Meet Sean Bilovecky of The Pattern Makers in Cleveland, Ohio
In Summer of 2018, we began building out the JOOB Activewear initial assortment. I had sketched out an initial plan of a variety of products - tees, button downs, pants - with the idea of having all-purpose clothing combined with a unique/simple style. But I didn’t know anything about how to take the sketch to the next steps of pattern and prototypes, so I joined Maker’s Row, an online ecosystem of designers, factories, and other companies that had a wide range of skill sets. I credit Maker’s Row with getting me in touch with the key individuals that got JOOB going. Some of the encounters didn't work out, but I wouldn't have found the folks I did if it weren't for Maker's Row. I found it to be a great source that can help any entrepreneur trying to get into the apparel business. Doing the homework and legwork, and talking to different companies and designers are part of the dirty work to get started, and Maker's Row made it a bit easier.
Through Maker’s Row I saw this cool video from The Pattern Makers about how an entrepreneur from Cleveland left his big company job to start his own apparel business, which includes designing clothes and making patterns for other small and large brands. Sean Bilovecky is the founder/CEO, and after I sent him a brief on what JOOB Activewear was trying to do, he agreed to help.
I went to visit Sean and his team at their factory loft building, called the ArtCraft Building, near downtown Cleveland. It's an old factory building turned loft space for small businesses with an elevator so old it still has a person running the controls. It's exactly the type of building I would expect designers and creative companies to be in.
Sean's space is part creative lab part cut and sew production, and during our session we went between my sketches to actually how to produce the sample product. I told Sean I knew nothing about making clothes but had an overall vision for the company and the brand, and this session helped me understand a bit more of the pattern making process to get from this initial concept and sketch to a prototype piece of clothing. When you see a tee shirt or shirt or coat, you think it's just a simple process of putting fabric together. But each piece has a variety of decisions to be made, from collar style to shoulder cut to waist taper, etc.
It was clear from this session that the end result of a piece of clothes is dependent upon the thoughtful decisions made for each element that goes into the piece. Patience, and iterative design, and a willingness to try things out - will best yield a quality garment.
It’s great connecting with other entrepreneurs like Sean and The Pattern Makers and discovering this ecosystem of US based designers building innovative styles. It’s really inspiring to see such a large numbers of small businesses putting themselves out there to build their own company. It really gives me the fuel and courage to build JOOB.
I also found out that Sean has a band, called Frayle, and they'll be going to Europe to play a few venues later this year. His wife Gwyn is the lead singer and also manages the cut and sew operations at The Pattern Makers. I sent Sean a JOOB hat prototype to use while on the road, but not sure activewear and heavy metal mix too well together. We'll see.
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