Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Introducing my client SA VA

After a considerable hiatus, I am returning to blogging on a more or less regular basis. I will still comment on retailing, but will also discuss some of the exciting things we are doing at SA VA, a women’s designer apparel brand, store and website that will open in August. Although I have been involved with S.V.A. Holdings for well over a year, we began formal branding in November 2008. Our efforts continue. We are now finishing up our belief statements about our customers, our products, and our business principles (more of that later).

As a way of introducing you to SA VA, I am including the email remarks of Sarah Van Aken, SA VA CEO and Community Organizer, made to Jeff Jarvis, author of What would Google Do? (see his blog at www.buzzmachine.com), who kindly reprinted them in his blog:

I just finished reading your book and I wanted to thank you for writing it! It validated a new direction I am taking with my company. I own a semi-vertical private label apparel company based in Philadelphia. I have three clothing brands, which I have been manufacturing for in a proprietary garment factory in Bangladesh. As I began planning the expansion of my 3rd brand SA VA, I struggled with its purpose and direction and knew that it wasn’t just about making clothes for me. As we started rebranding, the economic crisis hit and without a doubt I knew things in the apparel business would never be the same again.

Since that time I have made some great steps including moving my manufacturing here to Philadelphia with help from the City to create living wage jobs, partnering with the People’s Emergency Center (PEC-cares.org) in various ways (volunteerism, mentoring, food drives), and making my clothing line about the people who wear it, not about a designer.

In doing so, I have decided to simultaneously launch an interactive shopping site where along with purchasing our clothes, customers can send us drawings, tear sheets and ideas of what they are looking for and can’t find (because of my manufacturing control I can turn around goods in 6-10 weeks from concept), show us how they wore garments they purchased from us, access volunteer opportunities (without a huge ongoing commitment) at PEC, and more. We hope to create not just a place where people can buy clothes that are local-made, fair-trade, made in the US, often organic or recycled (and every garment in the store has a paper tag with a check list of all of these things that apply), but they can interact and connect with their community and give back. Our design studio is right inside the store. We are doing video blog profiles of our employees (everyone from janitor to designer to production staff) that will be shown on the website and in the store. As we grow, this Philadelphia garment facility will supply regional stores but as we move across the country there will be garment center for each region creating the same kind of community experience and job creation in the area where we sell our clothes.

So, my point being that from your book it reinforced and grew the ideas that I had about what I wanted to make my business look like and the direction I was taking. We launch the store and web store in late August. In the meantime – I started blogging too!!!! Shop.savafashion.com/wordpress.

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