Here’s your backstage pass to see the challenges and triumphs of building a global fashion brand with freelancers from around the world.
Get ready to hear firsthand stories from Alexander Massey as he shares the ups and downs of working with freelancers and managing the logistics of manufacturing remotely. From surprise welcome hampers to finding the right balance between flexibility and boundaries, this episode is packed with insights and real-life experiences that every aspiring fashion entrepreneur can learn from.
Alexander Massey is the founder of Charles William Alexander, a niche pajama and underwear brand that prioritizes sustainability and production in the USA. The brand, known for its premium and regal London-inspired style, has a global reach and a focus on creating purposeful, high-quality products. Massey’s vision for the brand is deeply rooted in his connection to his favorite places in the world, including the UK, Australia, and the US. With a commitment to ethical and domestically-made products, Alexander Massey continues to lead his company in providing comfortable and stylish sleepwear to customers worldwide.
Other Resources Mentioned in this Episode:
Did you know that? Making yourself available with air quotes There is a really simple way to make your freelance clients super happy. And being available simply means responding quickly, being willing to hop on a last minute call or jumping to solve a problem even though it’s after hours now. Yes, there is a fine line. I don’t want you to bend over backwards 24/7 for your clients. Boundaries are healthy and you want to be mindful of setting expectations that you can. Can’t always drop everything to put out their fire, but there’s a balance. And when you go just a little bit above and beyond to make yourself available, it can go really far with impressing your freelance clients. This is just one of the many topics you’ll hear in this episode with Alex Massey.
Alex owns a sustainable pajama brand called Charles William Alexander and he works exclusively with freelancers, including one of my fast students, pattern maker Alexandra Agrata. In our conversation, Alex shares how he started his fashion brand, some of the things freelancers have done to impress him, and how he manages working with people around the world from Australia to the UK to the US. If you’re wondering how to surprise and delight your clients and how to manage things like protos, samples and productions across the globe, you’re going to love this conversation. Let’s get to it. Welcome to the podcast Alexander. Quickly, can you just introduce everybody yourself to everybody and let us know who you are and what you do in the fashion industry?
Alexander Massey [00:01:19]:
Yes. So my name is Alex and I’m from company called Charles William Alexander. We’re a very niche basically pajama and underwear brand that basically all produce our products in the USA and we sell all over the world. And one of our sort of founding sort know ethos sort of things was that we wanted to produce sustainable, purposeful pajamas and pretty much as a focus on basically making things in the US or in close to home. And the brand’s actually the vibe of the brand or the actual style. It’s very, quite a premium regal type London vibe wing being sort of Marlabone central London in its style. But the actual, like the brand itself I’m being of. I wanted to have a brand that tied my favorite places in the world or where I have family and that’s in the UK, Australia or the US.
Alexander Massey [00:02:18]:
So I wanted a brand that created that link between my favorite places and countries and pretty much could use the best of those places. So that’s where the three pillars of the brand being past, the present, the future as part of it. So yeah, that’s a little bit about.
You work, well, at least with one freelancer I know, Alexandra Agrata, who’s one of my fast students, to help you with your brand and maybe others, and we’ll talk about that in a second. But I’d love to actually know what’s your background in fashion? Or maybe not. Where did you figure out how to kick start this whole pajama brand?
Alexander Massey [00:03:04]:
So my background is actually network engineering and ecommerce, not fashion. No. But also, it was part of that was also past life as well. I was in the automotive industry in basically a lot of just in time manufacturer, a lot of design, a lot of CAD, sort of basically manufacturing of products, but in a very physical world, in an automotive world. So I did have a connection there to cars and to fashion indirectly, because quite good connections in the UK in the world of Jaguar, Land Rover and Range Rovers. And that’s quite a fashion statement. A lot of the car brands these days have moved towards being more viewed as luxury brands over being staple type, just household sort of goods. They’ve gone more of a brand ethos in the way they deliver their products.
Alexander Massey [00:04:05]:
So, yeah, a bit of experience around that. And then it got me basically a really good way of kickstart, I suppose you could say, in actually anything to do with development and websites and whatnot. Sure.
Creating an online presence.
Alexander Massey [00:04:19]:
Yeah. So that’s sort of my background. And then on the other smaller going, wind back the clock even further. My early experience with fashion was my mum, who basically her mum and her sister were quite big sewers and just more hobby, not for commercial reasons. My auntie, though, actually does work for Triumph International, which is a massive bra company based out of. So she’s the chief. Well, one of the high up designers in Australia for that. So there was a connection in the family and my sort of experience at Mum was making stuff from patterns, which we’d buy.
Alexander Massey [00:04:59]:
Spotlight was a company in Australia you could buy all these patterns from. Used to get them a little brown bag and then that would be the picture of what you’re making on the front and you’d get it out. And my job was always pinning all these things on the fabric, which took ages.
Right, yeah, that’s why you use fabric. That’s why he’s weights.
Alexander Massey [00:05:19]:
Well, yeah, but we had these pins, right? And you just sit down on this board, on this table and just take out. I think I actually got the crap job, really. It’s like she. But I think it was like slave labor, perhaps, for me being like Jay, I don’t know, because it was like. But you didn’t think of that when you were like, ten or, like, spending time. And I think the really fun things that I did at one point was I picked, like, this suit as a kid and I wanted to wear it to the races, or I wanted it for the races because my dad took horse photo, racing photos and things, and I wanted this little single. It was like a sports jacket, but made of tweed. And I picked it from the store, like, the actual pattern, and we met and bought the fabric.
Alexander Massey [00:06:06]:
And the whole process of making this suit took, like, months.
Tailored clothing is a labor of love.
Alexander Massey [00:06:13]:
Yeah, it was. And I remember even finding the shoulder pads for a little kid were like, we had to put big ones in there because we couldn’t find any small ones. And I remember it was like a compromise that was in this suit. To this day, I’ve still got it somewhere. But I suppose that’s where the interest came from initially. I really like that creation of something from just that picture, whether it was like. And that’s sort of where my background was in the sense I’d had experience.
Okay, yeah. So when did you start your brand?
Alexander Massey [00:06:47]:
I started my brand in 2021.
So just about two years now.
Alexander Massey [00:06:51]:
Yeah. Okay. So I knew about it. I sort of had ideas earlier than that and I sort of registered domain names and thought of ideas, but they were never going to be in pajamas. It was going to be in something else. And then I just sort of was throwing all kinds of ideas around my head. But I knew the name, but I didn’t know what it was going to be. So I thought of the name before, of actually what I was going to make, which is quite an interesting way of doing it.
Yeah, but the name is such that it can work for pajamas. It could work for. I mean, you’ve got women’s underwear, too, so it can work for.
Alexander Massey [00:07:30]:
It’s broad enough, the brand can grow, like, the brand vibe, the brand, like, the way the brand actually evolves will be once you start that name, you can start to really polish how you want to experience it. And that’s the fun thing, right, of growing a brand, for sure, I think, yeah, once you settle on a name, I think everybody starting a brand should always settle on a name at some point. I don’t think you need to straight away, but I do feel, because I’ve had people or friends ask me, we can’t think of our name from our brand and stuff, it’ll come to you, but it’s just sometimes you can be lucky.
Yeah. Okay, so you started in 2021. And when did you get connected with Alexandra to help you with, I imagine, pattern making and 3D prototyping. And I don’t know exactly what she’s doing for you, but when and how did you guys get connected?
Alexander Massey [00:08:26]:
So I was doing some watercolor type drawings with a friend who’s in Australia and she’s quite good at quite creative and doing kids books and cartoons and things, and she was helping me with that. And I had done some basic patterns myself, which were pretty bad, which weren’t the best. And I needed help basically getting them something resembling, basically a graded spec. And I went onto a freelancer site, which is quite well known on fivEr.
Oh, fiver. Okay.
Alexander Massey [00:09:05]:
Yeah. And I found someone in, I think they were in the Caribbean and they were doing like, just basically bulk. It was more just I wanted some graphic placement of all these watercolors on these patterns that I’ve made. And it just was taking me hours and hours now. So I was like, I’m going to try and get someone to do all this for me.
Alexander Massey [00:09:31]:
And they were like, oh, well, we can help with this, but if you want to do better patterns. This particular person happened to know because she worked with Alex in some other company years ago and she was in. Yeah, she was really obscure.
That’s so random.
Alexander Massey [00:09:49]:
It’s the most random way of finding someone.
Because Alex lives in the US. Yeah, but she’s in the Caribbean.
Alexander Massey [00:09:59]:
She was like Venezuela or somewhere. She was. No, she was. She. She basically said, I worked with Alex at this underwear company or something in some area. And Alex remembered because obviously she knew. And she said, you need to go. This person know.
Alexander Massey [00:10:18]:
Your stuff is too hard for basically, like, I’m like, okay, that sounds fine. And then Alex was sort of like, we had first conversations and that’s where we got together. But before that, I’d actually been pushed quite hard by my manufacturer in the States to say that I needed more stringent, more detailed tech packs and designs and processes because they weren’t entertaining sloppy type customers.
They just weren’t. That’s great to hear because a lot of factories will work with you and then your end product comes out. Not so great because the instructions weren’t so great. I’ve heard some stories.
Alexander Massey [00:11:04]:
We don’t do that. We’re very strict. She’s amazing. But we keep it very structured and even call time on teams. We just need to just be doing business because we don’t have time. In manufacturing, you don’t have time because everything.
I want to understand the order of events. So you had these patterns, like sewing patterns, and you were trying to take these watercolor designs and place them on the patterns for production through a frienD.
Alexander Massey [00:11:42]:
Through someone I found on fiver. And they were like, I can’t fully help you with this, to make these patterns better.
But she recognized that the patterns were not great for production. And then at what point did your factory say, hey, we need better tech packs and we need from the get go, pretty much. Okay.
Alexander Massey [00:12:04]:
And I sort of then disappeared off into all by my own and just left them because they had lots of things to do. So I’m like, right. Well, I’ve been told pretty much that I need to go away and regroup.
And not figure stuff out a little bit before you come back. So had you diyed all that stuff.
Alexander Massey [00:12:23]:
You had sent to them, some tech.
Pack type of thing?
Alexander Massey [00:12:26]:
Yeah, I DIy it all.
Okay. And they said, this is not going to work.
Alexander Massey [00:12:30]:
Well, obviously, I’d only ever had, like, patterns that were paper based patterns in the past. I’d never done anything in a digital type environment or in a more modern production environment, maybe. So my experience was always just at home and DIY, and that’s probably everybody’s experience, right?
Yeah. And home sewing patterns are very different than production.
Alexander Massey [00:12:58]:
Yeah. And some people start out, like, with DIY because that’s all they know. And then a lot of people that obviously are in the industry get exposed to amazing software packages and all kinds of stuff, but that’s just not normal for when you’re doing it at home, know. So I kind of seen from both angles, which is, that’s. That’s how we got started. And Alex just tweaked stuff, and we’ve tweaked stuff and done stuff and built a whole range and collection and different things.
So she started with you pretty much at the beginning, like, as you were getting the patterns ready and refined and the tech pack more professional to then go back to the factory.
Alexander Massey [00:13:41]:
Yeah, she pretty much started with me from the get go, and she’s probably been more involved in the brand than. She’s probably just as much involved in the brand as me in the sense of knowing decisions and choosing different color, different things, and almost making calls because I trust her advice explicitly. So it’s really cool. We get along. I think I’m having to lean on someone because I haven’t had this long.
Yeah. Yeah. So do you work with any other freelancers or just Alex?
Alexander Massey [00:14:25]:
Well, so my factory is also freelance. Oh, can you say it’s actually Satsuma designs over in.
It sounds super.
Alexander Massey [00:14:38]:
So, yeah. Jennifer Porter from Satsuma Designs.
Jennifer Porter. Okay. I swear I know the name.
Alexander Massey [00:14:44]:
Yeah, she’s very know. I don’t know what her sort of, like, standing is on. Her main business is uniforms and other things. And I’m not sure how she, I think whether she has particular clients or she has this sort of client, I don’t know whether she has a filter on who she sort of has in. But anyway, I went to her and it was great. And we’ve done some production and different samples and there’ll be more in the future. I’m just not sure how she structures her business in the sense of she’s full freelance or she’s in and out. I work with freelancers.
Alexander Massey [00:15:26]:
My whole business is built around freelancers, actually. Yeah, everybody’s a freelancer, right down to my photos. My friend who does my photos and all my. When we do photo shoots and all kinds of photo days and whatnot, he’s an independent photographer. One of my friends who’s a stylist friend who, she does a lot of stuff and we have models of all our different just shoot days and arranging and more, just the coordination of the run sheets for the shoots. I do a lot of the posing and a lot of the stuff to figure out how people are going to stand and whatnot. Myself as well. With her, again, she’s freelance.
Alexander Massey [00:16:09]:
Does that are in, this is in the United Kingdom, which is where I am. So, yeah, there’s the US people, there’s the UK people. And then in Australia, I’ve got a friend who’s the lady that does the watercolors and stuff. She’s pretty much my brand sounding board and everything that, like run through to stay on brand, to keep on brand, to keep everything within how I want to structure, how I want to visit the brand moving forward. I run through her and we do a lot of the drawings and any new watercolors and anything like that is done for herself. So, yeah, again, freelance.
Okay. So I’d love to hear you talk a little bit about. And it sounds like most of your freelancers have come through personal connection.
Alexander Massey [00:17:00]:
Yeah, well, I mean, again, Jennifer from Satsuma, she was found by Google Search.
Oh, okay. What did you search for?
Alexander Massey [00:17:10]:
Fashion manufacturers. Manufacturers on clothing USA text and just did email. About four or five email, like ten factories. And it was only until I got her, someone actually replied and I had to ask. That was found through searching in the UK? Yes, friends, known connections, Australia the lady that did that actually covered a friend’s, done all the graphics on a friend’s coffee van. She’d done the layout, the whole stickers, vinyl wrap, and she designed all that. And basically my friend recommended.
So it was again, a recommend date through a connection. Yeah.
Alexander Massey [00:17:52]:
Okay. But I’d say it’s 50 50 through connections, through just finding someone online, through searching.
Okay, so talk a little bit about, you work with a lot of freelancers and you can maybe not name names because you arguably still have ongoing relationships, business relationships with these people. But I’d love to hear some of the good and the bad. What are some things that some of your freelancers have done where you’re just like, maybe you’ve heard this, but something that people teach a lot in freelancing is like surprise and delight your customers. Right? Surprise and delight your client. Like, what can you do to make them feel really special, make them feel really happy? So I’d love to hear some things that freelancers have done maybe to surprise and delight you. And it might be something that they didn’t even think of, but for you, you were like, oh, that was just really nice that you did that. It just made my life easier. And then also I’d love to hear some of the things that they do that maybe drive you crazy, which is where you might not name names, but start with some of the things that Some people do that just feel really good from a client’s perspective.
Alexander Massey [00:18:56]:
Well, I think really only got good, positive things to say about in the sense of everybody, I think you have to be flexible, I suppose. In the sense of time, perhaps, maybe so with freelancer to a degree, because of everybody’s schedule is their own, effectively, and there is no one to take up that work when obviously they might have some family thing on or something like that. It’s not like we’re in a big company. But on a positive note, sort of thing, in the sense of, I went to one of my freelancers and I visited and I got a whole, like, basically, when I checked into my hotel, I booked nearby. She’d actually dropped a whole welcome hamper in the reception.
Alexander Massey [00:19:46]:
In my room, on my bed. And I’d come in from the UK and it was like, local products, local brands for that city. All the things are synonymous with that particular place.
Oh, I love this.
Alexander Massey [00:20:00]:
Linked it to, this is why you’re here. This is us. This is about us and this is our city, or this is our home. Even down to an apple.
A local apple.
Alexander Massey [00:20:14]:
Yeah, always a US apple. Probably or something. But I don’t know, they’re always bigger in the US anyway, right?
I do. K gets a really big apple.
Alexander Massey [00:20:27]:
That’s why that’s always a nice surprise. So it’s a very personable thing sometimes with freelancers if you get, yeah, it’s good. But yeah, no real negative or no nil. Like, I think my only thing would say is, as I said just before, is about schedules. You have to be probably more aware of people’s personal lives in some respects with freelancers because they’re not as sort of shielded from days off in sickness like you might be at a company. Whereas in theory, if you were dealing with big companies, someone else should be able to pick up that particular job. Whereas if you’re the only one reliant, sorry, if you’re the only person, like, you rely on one person to deliver you something and they get sick or something happens, then it could potentially be delayed. But in my case, I’ve never had those problems and I’m very lucky to have people that would probably work even when they’re sort of not well for me because they’re so lovely.
Alexander Massey [00:21:30]:
But that’s what a freelancer normally would do anyway because they’re passionate about what they do. So it’s not work in a sense.
To them because it’s, well, you might also be a very lovely client because I was a freelancer for over a decade and let me tell you, sometimes it’s work depending on the client.
Alexander Massey [00:21:53]:
Yeah, I mean, I’m sure there is depending on the client.
That’s awesome. I love that welcome basket idea. Very thoughtful. Obviously something that can only be done under very specific circumstances. I’m going to push you to think a little bit harder on just a day to day basis. Are there any things that some freelancers do that just makes it, and you might not even notice it because it sounds like you have a really great team. But is there anything you could pick out?
Alexander Massey [00:22:36]:
Well, I suppose being quite flexible to, again, I’m probably coming down to just about the thing about the sick and not working thing, and they’ve got lives, but their connection of after hours and in the sense of the calendar or availability or you can always, Alex is really great. Everybody’s really good. I use slack for most of my communications with everybody, and everybody’s sort of like willing to use that and even converse no matter what, just constantly, even any time of the day effectively. And not to say I’m expecting that or anything like that, but I think it’s something that probably goes unnoticed that you’ve had a reply at 09:00 at night from someone at 09:00 at night their time. Yeah, I’m trying to think of some little things like you say that might. I just think that in my case, I’ve been very lucky with people and everybody’s extremely thorough and delivers what they say on the package or on the box or on the menu. And I don’t have any sort of surprises because I don’t really want surprises in the sense of usually the surprises I’ll get aren’t the ones I want, but everything sort of comes as it should. AnD I think that’s that.
Okay. I mean, you made a comment earlier that I perked up a little bit on. You said something like, so Alex does pattern making and does like 3D work and CLO and stuff, but it sounds like you said you run a lot of other things by her, like the color assortment, things like that. So sometimes I think it’s even like the free answer. Like if they have an opinion, speaking up and saying something and saying, hey, Alec, I know you guys are both named technically, so you, Alexander, like, she could just do the patterns and not say anything, or she can say, hey, you know what? Actually, Alexander, I think that it would be a little bit better if we did this. Even though she hasn’t been hired for, let’s say, design or color trend or inspiration or something. Is there something there or.
Alexander Massey [00:24:56]:
No, that is right. There’s definitely a degree of assistance that happens, unbeknownst to me. A lot of the time that I might just ask an opinion, just and not think twice. And it’s just like, that’s a good, and take those opinions. A lot of cases. That’s always appreciated. And it does go, I suppose it is noticed, but not so much. But yeah, I suppose you just don’t think about it as something that you think is normal after you start working time and time again with freelance.
Alexander Massey [00:25:33]:
I want to be able to bounce ideas off someone. If I can’t do that, I feel empty. There’s spaces.
I bring it up just because I’ve been teaching people how to freelance in fashion for six years now, and so I’ve worked with a lot of freelancers and I see a lot of people asking questions about like, well, they didn’t hire me for that. So do I need to charge extra or. That’s not part of the project scope that I put together. Sort of like where to draw the line on what to give advice on or not. And when does it start to lean into, hey, if you want me to, and I’m not saying this is the case with Alex, but if you want me to help with design and trend and stuff, then I need to put together another proposal. And so I think there’s a lot of people out there who, depending on the relationship and sort of the energy, who might sort of put a block to that and be like, well, if you want me to help with all of that, then I can put together something else. And there’s a balance. Right.
Because a client, not saying you do this, but a client could maybe start to lean really heavily on that freelancer for that sort of stuff when it really wasn’t part of the original scope and it could become a bigger project. And maybe the client is doing that unknowingly because the freelancer is just helping and it just kind of grows into this other thing. And there’s all sorts of nuances with this, right, depending on like, well, is the freelancer charging per hour or per project? Because if they’re charging per hour, then they just charge for their time and then it’s easy. But if it’s project, then it gets a little tricky. So that’s just where my head goes on a lot of this stuff.
Alexander Massey [00:27:15]:
Yeah, no, that’s fair to say. I can understand. Yeah. But I’ve not had that sort of. I haven’t gone down to that level of questions anybody much. But I can see where there could certainly be things like that come up.
Yeah. All right, so talk to me a little bit about before we hit record, we started nerding out on WFX and I was like, wait, what? WFX? I don’t even know how we got on the topic. And you were talking about. Yeah, you were talking about software that you use to manage. Well, you talk about it.
Alexander Massey [00:27:55]:
Yeah. So one of the things I identified very early on in making a lot of this stuff in the US, in the Western world, was there’s no really provision for waste because it’s too expensive. Everybody’s time is too expensive, every shipping is too expensive. People like, materials are too expensive. Everything’s just so expensive. So I needed to find a way of basically limiting what I had on stock in the sense of raw material. Because in a world of making things in the US, you’re only limited to particular styles and collections of fabrics and whatever might have to have on site or in the US in stock effectiveLy. I’ve not even got a massive factory where I could just have shelves and shelves.
Alexander Massey [00:28:55]:
Oh, they go and grab that fabric because I’m in India and I’ve got tons and tons of textile places. I’m in downtown Seattle, I’m in downtown New York. I’ve only got so many different stocks I can draw off. So I wanted a way of making sure that I could produce my production runs without running out effectively because I would have to reorder this stuff. It could take like weeks or months.
Alexander Massey [00:29:23]:
And that’s not a problem when you’re making this stuff in China or in India, because you’re there, you literally just walk next door and grab more because it’s there. And it’s the totally the opposite thing. Because if you’re not making a lot of your fabrics local in the US, and you are having to import them, and a majority of them are, and even when you are making them in the US, you’re only going to make so much because the production costs are so high that just can’t just keep because there just isn’t the market for that particular style or color or whatever it might be. So I basically thought of a way where WFX does on a high level. And it’s sort of something that works in with an MRP or ERP like net suite, which is big companies have, which I’ve used in other businesses, is I wanted something that would basically plan materials, which is what an MRP stands for. Material planning, reporting, planning. Yeah. So material reporting, planning, sorry.
Alexander Massey [00:30:29]:
That would basically allow me to input all of my designs, all of my patterns, all my material consumption figures, which Alex has got the skills to create because she has worked in those sort of worlds as well. And then that would actually tell me how many centimeters of fabric, how many centimeters of binding or thread or buttons or pieces of buttons, how many care label all that stuff. And it would produce basically these manufacturing reports or orders, which I could then send to my manufacturer and say, you’re going to need to make this, and this is what you’re going to need. And then on the other side of it, it would spit out purchase orders and I could say to the factory that’s making all the raw materials, I need all this. And then it would feed it in and basically it would concoct the recipe to produce finished product, which is what the factory in the US is made. So, which allowed me to book a time in a week in or whatever production, and know in that week and that time I’m going to have everything on hand and there’s not going to be a phone call or an email. I would run out of this.
Alexander Massey [00:31:45]:
And that is a big problem with a lot of manufacturing is that people don’t plan and they get into it and then your half made products are sitting there and that’s costing money because you’re doing someone else’s job. So yeah, that’s where I needed it on a low level or very low basic level, which is why I found some software that’s very good, integrates my ECOM stuff, and it means I can handle all the production and the ordering myself. And I know what I’m going to have on hand and I can deliverable, accurately plan and know I’m going to get that stock. And there’s no drawn out lead times because I know I physically have the goods.
You said it’s WFX.
Alexander Massey [00:32:36]:
I use Katana, which there’s a few of them.
Oh, I thought you said WFX. And I was like, wait, I think that’s $25,000 a year.
Alexander Massey [00:32:44]:
Yeah. So basically WFX is a whole suite of things. And once you graduate to your big brand, like, say, J. Crew. Sure, absolutely. Go and use WFX. But for a startup and for a small brand like me, I want it effective with the same capabilities but on a very low level and a very granular level because I don’t have to have bold people using it. I don’t need that high level view yet.
So what’s it called that you use?
Alexander Massey [00:33:22]:
Katana. So there’s a couple of them out there. But this particular one, Katana is really good because it’s got quite good integrations with Shopify and stuff like. And it’s quite low cost as well. So it’s low cost. It integrates well. It has quite good units. It has the ability to use units for consumption.
Alexander Massey [00:33:54]:
So like centimeters and yards and feet and all the different things and liters or gallons and all this stuff. So you could create recipes in it that would make. It was sort of loosely designed enough fashion. And that’s why I picked it because.
Okay, how do you spell it?
Alexander Massey [00:34:13]:
What is it spelled with A-K-K-A-T-A-N-A-K-A-T-A-N-A-K-A-T. It’s spelled Kakatana.
Oh, just K-A-T-A-N-A. Okay.
Alexander Massey [00:34:25]:
A-N-A. So Kilo Alpha Tango, Alpha November. Alpha Katana. And basically.
Here we go. Katanamrp.com.
Alexander Massey [00:34:38]:
Yeah, that’s there.
Yeah, we’ll put that in the show notes. That’s a great resource for brands, freelancers to help their brands manage.
Alexander Massey [00:34:46]:
Well, if you’re manufacturing in house, then it’s very handy if you’re not manufacturing in house. It’s definitely overkill, but I am manufacturing in house. So I had that problem of having to manage all these fabrics and all.
These different material, it’s a lot.
Alexander Massey [00:35:08]:
But for someone that’s just going out there and finding a factory and saying, here’s my pattern, here’s my tech pack, make me this, you don’t need it because they’re handling all of that.
Right? Full package production, right?
Alexander Massey [00:35:19]:
Yeah, but I had no option. I was forced into, like. Well, not forced, but basically I encouraged into, well, because it was going to be a disaster if I didn’t have some sort of management of Hammond strap it because I don’t know, like I look at a tech pack and I got the material consumption out for one pair of pajamas in small. Well, I could go with a calculator in a spreadsheet and then go, okay, well, that’s this many centimeters of this color, but then I got seven other colors. Starts to get really complicated. But until you actually see it and it’s on the screen and you can see how it all works, it’s actually quite simple. And you just got to enter all the data in.
Yeah, and like you mentioned earlier, let’s say you were in India. You can just go right there and get it, but you’re doing all this remote and everything’s coming from a different place. So it’s a lot to not just manage the logistics because of the logistics, but also then you got these physical logistics to wrangle. I’d love to hear a little bit, and I don’t know if Katana does anything for you, but how you have been working with sampling and prototypes and fittings and stuff with. You’re in the UK, Alex is in Pittsburgh, I believe. Right. And your manufacturer is in Seattle. Those are not very close in the.
So like, how logistically are you manufacturing with all these remote freelancers, physical samples, prototyping, fittings, that type of thing.
Alexander Massey [00:36:58]:
So my collections and different designs and everything have all been done in 3D for on. So that sort of starts to help the actual fit from the start because we know it fits a virtual model. So that limits any major issues and clashes and problems straight away. The tech packs, because of my factory’s experience with making things and they care so much about making things right, is visually the first thing the tech packs get printed out or the tech packs get looked at by them and any things that are picked up are pretty much fed straight back to us before we even make a sample. So straightaway, some things will flag up on that. Then the sample is made. After all those things, virtual, all those checks, the sample is made and as that’s progressed, then things are still found. Maybe some sewing operations aren’t right.
Alexander Massey [00:38:09]:
And then what I have done generally is create a sample for me and a sample for Alex.
So you have the factory create two samples.
Alexander Massey [00:38:19]:
Yeah. And then they DHL it pretty much to Alex or USPs it to Alex and then DHL it to, you know, it is a cost, but there’s just no other physical way. Now if the factory is in China, you’d be doing the same thing.
Alexander Massey [00:38:38]:
So there’s no real difference in that sense. And, yeah, there is still a limiting factor that you physically have to try these things. You have to know if they’re going to fit. But we’ve been very lucky and we haven’t had to have lots of samples. We’ve been very lucky.
That’s great. And I think. I’m pretty sure she uses ClO, right? Alex uses ClO?
Alexander Massey [00:39:04]:
I think so.
Three D. Yeah. So it’s just a question that comes up a lot freelancers. Like, wait, how do you do pattern making? Or how do you do technical design remotely? Typically, yeah. The factory might be in China, but the design director, arguably you. Right. And then if people are used to working in house, then the technical designer or whatever the company hierarchy is. Right.
But everybody’s like under the same roof and now everybody’s under completely different roofs. And so it’s just an extra cost of getting two samples and then you guys each are looking at the same thing in real time, in real life.
Alexander Massey [00:39:40]:
It’s just a cost of doing business in the sense.
Alexander Massey [00:39:43]:
There’s no real way. The only way we can limit it is we inherently don’t do massive changes to things, even when we’re developing something. So we don’t mess anything up in the sense of make things worse because it sent a sample and had a whole heap of things changed. We don’t know what’s actually where the problem is or the other thing is any new selections is my idea of the brand’s ethos anyway, is sustainable, not using, having fast fashion, not having a million different variations. So the tech packs share pretty much a very similar sort of ethos. So, like, for instance, we’ve done some shorts from pajama, shorts from the long pants, and the shorts are the same sewing instructions, right down to the fact that the only difference is the length, the leg pretty much. There’s a few of little things, but such a small difference. So I know that I could make actually one sample of those, and that’s all I need to make, really, for production.
Alexander Massey [00:40:48]:
I probably won’t even need to make a sample. I could probably just go for production, but I will make a sample because I’d like to have a pair of shorts. But also, it’s just someone they say, I trust that those are going to be okay because the rest of the waistband and everything else we did in that world, we fixed any might have been issues in the past. So it’s just when new products are being done, I think that’s where the air freight and all the shipping and stuff can become quite painful, because you’re trying to coordinate getting this stuff from everywhere. But I’ve worked with suppliers in Asia and China and places over the years and with automotive, and I know some of the frustrations people can have, because you get stuff turn up and it’s totally not right and it’s totally just disaster. And that’s super disappointing, especially if you paid for it, because that’s where the control over the tech pack and they’re actually producing exactly what you want is sometimes really hard to sort of get a hold of where I’m lucky to have good people around me. We know that when we send the tech pack and it will maybe made correctly. And also, I suppose the other thing, rewinding to that point about freelancers, about care or whatever, one of them thing with my manufacturer, and even in Alex’s case, or any case, is I’ve had mistakes in the tech pack and just the OD mistake that may be there, no one’s fault, but it’s been picked up by the seamstress because they’re so experienced that they’re like this fly stitches.
Alexander Massey [00:42:37]:
Something’s wrong. This shouldn’t be. This is wrong. And we’re going to make this in production, but this isn’t right. And then that’s like a phone call or a team’s call, a Zoom call or email. Stop making this. They don’t make it, they’ll actually come back to me and say, or ask, oh, do you realize this? Bounce that off Alex. Yeah, that’s a mistake.
Alexander Massey [00:42:57]:
Whoops. And then we go back. Yeah, we make it this way. Change the tech pack, revise it. And that’s something that if you were dealing with someone, like, say, overseas in a factory, they just make it wrong. And they just send it to you.
They sure will.
Alexander Massey [00:43:10]:
And then you’re just like, oh, so you won’t know about it until you get it. And you may not even pick it up because it’s a stitch. Right, or something. That’s a little bit about the manufacturing, I suppose.
Yeah. Well, you’re smart to ask for the sample even on like a second run of production, because I have a really good friend who has her own brand and she was doing her manufacturing in New York City, so it was still stateside. It wasn’t over in China or anything. And she needed to order another round of production. She goes, I just skipped a sample just for time, and the whole production came out wrong because they had new people on the line or who knows what. Right. It happens. So I always say, no matter what, you get a sample and you approve it before production.
Like, no matter how amazing your factory is, no matter, it doesn’t matter. She had to offload the whole thing off at like TJ Maxx or something, a discount retailer. So it happens. So you’re smart to do that, even though the extra expense of paying for the sample, paying for the shipping, et cetera, it’s worth it.
Alexander Massey [00:44:25]:
Yeah, no, I agree. I think it’s very thorough to have multiple samples just before you purchase stuff.
Yeah. Well, thank you, Alex, for coming on and chatting. It’s lovely to hear about you and your story and your brand and what you’re building. And I’m so glad you’ve had such great experiences with all your freelancers. That’s phenomenal. It’s not always the case. So you’re doing something right. You’ve connected with the right people.
That’s really exciting. First of all, where can everybody find you and connect with you online?
Alexander Massey [00:44:56]:
Just go to CharlesWillianalexander Co. Uk or.com and just, there’s an email address just in the contact thing and just send me an email there. I checked the mailbox.
Awesome. And then I’d love to ask you the question that I ask everybody at the end of the interview, which is, what is one thing people never ask you about working in the fashion industry that you wish they.
Alexander Massey [00:45:25]:
But I think the question is, is your brand going to become massive or some, like, they think you’re in the fashion industry, right? So they think you like some sort of like Calvin Klein or someone. I don’t know.
Alexander Massey [00:45:40]:
Working? I’m working pretty hard. Yeah, of course. But I’m not really in my brand to become like the Golden Club. I’m more in it because I like the brand and I like the products and I like the actual thing I’m making. And I think it’s really cool. I do other things as well, and I feel that it wouldn’t be fun. CWA is supposed to be fun. It’s all about having fun.
Alexander Massey [00:46:06]:
It’s not about just world domination or anything like. Yeah, so that’s something that I sort of remember.
Yeah, that’s good. That’s good to keep yourself grounded on that level. And it’s great. I feel like people don’t last very long in fashion unless they’re in it, because they just truly love it.
Alexander Massey [00:46:26]:
Yeah, I can see that now.
You could see that after a couple of years, right?
Alexander Massey [00:46:31]:
Yeah. I’ve got more passionate about it as I’ve grown it. It’s always like I’m someone that wouldn’t be able to stop, though, in the sense of designs. And I know I need to sort of focus on current products and things as well, and I want to do more all the time, and that’s the fun I like about it. I think that’s where a lot of people get the buzz from it as well, because they’re creating something new, and that is what fashion can be because you’re just not making the same thing time and time again. You can actually diversify and do different things. Same but different, different sort of situation.
Yeah, definitely. Awesome. Well, thank you for sharing your story. It’s very inspiring to hear what you’re doing and hear what your experience has been like.
Alexander Massey [00:47:14]:
Yeah, no worries. Well, yeah, anytime.