by Melissa Donovan
What happens when you set out to manufacture a product and you realize the process is flawed? You master the process yourself, acquire professionalism from others in the same field, and share your knowledge with your peers.
Sherri Barry’s history in fashion is what shaped her position in the industry today. After 17 years in retail operations and marketing, she went back to school to get her MBA and set out to start her own fashion business.
What followed was two years with a consultant to learn about design and development, basically how to manufacture a garment. Barry likens what she learned to “building a house,” realizing that creating a blueprint was incredibly helpful when it came to mapping out how to get a piece of fashion from dream to reality.
Unfortunately, despite the importance of planning, Barry soon found out that it was near impossible once the garment was ready to be made, to well, get it made. “It’s difficult to learn all the pieces of the process and then find someone who will manufacture small lots properly.” This is something she learned the hard way, sending a job of her own to a printer who misunderstood the specifications, which resulted in a large batch of incorrect strike offs she had to pay for.
Focused on Fashion
Focused on improving the manufacturing process, Barry established Arizona Fashion Source, LLC in 2016. Arizona Fashion Source is a multi-line apparel manufacturer offering both on demand and traditional manufacturing options with low minimum order quantities. It provides all of the resources both emerging designers and established brands need. Services include design, product development and pre-production services—patterns, tech packs, samples, fittings, pattern revisions, digitizing, grading, markers, as well as various cut-and-sew options.
Arizona Fashion Source rebranded as The Fashioneer at the end of February 2022. At press time, 65 employees worked out of a 15,000 square foot manufacturing and printing space inTempe, AZ. The company does it all, from fashion design, consulting, and development to three-dimensional surface design, digital on demand printing, engineered printing, automated cutting, sewing, and fulfillment.
In addition to the The Fashioneer, Barry is co-founder of FABRIC, a non-profit fashion incubator, with Angela Johnson. Barry wanted to take her experiences in manufacturing and share them with others, giving artists from all backgrounds a space to learn. FABRIC provides programs, classes, services, and resources to help fashion designers and entrepreneurs reach their potential.
Its signature offering is a designer-led manufacturing program empowering designers to become their own production manager. The program guides participants through business startup, branding, product development, manufacturing, and marketing. Since 2016, FABRIC has helped over 800 fashion entrepreneurs bring their fashion designs to market. The non-profit has donated over $6.8 million in discounted programs and services to the community.
Bring it In
At the advent of both Barry’s business and the non-profit, all of the printing was outsourced. It was evident that to really support designers, it would be advantageous to bring it in house. As such, she looked for a digital device that had the “ability to engineer prints on the patterns and print virtually on almost any fabric with photo-real quality, sustainability, and on demand,” says Barry.
In 2019, while visiting the Gerber Innovation Center for an event, she witnessed a demonstration of the Kornit Presto, part of a micro-factory connected to a Gerber Z1 cutter powered by Gerber software. Lectra now owns Gerber Technology. “I was looking into solving problems like price and meeting large minimums/inventory. It was clear that a lot companies were growing and needed to find a manufacturer that could meet minimum order requirements,” explains Barry.
Enter 2020, with stay-at-home orders on the rise thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the need for masks, gowns, and other personal protection equipment in the U.S. Barry was asked to manufacture gowns, which grew manufacturing capabilities and enabled the purchase of a Kornit Presto and a Gerber Z1 and supporting software.
Investing in digital printing allows The Fashioneer and FABRIC to meet demands for customizable fashion while still being eco-conscious. “We want to democratize fashion and provide the best, sustainable technology to our creators so they can fully realize their design potential and offer truly unique personalized products to their customers,” explains Barry.
With the Kornit Presto in house, possibilities are endless. “Designers can now be artists that print what they want, when they want. We are set up and committed to only print if it is sold, it is truly on demand,” continues Barry.
The printer is outfitted with Kornit NeoPigment Robusto water-based pigment ink. According to Barry, the inks are “highly UV resistant, have durable wash and rub results, have a soft hand feel, and employ zero water waste.”
“It is the only piece of equipment we need to support hundreds of brands as it can print on almost all fabrics—in a single step—with zero water waste. It’s fast and prints in high quality whatever our designers dream up to create,” says Barry.
All projects are completed in one location—Barry says this service is unique and rare in the fashion industry today. A typical order at The Fashioneer via its ecommerce site involves Shopify. Once in the system, jobs are automatically queued for production. Orders are printed in minutes, usually in small batches, one offs, or rolls of all-over prints. From submission to delivery depends on the job.
FABRIC and The Fashioneer’s campaign for accessible manufacturing continues to grow. As designers are introduced to the program, more learn about the benefits of digital printing and finishing.
Barry isn’t sitting back, the company plans to upgrade to Kornit’s MAX Technology this Spring, which enables printing white on black fabric.
“The printer is a game changer for our designers who can now put amazing artwork on their designs. Previously getting custom fabric prints meant meeting high minimums with long lead times,” concludes Barry. IPM
Apr2022, Industrial Print Magazine