Bloggers’ Giveaway: 2 TZ Purse Hooks

I know I’ve been inactive on this blog for the past few months, and I feel bad about that. So to segue me back into activity here on this design diary, I’m holding a bloggers’ giveaway, just a small one. I’m giving away two Taryn Zhang purse hooks. (Click on that link for more info on these nifty little doodads.)

Why two? Well, dear, because it is the giving season now. One is for you, and one is for you to give away. =)

Whatcha gotta do? Here’s a summary:


[  ] You’re a blogger.

[  ] Leave a comment to this post.

[  ] Share link to this blog on FB or Twitter.

[  ] Follow this blog in your blog reader.

If you win and I’ve sent you the purse hooks:

[  ] Blog about this blog on your blog.

The winner will be selected at random about two weeks from now, on December 19.

That is basically all you need to know/do to enter. If you still have questions, though, more deets after the jump.

Continue reading

Posted in Business Development, Friends in the Trade, Musings, Personal, Promotional | 14 Comments

Silver Lining

It’s been a series of bad news from me on this blog, I know; I can be such a blogosphere downer sometimes. So here’s a fresh moment of cheer:

Was greeted with that note on my Facebook Wall this morning. Both redacted names are high school buddies. How insane — insane in, oh, such a very, very good way!

Also, in the last few weeks I’ve received an overwhelming amount of warmth, encouragement, and support. (And Christmas order requests. Again, so sorry, but we have no inventory to sell right now. See previous few posts on this blog for why.)

Thank you, all. =)

Posted in Business Development, Musings, One Step Closer, Personal, Progress, Promotional | 3 Comments

Nutshell Summary of Submitting Design Briefs

:: deep, long, drawn-out sigh ::

We have parted ways with our Hong Kong / China manufacturer. I’m.. hm, okay, how do we put this nicely in a PC way.. well, personally, I’m done with China. I’ll summarize my main criticisms of doing business in China in a future post, but for now, suffice it to say our sights are set elsewhere.

So we’ve been chatting with a couple of factories in various parts of Southeast Asia and South America. For some of these places, I had to look them up on a map. (No shame in acknowledging my ignorance here…) Hubby and I are checking over our 2012 vacation days to plan a couple trips to countries we’ve never been to and don’t speak the language. For us at least, the good part about doing business in China was we spoke the language (me, sorta; him, native fluency). Ah well, that was all in the past. It’s all looking forward now. So hold on tight for some world frolicking adventures.

Over the last year, I’ve revised the designs in the alpha collection multiple times. Some of the revisions were in the design details and were minor. 90 degrees to 85 degress. I remember this one. The factory responded with, “Really? 90 degrees to 85 degrees. Really?!?” =P

Others were serious revisions, after I received feedback from product testers. For instance, see above shoulder strap revision. Our shoulder straps will now come with an ergonomic shoulder pad. The pad is removable, so if you find it too hideous, you don’t have to use it. However, my more pragmatic friends griped to me about how their shoulders ached after lugging around a briefcase with a laptop inside for hours on end. I’m hoping the ergonomic shoulder pad will help some.

Since we were working with the same factory for the whole year, I didn’t need to rewrite full briefs for the changes; I just had to notify them of the desired adjustments after each samples production came back.

After a year’s progression of tweaking this, redoing that, the original design briefs I drew up are now so different from the final design I want that I have to draw up entirely new design briefs to send to the new factories. What a pain.

And because the world is not fair, all this has to fall on me the same month I couldn’t be busier at the day job. I’m neck-deep in some big cases right now and have had to deal with more litigation work than usual. (I’m a transactional attorney; this is a clarification that will make sense to some people and invite understanding nods of sympathy.) So in addition to all the day job stress, I now have TZ stress. Anyway, complaining over, I promise. Now on to the purpose of this post, the nutshell summary, design briefing part.

The purpose of this post is to provide a nutshell summary of what goes into submitting design briefs to a contract manufacturer, or at least how I do it. It’s certainly not the most efficient way, considering I don’t have any of the cool specialty design software programs. The way I do it is pretty old school and it’s not like I recommend it exactly, but if you’re an amateur starting with nothing, my old school process might be an option.

I’m too stingy to buy a legit sketchpad, so I use print paper, as in computer printer paper. With blank print paper and a black roller ball pen, I drew the final version that incorporates all the changes I’ve made in the last year.

An impressive drawing? No. Does it get my point across? Yes.

Typically if I were just sketching, I’d add a lot of shading, but I keep that to a bare minimum when doing these design sketches because they’ll be uploaded digitally for alteration. It’s hard to do the digital stuff to these sketches if there are too many pen lines, so the fewer the pen lines, the better.

Once I complete the pen and paper sketch, I scan it in and save it as a JPG file. I archive it so if I lose the hard copy original, I can still print out the JPG as backup.

Then on that same sketch sheet, I mark up the drawing with notes. All measurements (in centimeters, not inches, something I’ve had to work real hard at getting used to) are in red ink and all notes and descriptions in blue ink.

My supervisor, the kitty pictured above, totally micromanages me. He has to check and double-check everything I do. There he is looking over a sketch of the signature TZ handle bases.

I also draft style summary sheets, which serve as the cover page to each brief. These are done in MS Word. Above is a screen shot example of a style summary sheet. This page summarizes the dimensions, stitching instructions, hardware notes, etc.

For an illustration of what the styles will look like in the color options I’ve selected, I upload that pen ink drawing onto the computer and using a paint can function, digitally color in the pen ink drawings.

The above illustration is from a page of the briefs that illustrate the contrast stitching I want. If there are special stitching instructions for the style, I include it on this same page. For the Peripatetic weekender tote illustrated above, a more industrial needle than the standard ones used is required, so I make that notation here on this page.

That’s a screen shot of Jasc Paint Shop Pro, the software program I use for digital alterations of my sketches. It’s a fantastic program, and I prefer it over Photoshop. In Jasc, the paint can function is referred to as the “Flood Fill Tool,” I guess.

To cover my bases, I reviewed all the swatches I’ve collected from the many leather factories I’ve talked to. In the above photo, my feline supervisor is also reviewing the swatches with me.

Over the last two years, I’ve visited and chatted with dozens upon dozens of factories around the world that manufacture vegan (synthetic) leathers. We don’t look at any PVC at all. Ew, gross. Among polyurethanes (PUs), there’s a wide variety of manufacturing methods, embossing techniques, treatments, and therefore a wide range of quality.

“That one looks promising.”

We’re focused on the high end stuff, to put it simply. We’ve looked at soy-based polyurethanes, other vegetable-based materials, and the varying types could be listed on and on.

By this point, I’m settled into my choices already and we’re going with a totally customized material (so it’s not pictured in any of the color swatches above).


And there goes the kitty’s attention. Birds flying around outside our window interest him more than leather swatches.

Anyway, I then compile sketches with the dimensions (in centimeters, in red ink), sketches with notes and descriptions (keep it concise, in blue ink), any special stitching or color pairing instructions, and the style summary sheet, which lists out the hardware, etc. That is all then organized into a PDF and sent off to the manufacturer. If I get back a workable quotation, we then move forward and I coordinate between the leather factory and the handbags factory. Then we’ll proceed with samples making and if that goes well, confirmation samples and if that goes well, a production order is finalized and signed and then we wait. It’s on average a two month production wait. Then it’s shipped by sea and then we wade through U.S. customs, which is always an adventure in and of itself.

Since production time for packaging materials is typically shorter than production of the handbags (which are all made by hand), once the handbags purchase order is out of the way, I focus on getting the packaging produced. It’s not awfully expensive to get that done state-side, so that’s what I’m intending to do.

I apologize to all those who contacted me about Christmas orders. As you can see, we’ve encountered several production bumps and have nothing to sell right now. Production with the prospective new factory won’t complete for another who knows how long. I so wish I had cheerier news to report, but alas.

Posted in Business Development, Design Conception, DIY Fun Post, Learning Curve, Musings, One Step Closer, Personal, Progress, Sketches SW, Unrelated | 7 Comments

Bringing Back Amaranth Rose; And A Wedding

I went on and on here about how much I love the above swatch color, which I am dubbing Amaranth Rose (previously referred to as Amaranth Pink in the linked posts). Then, with heavy disappointment, I posted here about how the factory that makes this awesome material no longer makes it. The color was taken entirely out of production. So sad.

Then I thought and I thought and I thought. And thought some more. Did some number crunching, some introspection, some risk analysis, a little bit of everything that would ordinarily make a designer’s head ache. And then I decided.

After some heart to heart negotiations, we convinced the factory to bring it back! Just for us. It’s going to take a couple of months to make it, but that’s okay. We’ve waited this long already. What’s another two months?

We’ll be offering the Workaholic, Executive, and the Precisionist in this color. For the above two images, I scanned in the swatch card and my purse (my holding it steady over the scanner bed while I hit “Scan”) hoping this method would yield a more accurate visual of the color. It appears darker than it does in person. See the previously linked posts for what the color looks like when I shoot it head on with a DSLR, and also here and here.

So. It’s back. Amaranth Rose. I’m excited because I really, really love this color, but I’m also nervous now. Will the returns pay off? Who knows. I went with my gut and I guess by the end of 2012, if nothing else, we’ll know a little bit more about my guts.

Sorry for the lack of updates here. Earlier this month, my little sister got married. Hubby and I took some time off and visited Texas (for my first time) for the celebrations. Holy smokes is it ever hot in Texas! I don’t know how women stay put together down south. Your makeup melts off your face, your hair is perpetually frizzy, and I am a walking, sweaty, shiny mess. Horrors.

My sister agreed to let me post pictures of the beautiful newly wed couple. =P

Below is a pic someone took of Hubby and me. I think it was taken with a camera phone, so it’s kind of grainy. And don’t ask me what’s going on with my hairdo. Before the event, my sister took me to a salon, I sat down in a chair, and a lady did that to me. I had no say in it.

Let’s end with a cute photo of my sisters and me. Clearly, I’m the eldest. Clearly. Sigh. The woes of aging. Nothing makes you feel old like hanging out with two youthful younger sisters who are still full of fun and vivacity.

Oh, and although it isn’t pictured, let the record show that the TZ clutch I had with me at the wedding reception was in Amaranth Rose. =)

Found a pic. But it’s from the night before the wedding.

There’s Hubby and me. And Amaranth Rose. ::love::

Posted in Business Development, Collection, Learning Curve, Musings, One Step Closer, Personal, Progress, Vacation Pics | 13 Comments

Progress Report (or lack thereof): Frustration and a Low Point

Please note: the above chart is not a real chart of anything.

I’ve been dragging my feet about updating here because I have no good news and also because if I memorialize the situation in writing, then I’ll have to confront the reality of it. And sometimes it’s more tempting to not talk about what’s going wrong and pretend that everything is fine. =)

So what’s going wrong? Well. Nothing. Since nothing is going on… Production seems to be at a complete halt.

Glimpse inside our factory.

The factory we work with, the one we visited in March, overbooked production this season. They work with some really big name designers, so naturally the big name designers’ production orders hold priority over mine. I’m okay with that. No….no, I’m not; but I have to be okay with it, so I force myself to understand.

Snapshot of Guangzhou

Although the factory couldn’t fulfill my order themselves, they wanted to keep my business. They proposed that in the meantime, I go with one of their subcontractors. The subcontractor is in Guangzhou (very, very far away). I then had to ship samples of all my bags to the Guangzhou factory so that they had prototypes to follow for production.

Needed to stuff the bags before shipping, so they maintain their shape in transit.

Only available stuffing on hand: Pages of law magazines.

Hubby helping me pack the boxes.

We shipped out the package a month ago, and the package still has not arrived at the factory… because it is stuck at customs. The customs headache aside, this means production hasn’t even begun yet. Oh my goodness. [I say "oh my goodness" here on this blog, but in my head, far more colorful verbiage is being used.]

The above photos show many Workaholic shoulder tote samples in black. They may look the same upon first glance, but there are slight, just the slightest variations between each one.

I’m posting these photos for an aspiring designer who asked me how many prototypes/sampe adjustments I go through for each style before I arrive at the final one for production. First of all to be clear, I’m still an “aspiring designer” and therefore have no “expert opinions” on anything. Whatever I say here is nothing more than the blind gal walking slightly in front leading the blind gal walking slightly behind. Both of us are still in it together.

Anyway, photos of the Workaholic shoulder tote samples show how many sample variations I go through. In one I changed the design of the handle base; in another I made the front design part into a pocket; in another I changed the side wall pockets; also went from single zipper head to double zipper heads; in another I changed the material used; even changed the measurements a couple of times and the incline of the side walls (adjusting by less than 2 degrees). All that fussing over an otherwise simple looking bag design.

Lately my updates on this blog have been sporadic. My deepest apologies and I’m so grateful for the readers who still remain patient. =)

Posted in Business Development, Learning Curve, Musings | 9 Comments