Welcome to: Our New Office!

OK, so we know we’ve been bragging about our new office to you for the past 2 months and you have yet to see anything than maybe a leopard chair. But honestly, we’ve been busy this summer! In fact, we’ve been too busy to even have time to decorate, but, this week we finally decided to get organized and bring out our interior decorator skills.

We only moved about 2 blocks away from our old offices in Durham, NC, but it has really made quite the difference! Although we loved the big, 1 room studio we used to work in- we needed a place where we could hold meetings without having our interns in the background sorting through our racks of clothes. So, take a look at what we’re working with now!

We’re located on the 2nd floor of our building. As soon as you walk upstairs all of our offices our located off this main hallway. We each have our own office now! Plus a room for our interns to work

The first people you meet when you walk upstairs? Our two lovely manikins, decked out in our favorite Fall Collection items (Oxford shirt dress and the shawl collar cardigan!)

All of the offices have one big wall painted in a bright color. Other than that though, they aren’t too decorated, with the exception being our CEO Rachel Weeks. She’s a little crazy obsessed with leopard print (hence the chairs) and has plenty of Made in USA inspiration around the room.

This is where the magic happens! One big room houses our WIP, design area, and everything else that goes in to making our collections.

 

We just had to include some of the quirky decorations we found for the place. We love the retro feel they give to the office, which go perfectly with the bright colored walls.

What do you guys think of the office? Do you love it as much as we do?

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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

Southern Designers Leading the “Made in USA” Charge

Ever since officially joining the “Made in USA” community this Spring, we’ve been overwhelmed and inspired by fashion brands like ours that are committed to creating a better local, regional and national fashion economy. Entrepreneurs and brands making USA fashion are few and far between, and statistics about the clothing we buy here are pretty grim. Journalist Erika Miller sums up the predicament pretty well in a report she did for PBS’s Nightly Business Report:

Like many people, I was well aware of the statistics about the decline of apparel manufacturing in the U.S. just 5% of clothes sold in America are made in America, compared to 95% in the 60’s. The decline, of course, is a reflection of the striking difference in pay for a NYC Garment Center worker (roughly $18 an hour) versus a worker, say, in Burma (roughly 8 cents an hour).

And while we were pleased to find out that some major labels like Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s StyleMint and The Row lines are USA made, along with most of Nanette Lepore’s dresses, we are most impressed by small fashion businesses like ours that are doing it, too. So, here’s nod to a couple of our Southern neighbors that proudly wear the made in USA label.

Jolie & Elizabeth // www.jolieandelizabeth.com 

This fashion brand specializes in making the sweetest summer seersucker dresses. Their frocks epitomize Southern style, and are all roughly $200 or under. We love their style, and we’ve included a couple of our favorite pieces, which you can shop here.

Kristin Drohan Collection // www.kristindrohancollection.com

Described as “eco friendly, durable and high style” Kristin Drohan’s furniture collections are stylish and made entirely in Hickory, NC. Her pieces are functional, beautiful and “green” in so many ways. We’ve hand-picked some of our faves, but we encourage you to check out her full collection here.

Kristin Drohan Collection