Do I post about the boo-boos?

Please note that the following handbags represent first prototypes and serious blunders. This blog documents our trials and errors and tracks our progress from inexperienced start-up to launching the Taryn Zhang brand. Please bear that in mind as you look through these photos and illustrations.

I hesitated over posting the failures I’ve encountered in the production of the prototypes, one because the initial prototypes really were that hideous, and two because I didn’t want any readers to get the idea that this was what they could expect from Taryn Zhang. Why show the boo-boos? I’m sure if I had a publicist or if I was even the type to listen to my husband, the below photos would never surface on the Internet, but then I recalled one of the reasons I started Taryn Zhang in the first place: I want to do things my way. That’s the joy of your own small business. You’re the boss. Also, credit should go where it’s due. I took one of Maeko‘s comments to me as a sign that I should just go ahead and post this.

My manufacturer came highly recommended, and many independent handbag designers around the world have used them before and raved about the quality. I can see their attributes when we worked together to select fabric. It took an excruciating long time to settle on a PVC-free vegan leather sourced from the United Arab Emirates. How negotiable they’ve been with me these last few months show to me that the accolades they’ve received are all well-deserved.

Thus, maybe it’s not them; it’s me. At least that’s what my father told me when I lamented to him about the outcome of 5 of the first 8 prototypes they showed me. I gave the manufacturer dissertation-length spec sheets and instructions on the patterns (a little over 50 pages, really), which perhaps wasn’t a good idea since no one likes to read anymore and what I had given them was literally a book in itself, so they took matters into their own hands and decided to “loosely interpret” the dissertation.

sample pages from my specs

First, a few clarifications. These are not samples of the handbags. These are not actual purses; they’re patterns, made of paper or scrap fabrics. The only purpose of these patterns are to show to me the silhouette and lines of the handbags. As you can see from the photos, the “handles” right now are made of paper and stapled onto the body of each bag. So again, these prototypes are to show silhouette and lines only.

The Duchess. The silhouette I envisioned was a bit more trapezoidish, but the prototype they made for me was…not trapezoidish at all. See how the bottom edges of the prototype are curved inward. I had imagined that they would curve outward to create a larger base and a narrower opening, but oops. Also, the proportions are a bit off, such a s the front flap. The front flap isn’t supposed to be that big. Finally, I’d imagine that when piping is added, the final product will look a little more balanced in aesthetic.

The Daisy B. (Or The Jetsetter. Note: Originally I named this The Jetsetter, but then contemplated changing it to something else, so it became Daisy B after Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby, but now I’m thinking about changing it back to Jetsetter. Who knows what’ll happen to this bag’s namesake by Fall 2010.)The sketch on the left was rendered in MS Paint, so silver-tone metal chain is difficult to “draw.” The gray beads or circles on either side of the bag represent chain, to give the bag some hardware. As for the prototype on the right, the line and proportions are all wrong, and they forgot the center pocket. Yikes. 

The Peripatetic. I recall instructing that the silhouette for this bag can be made by using a compass, and I even gave the radius and specs for how much of the top arc of the circle should be cut off to create the shape. I recall this because I had to do a ton of math, and I hate math. I wanted the essence of a perfect circle to be in this design, but that did not show up at all in the prototype to the right. I’m pretty sure they did not use a compass to create that. What’s more, the four curved lines on either side of the bag are supposed to be folds, like pleats in the fabric, not sewn seams. They thought the four lines were seams. Sigh.

(part of the specs I submitted)

The Workaholic. This design is one of my favorites, because it would adapt well to my lifestyle. It fits all the casefiles I need to lug around everyday for work and could also be used as a laptop bag. The Workaholic comes with a matching wristlet, another feature I love. If I need to make a mid-day run somewhere or head out to a cocktail party after office hours, I can take just the wristlet. Now I sound like I’m advertising for my bag when the purpose of this post is to gripe about the initial prototypes. I guess this one is still in too early a stage to tell how it’ll come out, especially since all they did was pen the design on, but if the curved lines are pleats, and not seams, and that horizontal diagonal line in the center is an open pocket, then we should be okay.The

Modernist. This is supposed to be a day clutch. The prototype to the right does not look day-clutchy. Rather, it looks like an old-school purse I’ve seen before in my grandmother’s closet. In any case, I’ve decided to make some drastic modifications to the specs for this design. The final product wont look anything like either the drawing or prototype above. I’m going to turn this one into a portfolio, something to be carried at job interviews or presentations. To be continued… !

top view of the Overachiever prototype

Overall, I remain optimistic. Both manufacturer and I agree and acknowledge that it’s back to the drawing board. To think that Try #1 would have come out perfect is too naive. I still have a lot of faith in these folks, because I know what they’re capable of, and they’ve produced some great stuff for some great designers in the past. Like my father pointed out, it might be me, not them. I need to go over my specs again and make sure I’m clear in my communications. Sigh. Let’s hope my next posting on progress of the alpha collection will be, well, prettier.

About tarynzhang

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  • http://www.merchantsmirror.com Ben Hwang

    Personally, I think that they didn't do a good job at reading specs. You're one of the most detail oriented people I know and the specs and drawings prove it. The rights don't give even the slightest resemblance of the left, which makes me think that either they didn't take it seriously or they have some issues with working with specs.

    I understand they're prototyping, but even with paper, you should be able to match up slightly. Like, the round purse was “ROUND”. They make it like a regular purse instead. The clutch, anyone could figure out and it didn't have a lot of things that you couldn't do out of construction paper, but the right side was…. ugh.

    You can't do anything about the way things drape with fabrics until the actual samples. But if the prototyping isn't even working out with those details, I'd probably also be slightly concerned.

  • http://www.maeko.org/ Maeko

    They clearly did not follow your specs. But if you included exact proportions and measurements and material sewing so exactly, you'd think they could follow it more closely?

    I don't get it. Maybe it was all the text in your instructions that threw them off. It doesn't seem hard to follow prototype renderings and step by step instructions. Most of these don't even look like the drawings at all… I think I'd definitely want the Workaholic, though I'm not entirely sure I could afford your pieces once you make your debut. :)

  • http://www.maeko.org/ Maeko

    Why can't these guys do with scraps that people on Project Runway can do with paper and coffee filters?

  • http://blog.tarynzhang.com AppleSidra

    I know!!! Right? It might not have been a Project Runway episode in the U.S., maybe Canada, but one assignment was to make a dress out of post-it notes. That was amazing!

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