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*Courtesy of Competitor.com
If you’ve ever had an idea for your ultimate piece of running apparel, Skirt Sports, a women’s athletic apparel brand based in Boulder, Colo., is ready to make your dream a reality with The Sewing Room.
Share design ideas, vote for your favorite styles, fund the process by placing a pre-order, and be the first to own the latest customer-driven styles. That’s the concept behind The Sewing Room, an innovative concept that launched earlier this summer with the intent of involving consumers in all of the behind-the-scenes processes of running apparel development.
“As a brand, we’re really in tune with women, their different body types and body image concerns,” says Skirt Sports founder Nicole DeBoom, a former professional triathlete. “Our customers also speak loudly about their apparel desires. The Sewing Room is a way for us to honor some of those requests and creative ideas.”
Skirt Sports is eager to make products that help women feel good about themselves. But DeBoom also wanted a way to make sure customers were serious about their special requests. The organic, grassroots nature of The Sewing Room puts consumers in charge, from submitting and funding designs (basically pre-ordering at a discount, with free shipping), to get exactly what they want.
For the first round, there were almost 100 submissions, from sketches on cocktail napkins to official drawings by burgeoning designers. DeBoom and her team narrowed down the choices to 11. After public voting, five styles, offered in both black and a pattern, made the final cut. What happens next depends upon a crowd-funding process.
“The way the funding works is much like Kickstarter, and if a design is not funded, customers will not be charged,” DeBoom says. “People can keep track of the goal meter for each design, but honestly, I have no idea what’s going to happen!”
All funded styles will be produced and shipped by May 1, 2017. (Click here to view styles on the funding page.)
Kelly Vaughn, of Fuquay-Varina, N.C., is one of the initial designer finalists in the first round, as her Out and About Dress (see above) made it to the funding round. She’s a publisher by trade, but lives an active lifestyle—training for half marathons and doing a variety of other exercises, plus gardening and walking with her three dogs.
Vaughn says she has always had a challenging time finding clothes that fit her frame. With a large bust, small waist and muscular build, alterations are the norm. She’s long been a fan of Skirt Sports and jumped at the opportunity to design something just for her. The Out and About Dress meets her needs, from the perfect fit to styling that is appropriate for heading out on a run or going to meet clients.
“I love their dresses, but I had some modifications in mind,” Vaughn says. “Once I got the email (about The Sewing Room), I immediately made my sketch and submitted it, probably within a span of 10 minutes at most! I was shocked when I found out I made it to the next stage.
“My modifications included taking out the built-in bra, adding full-back coverage to accommodate straps from a variety of bras, reducing the size of the arm holes for more front coverage, yet adding some gathering so it fit an A cup to a D cup. I added side panels to allow for a fun bit of color that doesn’t come across as too bold. I also suggested a heavier fabric so the dress could perform on the run and for wearing to work.”
Retailers have also been welcome to participate by funding designs to meet the specific needs of their customers. DeBoom says she is even open to the idea of other competing brands testing new design ideas through The Sewing Room.
Who Didn’t Like The Idea?
While many were excited about the idea, some naysayers accused Skirt Sports of taking intellectual property, something DeBoom was quick to dispel.
“These designs belong to these women,” DeBoom says. “Based upon our terms and conditions, once a specific design round is over, the women are free to do what they want with their submissions.”
In addition to the “designers” having their bios on the Skirt Sports website and social media channels, they get five units of product if their design is funded. For those designers whose styles made the final cut, but don’t receive funding, they get a $50 gift certificate. And if any styles are selected for inclusion in the line, there is an official contract with compensation.
Keep in mind, these styles won’t be around forever, and that’s part of the appeal. The funding round for the first edition of styles continues through Oct. 4, meaning orders are still being accepted. A new round of design submissions begins in November.
“This has been a super fun experience,” Vaughn says. “I definitely have more designs to share with The Sewing Room.”