MADE IN AMERICA
The Trend Chasers: Full-Package Production in Downtown LA
Randa Allen has given so many tours of The Trend Chasers facility in downtown Los Angeles, she speed-walks through the factory, listing the different departments at breakneck speed: “fitting room, pattern-making, traffic department, bookkeeping and accounting, marking and grading, cutting, sewing, finishing, screen-printing and sublimation, EDI.”
On a recent tour of the 80,000-square-foot facility, Allen covered some of the services available to retailers and brands looking to produce with The Trend Chasers.
“You can bring your own fit model or we will provide one. You get one fit and one tweak. If it goes beyond that, the price goes up,” she said, walking through the fitting room to the pattern-making department. “We use Tukatech and Gerber [pattern-making software]. People can bring their own patterns. We make [patterns] first through production,” she said.
She slowed down slightly in the bookkeeping department. “If [the customer is] factored, if they’re paying cash, if they’re paying with terms, the [accounting] team needs to know what I’m negotiating. We handle each customer as if it is our only customer.”
In the sewing room, where rows of employees pulled pieces of brightly colored cut pieces to sew into activewear garments for New Balance, Allen said, “Once they see what we’re capable of doing, they can design what our ability is. It doesn’t have to leave the building, and that’s amazing.”
The Trend Chasers is a division of XCVI, the manufacturer of garment-dyed contemporary casual fashions founded in 1996 by Gita Zeltzer. The company remains a family business with Gita Zeltzer and her husband, Marik Zeltzer, turning the reins to son Alon Zeltzer and daughter Daniela Zeltzer. These days, XCVI splits its business between branded apparel and private-label manufacturing. More than three years ago, XCVI formed a partnership with Deborah Kirkland to start The Trend Chasers as a separate division focusing on full-package production from design development though production.
The company’s clientele includes big retailers and brands such as Chico’s, Guess, New Balance, Rag and Bone, Aiko and Aether.
“All customers are [important]—big or small. This is their baby,” Allen said. “Our service and attention to their needs are all handled. We figured out how to be full package from design to delivery.”
There are about 160 employees working in The Trend Chasers facility, located in the south side of the Los Angeles fashion district where downtown LA meets Vernon, Calif.
Typically, The Trend Chasers can turn a new order in 90 days or less. Re-orders are even faster, taking between 45 and 60 days to complete.
“We can produce 2,500 units in an eight-hour shift,” Allen added.
Some customers arrive with a fully developed concept. Others are looking for input.
“If someone comes in with a T-shirt graphic and wants to spice it up, we might suggest foil or sublimation. It depends on the customer,” Allen said. “We come back with newness or listen to what they want.”
It’s the same for a customer’s preferred vendors.
“We will use your nominated vendor. I don’t want you to lose your relationship,” Allen said. But if she can get fabric or trim at a better price, Allen said, she is obligated to let the customer know.
“I’m doing a disservice if I don’t tell them,” she said.
Allen joined The Trend Chasers a few months after XCVI launched the business, joining Kirkland, who oversees product development, merchandising and sales for The Trend Chasers. Kirkland’s background is in bridge and contemporary merchandising for companies such as Johnny Was and Levi Strauss. She led XCVI’s private-label division before launching The Trend Chasers.
XCVI’s private-label division started out developing trend-based concepts to pitch to retailers but soon shifted to simply providing design development and production services based on retailers’ needs.
“We said, ‘Why don’t we just do what the customer wants us to do?’” Kirkland said. When Chico’s became a customer, the Fort Myers, Fla.–based retail chain arrived with an extensive list of production requirements, including certification by Bureau Veritas, the European-based testing, inspection and certification company with offices in 140 countries around the world.
“They taught us how to do bigger business with social compliance,” Kirkland said.
The Trend Chasers is certified by Bureau Vertitas and by Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP), the independent nonprofit group that certifies factories around the world to ensure companies are “engaged in lawful, humane and ethical production.” The Trend Chasers is one of only 12 factories in the United States to pass the organization’s rigorous requirements.
Before joining The Trend Chasers, Allen ran her own contemporary dress label, Notice, which was produced in Los Angeles.
“My world was cut-and-sew dresses,” Allen said. “When I got here, I didn’t know PFD and sublimation. I was on learning curve 101.”
But she dove into the garment-dye side of the business and quickly got up to speed.
“There are so many different hats to wear here,” Kirkland said. “You have to have the knowledge.”
These days, Kirkland calls Allen “the teacher.”
“It’s an education for a lot of people,” she said. “They don’t know how to find the fabrics, how to make the fittings or what to do if the fabric doesn’t work. There’s such a learning curve. They can’t afford to do it on their own.”
Keeping sourcing options open
Although The Trend Chasers works with small businesses as well as large brands and retailers, the “sweet spot” is a mid-size company that can meet The Trend Chasers’ minimum-order requirement of 500 pieces per style. The Trend Chasers can produce up to 10,000 units of basic knits per week and 5,000 units of novelty pieces per week.
“A lot of people want to do business domestically but can’t afford it. It’s the higher-end companies that can,” Kirkland said.
For companies that want to produce domestically but find they can’t afford the price of made-in-America manufacturing, The Trend Chasers also offers offshore production options.
“Most people ask for American made, but we have China and Vietnam relationships—if that’s where people need to go,” Allen said.
For some companies, The Trend Chasers provides an opportunity to test new product, Kirkland said. “We’ll do a small run domestically, and the larger order goes offshore,” she said. “The biggest thing we do is chase business—business they missed or an opportunity they can’t do offshore.”