Bittersweet Customs /// Changes + a heartfelt letter

Bittersweet "Customs". {warning: this is long} ...come up for air when needed.
Photo credit:  Customer ///Jamie Anderson

2015 is a start of new things.
it's a prime time to evaluate old ways that didn't work...
and perfect and polish the processes that did.

The online store and showroom have been a huge blessing.
Thank you so much for your support. I am in awe of how awesome this year has been for PPP.
and yet, when I access the glitches and things that need to be re-worked.
Customs are the most puzzling and problematic process of all.

A couple years ago, on a hard day, I attempted to be done with customs once and for all.
I blasted a Facebook status and blog to let my customer base know and within minutes...
 I was flooded with customer letters and special requests begging me to not throw in the towel. 
Most of these customers I consider "PPP Heirlooms".
Many of these people (and you know who you are) have lived life and journeyed along side of me on my blog, the birth of my babies and the growth of PPP.
It wasn't as easy as I thought it would be to stand firm in my decision.

It also seemed unfair to say no, to people who had fair claims of being too tall or busty for our average sized patterns. I started to regret my decision as I pondered all the incredible custom projects over the years that I had the honor of making. Just to name a few, wrap skirts made from baby one-z's and baby blankets, collegiate shirts for college students on game days, baby shower gifts and my favorite bringing back new life to items that people once loved but either outgrew or needed to be re-worked somehow.

Its awesome to offer this kind of service to my customers.
Yet, the custom process has become "bittersweet" in more ways than one.
A very detailed, time-consuming, sometimes creatively challenging process.
and not very cost and time effective at all.

There are days, where I feel more like an alterations person.
Please don't take this wrong, THERE. is nothing WRONG with being an alterations person.
I am baffled and in awe of the precision of tailors.
I wouldn't dare touch a wedding gown or want to ever hem someones pants to the perfect quarter of an inch. The idea makes my palms sweaty. 
Alterations people are great at what they do and there is nothing wrong with this field.
its just not who I am.

As an artist I struggle at times with customs, because I feel creatively blocked trying to re-create an item that the customer is hoping will look exactly like a photo they saw, and its impossible.
As a business person I struggle because,  I know in the time I spent making one custom, I could design three from my heart PPP effortlessly that didn't require the extra elbow grease.

From a business standpoint, when you calculate how much something costs, its important to factor in time spent and money spent. Time is just as important. It always seems that an artist will end up not compensating themselves for time at all.

Truth be told,there isn't a lot of money to be made with handmade one of a kind clothing in general.
For starts, I am competing with prices of items that were made overseas and I simply can't beat that.
Some people might be misled when they see I sell 80-100K each year in PPP. Even that number shocks me when I do taxes each year. Its a shocking number, because its NOT at all what I bring home. Not even half.
My overhead is through the roof.
I feel like I should be part owner in Goodwill and surrounding thrift stores.
My weekly shopping trips are expensive.
And then there is elastic, thread, machine repair, labels, insurance, rent, website fees,
employees salaries, equipment, paypal fees, etsy fees, business cards..... 
You get where I am going. Things cost money.
But at the end of the day, I love what I do.
Money has never been the force that drives me.

Time is a valuable resource to be considered, especially when you have children and you see them sprouting up before your very eyes. I made a decision before I ever had children to leave New York and not follow through with continued design school. I knew the jet setting life of trade shows and business meetings was not for me. I wanted a small business, something I could tailor around children. My family is my driving force, everything I do is for them. Customs take up a lot of my time. For that reason alone, I have thought of doing away with customs all together. I just don't think I'm quite there yet because I have no idea what that will mean to many of my regular customers. So instead I am trying to re-work the process for now. Yet, I know someday, doing away with customs will be inevitable. 

Evolving is an interesting thing, growth a lot of times means taking steps backward.
Its taken me years to understand this.

Let me back this thing up a bit: 

I remember when I was in college, I told my Grandfather that I wanted to change my major from Journalism to fashion design, he was not happy.
He was old school and was very supportive of my writing.
He was taken a back that my heart had changed and that I was leaning toward fashion all of a sudden.
I was saddened, trying to explain to him what making clothing meant to me.

At the time I was waiting tables, selling towel tops made of underwear elastic and fringe bits.
I was slinging them alongside burritos and I had never been more excited to do something in all my life. I dreamt of owning a shop, making this thing a living.... 
I loved the entire process, the thrifting, the surprise in finding the unknown treasure.
taking it home and ripping it apart and patching it back together more beautifully.
it was therapeutic and wonderful.
I was made for this, and I knew it. 

and yet there was still my Grandfather. There wasn't sufficient words to explain to him how my heart raced when I touched textiles imagining all that they could become. I knew no matter what I said... the words wouldn't accurately capture my passion. He never understood until the day, my dream had actually transpired, he walked into my first shop and saw me smiling behind my sewing machine, throwing clothes on the racks and the walls, surrounded by fabrics and piles of scraps.
 Ill never forget him leaving that day, hugging me and giving me his approval. 
He had to see it, and that made him understand.
Everyone who knows me well, will attest that when they see me in my element,
I was made for this. I really do love my job.


Today,  I am not just an artist anymore, I am a Mom, a Wife, and those positions take reign. I can work hard always and forever, but I also now must work smart. If customs take more time from start to finish, than they need to cost more. Its basic business. Its custom. I cringe at the thought of raising prices, but the alternative is doing away with customs all together, settles less well with me. I have been underpricing this process for many years and that's where the problem lies. Live and learn.

If you have followed along my business all these years you will see, my items cost the same today as they did years ago. I rarely raise my prices, only when the cost of certain supplies in the thrift store go up. Along with a small increase in price for custom orders we will also be organizing the entire process from start to finish. These changes will be allow me more time to focus on the project and less time combing through emails to get all the info I need for a project. All and all, I am excited to give this thing a whack. I am working around the clock to get these listings back up and the info and forms completed. I know many of you are waiting to order a custom, we appreciate your patience and look forward to getting this completed for you. I certainly could have just raised the prices without explanation, but many of you are like friends to me, and I wanted to explain my reasoning so you guys can better understand what got us to this place.

We are happy to answer any questions you may have..... and our custom listings will be up new and improved in a few days... and again, thank you so much for your continued business and reading this entire blog. XO { it was a lot, ha }


3 comments:

  1. You definitely deserve to be compensated for your fabulous work. I loved looking at all these photos, too!

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    Replies
    1. thanks girl, your support means a lot xo

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  2. I am so thankful that you've decided to continue with "customs". I have always wanted to order from you but you don't make anything in my size, so a "custom" would be the only way I could ever have a PPP item. I'm more than willing to pay for your time and talent however, so a price increase and more unforgiving policies for custom work is perfectly acceptable to me. I'm hoping you will be willing to take my custom work, now and in the future.

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