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The Journey To Molly: Behind My 8-Month Prototyping & Production Phase

As you may have read in my recent post about manufacturing mishaps & plummeted partnerships, I made the decision to collaborate with my current manufacturing facility in the spring of 2020, and boy, has it been a huge learning experience. From creating and sending over a Non-Disclosure Agreement for the first time ever, to trusting a new facility and sending over my designs, to getting into more legal contracts and filing for a design patent, The Gemini Rebirth collection has definitely proven to be a challenge. In this post, I’ll be walking you through the process of bringing the first model of my debut collection from concept to creation.

Doing my research on the credibility of my current partner was the barest minimum required to leave me feeling secure about this deal considering our virtual meeting. Before I decided to get into business with my manufacturer, I felt it necessary to get a feel of what our relationship would entail before proceeding from our initial conversation.

After dotting my Is and crossing my Ts concerning the history of this company, exploring their current partners and available designs for footwear buyers, I decided to take a chance on my newly established relationship. As with all standard manufacturing procedures for new design projects, I was required to pay a fee for a prototype to be made before diving into mass production. This allowed me to not only test the quality and craftsmanship of this company, but test the waters on our communication and working relationship as we proceeded.

It is important to state that I didn’t feel right simply handing over my one-of-a-kind interchangeable design without needing some assurance that it would be protected (not sold, replicated, or any other designer’s nightmare really), so I went on to draft a Non-Disclosure Agreement for the first time in my life and got the show on the road.

Beginning this phase posed a number of difficulties, one being that this wasn’t the first time I had prototyped The GR1, so I inevitably went into this deal with high expectations of my new partners to create an exact replica of this design. Of course, without my physical presence and direction, this process required a lot of communication and as I mentioned earlier, The GR1 has a one-of-a-kind silhouette, therefore it created a challenge for the artisans to produce.

About 6 to 7 prototypes were created before I was finally satisfied enough to proceed with the manufacturing of my bulk order. This meant having to wait 2-3 weeks each time a new sample was created before receiving it for my examination and approval. I’m not gonna lie, being the perfectionist that I am, I’m pretty sure my partners were getting a little frustrated with me towards the end of our prototyping phase, however, I just couldn’t compromise the quality or look of the first deign I would be putting out to the world.

After deciding to move into the production phase, I was sent over a catalogue of high-quality leather swatches to approve ahead of production, and provided an invoice with a 40% deposit required to begin this process. Once again, since this was the first time my manufacturer was producing a design so complex, the initial quote was a couple thousand dollars lower than my final payment. My soles had to revised and customized to endure long-term wear, my emblems had to restructured and refitted a number of times (I think 5), and my packaging required a little extra detail that warranted in some additional labour.

It took a little over 4 months to produce 250 pairs, so I needed to keep myself going on other aspects of my brand while this was happening. I worked sleepless nights coding and designing my website despite being told to limit my screen time before and after my eye surgery. I acquired UPC codes months in advance and created custom labels for each colour and size of my shoes using Adobe InDesign. I made sure to create detailed and complementing packaging items such as my Care & Instructions booklets, Thank you cards, Authentication cards and, of course, custom silk dust bags. Undeniably, this entire process required a lot from me as a designer and individual, but as each milestone was being achieved, my dreams were re-awakening all over again. However, as the production phase came to a close, I began getting worked up once more…

Having to ensure that all my legal documents were in order, and that I was equipped to clear my products with customs and receive my first huge shipment with no hassle, was seemingly more stressful than exciting. Since I made my move to Montreal during a global pandemic, with no friends around and no employees working with me, getting 25 relatively large shipping boxes from the delivery truck into my work space alone was definitely gonna be a pain in the ass. Luckily for me, a friend of mine agreed to drive back into Montreal after a quick getaway together, and the task was made less stressful than originally anticipated, but not without a few hiccups (of course). Upon inspection of all 25 shipping boxes, I came to find that a few of the shoe boxes had been seriously damaged with very intentional-looking punctures that cost me close to $1000 to replace. This was not the long-awaited reception I had pictured at all, but it was definitely the curveball I needed to limit the disappointments I could possibly face with my next few projects. At the end of the day, I’m happy to have seen this project through to the end while learning a lot on the way. I’d feel much better over-prepared for nothing than caught off guard by something.

I definitely skipped out on/diminished a few details, but I hope I was able to shed some light on what it entails to go into mass production as a bespoke shoemaker and a “newbie” in the footwear industry.

Feel free to leave any questions you may have or share your experience with a similar situation in the comments below. I would d love to read about it.

As always, it’s been a pleasure sharing my experience and taking you along this ride on The Journey To Molly.

Until next time,

Molly

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