the big wins, were the small victories. We signed on 60 new university partners this year, giving us a chance to reach more students with our brand and mission than ever before. We hired 3 new people, bringing our team to 5 and hopefully growing that much more in the next year to come. We also got some great press, designed a bigger and better Fall 2012 line, fundraised and joined forces with partners that will elevate and grow our business.

The point is this: for a small business, everyday is risk, a hurdle, a success story and a chance to be thankful. And to all the fellow startups and entrepreneurs out there, we’re just thankful for your camaraderie. Happy Thanksgiving!

XOXO, The School House Team

Trend Tuesday: Statement Necklaces

The best way to spice up an outfit this fall is with some bold neckwear!  Whether it’s jeweled or metallic or fibrous, it can turn a basic t-shirt special or take an outfit from daytime to nighttime.

Put some sparkle on a crewneck t-shirt with a bold chain necklace or other gold necklace with black accents, to pair with a sparkly gold skirt!

school house university of toronto pocket tee, shopschoolhouse.com, $28; kenneth jay lane large link necklace, kabiri.co.uk, $415; reluxe gold hoop and leather necklace, fashion-conscience.com, $45; 2nd day skirts olive, matchesfashion.com, $245; elie saab woven leather box clutch, boutique1.com, $912; square vintage post earring-grey, urbanoutfitters.com, $14

Or, add a bold necklace to a simple t-shirt dress to turn heads!  You can match this black and white colorblock dress with either a boldly-colored piece that pops, or a high-contrast piece made of cool materials, like this leather and rope one, for a touch of elegance.

school house cal state l.a. colorblock dress, shopschoolhouse.com, $40; katherine necklace, amritasingh.com, $250; 3.1 phillip lim leather wrap and rope necklace, youheshe.com, $240; monsoon owl party statement necklace, monsoon.co.uk, $46

Use this trend to have fun and be daring!  Summer may be over (for now), but that doesn’t you have to stop sparkling.