PREMIUM FASHION MADE HERE, NOT THERE
Federation Design Studio: Premium Fashion Made Here, Not There
The sign in the Federation Design Studio booth at the Kingpins trade show in New York last month outlined the new company’s Made-in-America ethos: Made Here, Not There. At first glance, the sign reads “Made There”—but a red slash through the “T” alters the message to read “Made Here.”
Federation Design Studio is a New York–based wholesale and retail apparel design consulting group that specializes in progressive technologies. The company also has a factory, called FDS Factory, in El Paso, Texas, which produces leather, accessories and denim. Currently, the factory can produce up to 5,000 denim and outerwear pieces per month and up to 10,000 leather pieces per month, according to FDS Co-Founder Roberto Crivello, who said first prototype patterns can be turned around in a week and sewing can also be done in a week. And, if all the components are in, production is equally fast.
“I can produce in two to six weeks—and we’ll be very competitive with Chinese prices,” Crivello said.
”As an example, Crivello described a premium jean made from Japanese selvage denim with FDS’s “The Vicious” wash and “the most intricate details—hidden rivets at the back pockets, a chain stitch at the hem, really premium construction. You’re going to get that [at a] minimum [for] $35 to $50 in Asia. You might find some guys in LA who can do that at a better price, but the most we’re going to charge people is $29 and about $18 to wash. But there are no duties or shipping [fees] to worry about. And, obviously, with bigger quantities the prices will go down.”
FDS Factory is housed in a 3,500-square-foot space within a 10,000-square-foot apparel factory in El Paso, where Crivello employs about 35 people working on premium product. Everything is cut and sewn in-house, and there are wash, printing and embroidery facilities nearby. The only missing piece is the dyehouse. Crivello works with one in North Carolina and is investigating others. “Really good dyehouses are hard to find in America,” he said.
Return to U.S.-made
Crivello has a long history of working in the premium-denim business. He got his start in 1983 working in Italy for Adriano Goldschmied at the Genius Group, founders of the Diesel and Replay brands, and Enzo Fusco, who now owns CP Company. “It was a great introduction to this world,” Crivello said.
In 1997, he launched his own brand, DDCLAB,with the idea to produce high-end and innovative men’s, women’s and children’s apparel and accessories. Crivello opened a store for the brand on Orchard Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. In time, DDCLAB opened two more stores in Manhattan and one at the corner of Melrose Avenue and Robertson Boulevard in West Hollywood, Calif., and the studio became the consulting global creative director for New Balance and PF Flyers.
“When I started [DDCLAB], I produced everything in Japan and Italy and the U.S.,” Crivello said. “As time went on, I started producing in China and a little bit in India to get better prices, and the quality started going down. The yen and the euro were way too expensive, so I decided to go back to producing here. I got fed up with producing elsewhere, and, toward the end, I produced 99 percent in the States.”
After closing the business in 2010, Crivello continued consulting for brands such as Puma until launching a childrenswear brand, CHaLKNYC, with his wife and business partner, Colleen Crivello, last May. After an initial exclusive launch at Barneys New York, the Spring ’14 collection ships to retailers nationwide. But he quickly ran into a familiar challenge: finding domestic factories able to produce a specialty product.
One of his domestic resources was the El Paso factory that specialized in leather apparel and accessories and had a history of producing denim. Crivello was so impressed with the operation, he partnered with the factory and launched FDS Factory, and within a few months Crivello was showcasing FDS’s capabilities at the Kingpins show in New York in January.
“I’d been wanting to have my own factory to prove to people that we can do a really premium construction in America—whether it’s denim or outerwear or leather or accessories,” Crivello said, listing the advantages to domestic production: “It saves you a lot of time, a lot of stress. You’re saving on duties and importing and expensive international employee trips, [plus] long sample and production lead times. There’s a lot of advantages to making it here.”
Crivello said he considers himself fortunate to find a partner with the experience and the skilled workers to produce higher-end premium merchandise. The factory was founded in 1996 and continues to produce for large retailers and manufacturers.
“El Paso was the capital of denim before [the passage of the North American Free-Trade Agreement],” Crivello said. “I partnered with this factory [because] there are artisans there who do beautiful craftsmanship. There was so much business that was lost after NAFTA. Where are these guys going to go? The better ones ended up staying in the factories, and my factory is one of them. I lucked out.”
Crivello purposely won’t reveal his partner’s name or the name of the El Paso facility, citing a bad experience at a Los Angeles factory where everyone could see what their competitors were making.
“I went [to the factory] and I saw what the other designers were doing and I [thought] ‘Does that mean that you’re doing the same to my product?’”
With FDS, Crivello said, customers are welcome to visit the factory, but they won’t see other brands’ work while they’re there.
“Clients can go and check out the factory,” he said. “Anybody that wants to make an appointment—I’ll go with you.”
And that is one of FDS’s main points of difference, Crivello said.
“You can give the same premium jean design to 10 different factories with the same specs, the same fabric, and you will get 10 different-looking premium jeans,” he said. “We understand the designer’s point of view,” he said. “Does he want thinner thread? Thicker thread? Where we stand out is we understand what the designers are looking for. That and the fact that we can turn stuff around very, very fast and at a very competitive price.”
Federation Design Studio’s New York office is staffed with three people and a fleet of freelance consultants at the ready.
“So if we get more tech- pack work or more graphics, whenever we need people, we just hire them on the spot,” Crivello said.
Crivello hopes designers come to FDS not only for domestic manufacturing but as an innovation lab.
“If they want to do new types of accessories, for example, we’re doing molded leather in our factory,” he said. “If they want to do a new type of leather jacket or distressing, we do all that. Any different types of washes for denim, any different types of construction for denim, we can do all that. If they want to experiment with new high-tech performance fabric for outerwear, we can do that. There are a lot of plusses to working with us. And, again, we don’t have minimums, so we can do very small quantities. The biggest thing is when the client calls, you can get an answer on the spot, that same day.”