Podcast

Episode: 284 |
Kazuki Kozuru-salifoska:
Plus-Size Fashion:
Episode
284

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

Kazuki Kozuru-salifoska

Plus-Size Fashion

Show Notes

Kazuki Kozuru-salifoska is a fashion professional, a skilled creative designer as well as tech designer. Together with Doni Jantzen, she founded KEDIC Fashion Workshop.

One of the services they offer is helping fashion brands get into the plus-size market.

I was shocked to hear that the ‘standard’ clothing sizes manufactured by many brands don’t fit 70% of women consumers in the U.S. KEDIC Fashion Workshop helps brands with the technical aspects of translating designs to create a plus-size collection.

In this episode, Kazuki explains the whole design process from concept through production and the role that her firm plays.

Learn more at https://www.kedicworkshop.com/services

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman 00:01
Welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional Unleashed is produced by Umbrex, which connects you with the world’s top independent management consultants. And I’m your host Will Bachman. I’m very excited to be here today with Kazuki kazoo, Sally Frasca, a good friend of mine and someone who’s going to talk to us about the fashion industry and some particular roles in it. Kazuki Welcome to the show. Thank you. Thanks for having me. So Kazuki, you can put it in your words better than mine, tell us a little bit about your firm and what role you play in the, in the whole process of getting fashion made?

Kazuki Kozuru 00:48
Sure. The company I founded with my buddy, Donnie Janssen is called KETEK fashion workshop. And we call ourselves sort of fashion apparel production consultant firm. And part of the fashion design or manufacturing process we touch is what we call the designing product development and pre production process. And we do a little bit of production process support as well. But those are usually done by the factories. And our role is to sort of facilitate the factories and troubleshoot with them. And maybe he’s part of QA process set up kind of thing.

Will Bachman 01:31
Okay, so well, multiple of those terms, I don’t understand. So, which is fine, right? Because I’m, I’m new to it. So the goal here is to teach me so let’s maybe you could walk me through the entire, you know, set of processes of getting a item of apparel, designed from the very beginning concept to and it’s actually on on the shelf somewhere, walk me through those different steps. And then along the way, you can highlight, you know, where you get involved, but just like walk me from the very beginning.

Kazuki Kozuru 02:03
Sure. So let’s say you Mr. Bachmann wants to start your own fashion label, women’s or men’s. And you come to us with like, you have this great idea, like you think you make a great, great splash in the fashion industry, and you want us to help you make it come true. So the very first step is what we call design process, which could involve a sourcing process of like looking for fabrics, looking for trends, that applies to your target audience, and looking for styles and silhouette that, you know, sometimes you already have that in your head, that we sort of coax it out of you to put it in that form where other people can understand what you want to produce. And that would be you know, when you see like on the TV shows, or movies, you see a fashion designer, like sitting at a cafe and making these beautiful sketches. That is the part of that process where we draw up quick sketches based on the fabrics that we’re sourcing with the client, and incorporating trends and colors and sort of texture in the feel of that collection that you want to create. So that is the beginning of the design process. And then you could break it down into like more minute details. But we’re not going to do that because we’re going to be talking for hours, okay. And one sort of you can’t cement design ideas in rough sketches and illustrations, then and lined up the fabrications and color schemes you want to work with. Then we go into product development phase off the design process, which is the goal is to have a showroom or salesperson ready samples. So once you have the sketches, you work out the constructions and details and fabrics. And then you engage a pattern maker and have the pattern maker make the patterns and then then you engage a seamstress or a solo or a sample hands, who would then cut and sew the garment the sample. And you once these samples are done, you go over it with a client and a lot of times what your client Mr. Beckman thought would be a great idea on when he was in his head, or when he was a drawing. It might not really work in real life as a garment. And then you might say, Oh, I want this line moved. Or I don’t like the silhouette. Let’s change it a little bit. So there’s a lot of brainstorming that happens once this first set of samples are made. And once the revisions are decided, then we go back to the pattern maker, direct the pattern maker to change the patterns, change the patterns, make another sample with the sample hand and hopefully that is is what we call a salesman sample, or proto sample, or showroom sample. And once that’s those are ready, that’s when a lot of times Will Bachman would start to approach buyers with these samples. And

Will Bachman 05:18
yeah, okay, so that that sounds like an amazing step to go from this sort of illustration of what the, what the garments going to look like. And then the pattern maker has to turn that into actual measurements and so forth. That sounds like an incredible art and skill, right there. Yeah.

Kazuki Kozuru 05:42
And a lot of people think it’s, it’s a lot of people don’t know how much like, I made it sound kind of short. But this could take months and months of work. And back in the day, when I started as a baby fashion designer, the fashion designer had to do everything they had to sketch they had to source they had to create the inspiration board, and talk to the pattern maker, and create sort of what now be called technical package. But now that job has split into two designers, and technical designers. So I currently do both designer and technical designer roles, mostly because I started in the fashion industry when there was no such job as technical designer. But most companies have two separate department, tech design department and design department. And they will be working in tandem, and talking to people who source fabric or patternmaker or seamstress to really make sure that whatever the initial designer, Mr. Will Bachman had in his head into sort of reality. And that’s the Yeah, that’s the take a long time. And some people like to bring in what some of the clients we work with, like to bring in the garments out of their closet, or they would just buy some sort of garment online or at the store and bring it in and tell us to just copy it or rub it off. But I personally consider that a theft. So I always try to persuade them into tweaking and changing something to make it their own. And so far, we’ve been successful.

Will Bachman 07:31
So that the technical design piece would be what like so the design piece is coming up with the concept sourcing the fabric and the sketch. And then the technical design is taking that sketch and making it into the pattern,

Kazuki Kozuru 07:45
making it into translating, creating a tool to translate that beautiful vision into a more realistic technical form. So that pattern maker can understand what you’re saying, Okay, great. So designers would do these beautiful sketches of like a lady walking the dog in this beautiful dress or something and hand it to a technical designer and technical designer would take that and turn it into what we call flat sketch, which sort of looks like a blueprint of a clothing, no flair, it’s just accurate drawing of each garment with all the scenes in place and all the top stitching in place. And when that turns into when it gets included into a technical package, we call it tech packs, then information about like the height of the pen or the distance between the seam or edge and the top stitching or even like stitch per inch for top stitching sometimes gets specified and all that information gets added or created by the technical designer.

Will Bachman 08:58
Okay. So, okay, so then I interrupted you. So we talked about you would get the kind of showroom sample ready to go and then and that they can actually take the buyers and then what are the what are the follow on steps.

Kazuki Kozuru 09:12
So I’m usually in a traditional sense, buyers would somehow react and stop placing orders and then once the order information comes into the designer, Mr. Backman there, Mr. Bachman would edit your that your collection. So maybe you started out with like 30 samples and showed it to the buyers and maybe you have out of 3025 some styles that got sales against them, but five of them have maybe zero or very few orders against them, then you will decide to edit those out. And you will make the whole collection a little tighter and little smaller. Because the purpose of that is to make sure that you don’t end up with a massive amount of inventory because even if you have an order against style for like maybe 20 pieces, traditional factories are not going to produce 20 3050 pieces of style, they would want at least 300 pieces per style. So, once that is done is done is done, then and salesperson would hand it over to the production and production department production people person production manager production person would then start placing order for bulk material. So the fabrics, the trends that make sure the labels are in place, make sure what makes sure the hangers are ordered. Because those turnaround times are usually 45 days up. So production team starts running with that information, placing orders and then pre production team, their job, including the technical designer, is now to make sure that this beautiful sample that was made to be used as a sales tool will now be turned into a fit sample to make sure that the each style when it’s produced will fit a real human properly. And in a flattering kind of way while reflecting the original idea the original designer had.

Will Bachman 11:18
And tell me about that part about the fit design, because my understanding is that that’s a role that your firm plays in.

Kazuki Kozuru 11:26
Yeah, that is like our bread and butter in our service providing for the companies, the brands, we make sure that when things are produced, they fit properly. And for that we each company or brand has a fit model. And these models job is to maintain their body shape and body measurement within half an inch at any time. Wow. So these are amazing women who exercise regularly but not too much. And they can go out on the cruise and have fun with their friends. But come back on Monday, their body measurement is still within half an inch just what they’re supposed to be because they’re like, you know, the easiest thing to do is to use a mannequin who doesn’t eat or breathe. But you want humans to try on these garments and give you the feedback of like, Oh, it’s digging a little bit too much at the armhole. Or I can’t lift the arm arm without picking up the garment too much. Or I think I look like a football player. And that’s not the look that’s flattering on me. So we help you Mr. Buckman. Choose the fit model that works for your aesthetic vision and your customer base. And once that’s done, we start fitting these garments, the samples we have on hand, and hopefully those samples were made in the fit model size. But a lot of high end brands don’t do that they make the showroom samples like size zero or two. But they won’t fit model to be at like size four or six. Because you want the fit model to be in the middle of your sizing range. So if you’re offering the woman’s sizing from double zero to say 12, you kind of want that in the middle, which is like about size for six. Because what that means is that you’re making the pattern in that fit models body. So it looks great on her. And once that pattern is finalized, you’re taking that pattern and mathematically grading up and down from there. So if you’re offering from double zero to 12, and your fit model is size to her body is too close to the smaller range of the size offering that you have. And if you think about a lady whose size two in a lazy size eight or 10. It’s not that their body measurement is different, but the way they carry their weight is different. Like the larger size women have more projection, wear size, someone who’s like size two don’t have much of curves, right? They’re sort of like my mother used to call me tree trunk because I had no breasts, no hips, no waist, nothing. So if you make a cloth that looks good on young Kazuki and it might look good on me, but if I grade it up, someone who is three sizes larger than me, it’s not going to look good on them because they will have breast and they will have hit so even if it doesn’t like it’s not you’re not straining the fabric. It’s just not flattering on you. So you want to have the fit model that’s in the middle of the size range. We’ll help you do that. And once that model is identified We start fitting these samples on them. And just make sure that it’s comfortable, she can move. And it looks good on her that balance between front panel and back panel of the dress, or shirt or pant is balanced, so it’s not tipping one way or the other. And after that’s done, we do that a couple of times, revising the pattern and making the sample make a showing looks good. And one of the samples, at least one of them should be made by the factory that’s going to produce the garments. So then if we have to adjust the pattern to their tendency of maybe stretching out the neckline, or maybe stretching out or shrinking the armhole, we will adjust the patterns to compensate for their tendency. Once all that is done, patterns are approved, and then we help the client Mr. Backman grade up and down the pattern and infer that each company has what they call grading rules. So it so the rate of increasing and decreasing on each point of measure of the garment is usually developed uniquely to each company. There are like certain basic rules like usually, for numeric sizing, which is double 00246844. women wear body circumference at the bust, waist and hip are usually one inch, like that is pretty much universal. But how you grade up and down on like the torso length, or sleeve length, those things can vary from client and brand and companies. So we sort of work with them to see what their preferences are, which brand they kind of want to reference. And we poke around other brands. Grading rules by just studying their garments, and tell them like Calvin Klein looks like this is what they do. So maybe you know you’re in the right path, if that’s what you’re going for, or just give them what we believe to be the most logical grading rule that we have in our system. And tell them this is what we recommend, you know, if you want to do this, that’s what we can do. Then we take all that information and send it to a vendor that we closely work with that Gray’s the pattern. And they have the entire system set up where we send a pattern in digital form. And they great up and down a pattern to the size scale that we give them based on the grading rule we send them. And then we send that information to the factory along with the finalized tech back and what we call cutters must companies each pattern. And hopefully production team has done a good job and all the bulk goods are waiting for for us at the factory and production begins.

Will Bachman 18:01
So the factory doesn’t order the supplies. The brand will order the supplies have it shipped to the factory.

Kazuki Kozuru 18:07
Yeah, there are factories that though we call them vertical factories that have access to all that, like have access to the fabric Mills have access to trimmings, there are companies that do that. And I know I’m sure you know the company Li and Fung out of Hong Kong, they are the most they can do vertical operations like that, where you don’t have to worry about anything, they take care of everything. But their commissions are pretty high when you work with companies like that. And a lot of times you don’t have the control over how things fit in things. So then when something goes wrong, it’s hard for you to troubleshoot because all you can do is to say, this doesn’t look right, fix it. And you can sort of intelligently argue with them about exactly how to fix it. And when you’re relying on factory or or third party overseas to take care of your fit, you know, fitting is happening outside of your vision most of the time, then you don’t know exactly how they’re fitting. And when they’re overseas. They’re fit models, they find that in China or India, or probably not the you know the type of fit model you would like to be using if you had access.

Will Bachman 19:28
Now, am I correct? I think you’ve told me before that you have your firm has particular expertise in doing all of the fit fitting and scaling for for some of the plus sizes.

Kazuki Kozuru 19:41
Yeah, so what we do a big chunk of our business is to make sure that to help brands, the existing brands going into a plus size market, because we have an experience our team that we have now. We used to be Working at a company called gwynnie bee. And they were one of the first plus size subscription women’s clothing company. And when they started it, there wasn’t enough supply of plus size women’s wear that were, you know, nice and fashionable. So they decided to hire a bunch of us who, who knew how to produce plus size garments. So they would have in house private label cooperation. So when that’s where I met my business partner, Donnie, and I, that’s where I met our pattern makers, actually, I, I actually hire the pattern maker to go come work with us. So um, and because Greenie, B was not a fashion company, they’re more of a tech startup company. So their approach to apparel manufacturing was very data oriented, which is sort of unheard of in a fashion industry, where everyone to this day mostly make decisions with their gut feelings. So it was really interesting to learn to actually like be the nerd that I am and make decisions based on data and saw customer feedback in a way that was sort of organized. So once that work was done, we decided to just continue with what we were doing, because that’s going to be part of the job we had was to convince the existing straight size brands to produce plus size clothing for gwynnie Bee, and they didn’t know how to do it. So we would take their styles and convert them into plus size patterns, because you can’t great up from like size six pattern all the way up to size 24. If you think about size six lady in size 18. Ladies, the same problem I mentioned earlier between about between size two and size 10. Ladies, the difference in projection in the body in the shape of the body, even if the measurements are the same, is just really different. So you have to make a separate pattern for plus size range of the garment, even if the style is supposedly the same. And so our job was to sort of educate the brands, and convince them that this has to be done in order for the clothes to fit in and execute them for them by taking over the pre production process. Yeah, so.

Will Bachman 22:44
So this is really interesting. So some brands that will have what you call straight sizes, only go up to, you know, what sort of percent of the population do they leave out? It’s not

Kazuki Kozuru 22:57
leaving out 72% of the population, we say that again. It’s 72% of the population. That

Will Bachman 23:05
is amazing. So

Kazuki Kozuru 23:07
yeah, the last number was size 14, and up the US population of women who are size 14, and up which is considered the quote unquote, plus size range is 72% of the entire US population.

Will Bachman 23:21
That is extraordinary. So to think that these brands are, you know, intentionally like designing the clothes that only fit 30% of the population. It’s kind of mind blowing.

Kazuki Kozuru 23:34
Yeah, it is it like economically makes zero sense. And, like, I didn’t even think about that, right. When I was designing for brands. It didn’t occur to me like no one thought the look at these numbers until a few years ago. And even now, after these numbers have been tossed around in the apparel industry, there are still a lot of brands who are ignoring that fact. And especially now what were, you know, financial situation and economies a little up in the air. It baffles us at our company that it takes a lot of conversation for us to convince people to go into plus size.

Will Bachman 24:16
Yeah. Can you share the stories of any brands that have, you know, added plus sizes and what the impact was?

Kazuki Kozuru 24:24
Yeah, so I’m one of our our main clients. They’re called Veronica beard. And they are well established, high end American designer brands. They have a very clear aesthetic vision. And they’re, they’re found they were founded by two women who are opinionated, smart, and very creative. And they approached us I think they googled or something and then it was a pretty early point in our firm. And they were We were surprised the Veronica beard is contacting us through like, our contact list on our website. It’s working. So then. And by the time they found us, they were ready to go into plus size. And they wanted to do it right. And they didn’t, they understood that going into plus size was almost like creating a separate collection, which is the conversation we have to have with a lot of potential clients where this isn’t like you get to spend a couple $1,000. And it’s done. This is as if you’re starting a whole new collection from scratch, you are going to cultivate the new clientele, they’re out there. But if you don’t let them know you’re doing it, they’re not going to come find you. And you can’t be, you know, embarrassed about catering to women. But Veronica beard had already discussed all these things amongst themselves, and they were just ready to go. And they knew the amount of work you would take to do it, they had the marketing team lined up, they had styles sort of already chosen, they wanted us to help them finalize the styles because not every style work for plus size, body rain, sort of like not everyone can wear the all the dresses that are out there even in a straight sizing. So they came in with the right point of view and right attitude where they knew they didn’t know how to do it. And they sort of trusted us to like sort of guide them. And then we also this made sure that they understood that we’re human, we do make mistakes, but we learn all the time. And as we learn new things, we will be sharing that information with all our clients. So they’ve been doing this for about two years now. And they’ve had fashion shows that incorporated plus size runway models. And they their marketing team is always pushing and reminding everyone that they are including the the larger and of the ladies. And I think I believe they’re doing well. Their sales are, as we were told, because we’re not inside their their sales figures are really good in plus size range. And they are continuing with that, at least through next few seasons. So they plan the seasons ahead in this uncertain time that everyone’s freaking out over.

Will Bachman 27:40
That’s a great story. Yeah. Let’s, let’s pivot to kind of the today. So what do you see from your perspective of what’s going on with the coronavirus pandemic? How’s that affecting, you know, the fashion industry? What sorts of conversations are you having? Tell me a little bit about what you’re seeing.

Kazuki Kozuru 28:01
So, a lot of our clients, we had one client who put the plus size production program on hold for upcoming seasons, although they had already started developing it. So in the middle of the process, we sort of we sort of stopped and because everyone is afraid to spend their resources upfront, because they don’t know how the marketplace looks like when we come out of this. And we don’t, frankly, we don’t even know when we are truly going to come out of this situation. So there, there seems to be two distinct groups of our clients. One group is like, we’re going to hunker down, we’re going to just cut off and put all the unnecessary or non essential programs on hold to survive this storm. And there’s another wing of our clients who seem to be generally more of a smaller indie brands, who have been doing plus size and a lot of them are sort of like I call them the activist designers. Some of them are a plus size, like models themselves. So some of them might not be plus side themselves, but they’re very driven by their ideology about equality and just everything including fashion. And those those clients are almost gun whole about making sure that they will proceed with what we’re doing now together. So when we do come out of this, the plus size woman are not going to be left with like no selection in fashion industry. They want to make sure that there will be supply waiting for them when we all come out. Yeah. All right. Yeah, I think partly because they’re smaller so they’re not bogged down with like financial responsibilities with investors and things and There is one factory that we have a close relationship with who can do produce who order. So there’s no minimum working with them. They’re more expensive per unit to produce garments. And a lot of our smaller clients are working with that factory or factories that have really smaller minimum. So I think they’re lighter on their feet and their activist spirit is still driving to do what they consider the right thing to do.

Will Bachman 30:32
Fantastic. Well, Kazuki where can people find your firm online if you want to share a website if you want to share Twitter we’re working

Kazuki Kozuru 30:43
on our website is KETEK workshop calm. And I think from there, you can find us on Facebook and Instagram our we have an Instagram person who posts who shares a lot of interesting things or what our clients are posting. We share a lot of these things.

Will Bachman 31:06
Fantastic. Well, we will include those links in the show notes. Thank you. Kazuki, thank you so much for joining. No, thank you well, and stay safe. You do. Okay.

Kazuki Kozuru 31:19
Bye.

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