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Made X Hudson: Supporting Independent Designer Brands & Reducing Fashion Waste

Image Credits: Made X Hudson
By: Headliners News / November 20, 2023

Made X Hudson is on mission to support independent designer brands, help reduce the waste evident in fast fashion, and provide career employment opportunities for local talent. They want their team to be paid a living wage so they can not only afford their basic needs, but thrive. They aim to nurture an artisan culture where a high value is placed on the people who make our clothes, as sewing is a challenging profession requiring decades to master.

Made X Hudson offers small startup brands a chance to produce their items to give clients an option to not buy fast fashion. And, there’s a major focus on small minimums as a sustainable measure to avoid overproduction. Their team works with domestic brands, often close to their factory in Catskill, NY in order to avoid excess shipping. When creating patterns, they aim to maximize use of fabric to reduce cutting waste. For leftover scraps, they often send them to be recycled and up-cycled with trusted partners.

With the rate that material and fashion technology advance every year, Made X Hudson is continuously integrating new efficiencies and reducing waste along the entire supply chain. They are excited about emerging materials and new material developments, and, most importantly to them, they’re passionate about educating the public about valuing the clothes more and investing in articles of clothing that will actually last.

Get to know their background story with co-founder Eric De Feo…

What inspired you to start your business? What was the Eureka moment that compelled you to take action? 

I was approached by fashion designer Sergio Guadarrama to help start a factory and at first I thought he was crazy because I thought that would be insanely expensive to do and I have never run a factory before. But after hosting a few community workshops and learning more about the fashion industry I built my confidence. After 6 months of local research we were offered a space to put in some sewing machines and we knew a seamstress who could help us get started with a few small projects.

How are you working to differentiate yourself from other existing brands in the market?

We work with a lot of brands that most factories do not want to handle. most factories require high minimums and final documents. We work with Indie brands from any stage and help them get into production.

What are some of the biggest challenges you faced during the early stages of your business, and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge in ongoing challenge is finding talent in a rural area. We work in an industry that was largely outsourced of the last few decades so there is a entire generation gap in garment factory workers. For the first year it was essentially working with a retired seamstress training a high school student who was very proficient in sewing because she learned from her mother. As we became more visible in the community we have been able to recruit more folks but it is still hard. There’s a lot of refugee talent but we struggle to figure out how to hire them legally.

Can you share a specific example of a difficult decision you had to make as a leader and how it impacted your business?

When we first launched we were exclusively focused on client production. We started to help small designers. but we are also a fairly expensive factory.

How do you foster a culture of innovation and continuous learning within your organization, and how has it contributed to your growth and success?

We are always working with designers that are employing new and Innovative materials like cactus and other vegan leather products. One project that we’re proud of is our collaboration with the Hudson Valley textile project where we took fabric that was grown and woven in the Hudson Valley and we help them design a bucket hat. We are collaborating with other organizations in the region to do more products that are grown woven designed and sewn all in the same region. 

How do you stay ahead of the competition and adapt to changing market conditions? Can you share any strategies or initiatives that have helped your business stay agile and resilient?

First and foremost we focus on customer satisfaction and that is the biggest defense in the market. We have also Diversified our revenue streams by offering more than contract manufacturing. now we have two retail shops that interface with the public to sell clothes, host creative events and offer sewing classes and alterations. This has help build our brand recognition as many folks did not know we existed before since we weren’t focused on brand marketing. Now we are starting to get into interior design because we can even create curtains and different aspects for the home and commercial spaces.

Tell us about a specific challenge or obstacle you faced while building your business and how you overcame it. What valuable lesson(s) did you learn from that experience?

Talent has been our biggest obstacle to grow. Now that we are a larger size we feel more confident recruiting folks to the Hudson Valley because we do have a backlog of work. When we first started we didn’t want to recruit someone and not have enough work for them. so I think patience is the name of the game and sticking with your idea even when it can be slow and volatile at the beginning. we know that we are feeling a need in the market and have been doubling down on our growth strategy. A big help has been simply having interns who gain a lot of value because it’s really hard to get access to a factory in the United States so they are learning very valuable information that they can’t get in school.

What unique strategies or approaches have you implemented to differentiate your business and stand out from competitors?

We deal with headaches that no one else wants to deal with. We can handle the entire design process from napkin to production to photo shoot to marketing strategy. We have been doing this work professionally for two decades so we know how to strategically help folks. We don’t just want to take client money just because they can pay. it’s just as important that their project is successful so that it is a reflection of us as well.

Can you share an instance where you had to pivot your business model or change your strategy significantly? What were the reasons behind the decision, and how did it impact your overall growth?

We have definitely shifted away from doing domestic production and have a partner in Mexico that can help us with orders that we can’t handle. We are leaning more into our strengths of design development, education, retail and all the surrounding aspects of production. However, we still do want to grow our production team as our client list grows.

What are some KPIs you mainly focus on to measure the success and progress of your business? How do you ensure you stay on track towards achieving your goals?

As a factory you are always tracking the time it takes to complete a project. Over the last 2 years we have some good data around which projects are profitable in which are a loss. however we do want to move away from the time tracking model because it can create a very stressful environment in the workplace. We opened our retail shop so that we can have more cash flow to pay workers more and not have to put the stress of time always on them. Now that we have a bigger team we work hard on doing more team building events.

How do you prioritize and manage the various challenges and demands of running your business while maintaining a healthy work-life balance? What strategies or practices do you follow to prevent burnout?

It’s very hard but we are very close to getting to the point where we do not have to work overtime everyday. I have recently implemented a two-day swimming regimen to prioritize my health. Factory work is very stressful and so it’s super critical to take care of yourself so that you can be effective on the factory floor.

What question is no one asking you that they should be asking? 

Not enough people are critical of fashion costing 12 or $15 for a shirt. I do want to work on a cost breakdown visual diagram for people to see what goes into making a garment. If everyone in the industry was being paid equitably, there will be very few garments under $100.

Considering Made X Hudson for Your Fashion Design Needs… 

Made X Hudson works with both new and existing design businesses and can assist you with projects from concept to production, as their capabilities span across apparel to soft goods.

  • They do not have minimums, but highly encourage 50 units per style (6 units per size). They specialize in small batch production, so the maximum order is 1,000 units.

  • They do not work with heavy fabrics like jeans or leather; however, lighter denim and vegan/pineapple leather is okay. Likewise, delicate lingerie and underwear are not the best match for us at this time. And, they recommend going to specific factories for this work.

  • Their sample lead times average two weeks; production lead times are 4-6 weeks, depending on project complexity.

From branding to production, Made X Hudson has you covered…

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