Skip to main content

How CALA Helps New Brands and Small Runs Get Off the Ground

If there’s one trend that cropped up in the apparel supply chain this year, it’s the emergence of platforms designed to give the little guy a leg up when attempting to break into the industry.

Since at least the 1980s, the fashion industry has been built for scale, and while that’s great for the Gaps and Inditexes of the world, it’s less than ideal for the starry-eyed fashion school grad with visions of designer life dancing through her fedora-topped head.

But today, hot new collections don’t come just from folks educated in the business of fashion; just about any creative or influencer with a rabid following has a reason to put product out, too. And as evidenced by Something Navy’s sell-out capsule with Nordstrom, there’s plenty of incentive for social media stars, young artists and others to tap into their fan base with products that build their brand.

But supply chains within fashion have historically not kept up with technology the way other industries have. It’s not at all uncommon for vendors to manage their businesses on spreadsheets, and on top of that, most of the biggest factories that manufacture cost-effectively also require the largest minimums—all but extinguishing the ambitions of independent players looking to try out a new idea.

That’s where Andrew Wyatt, CEO of startup CALA, comes in, with an idea similar to The Studio, which came out of beta earlier this year. The browser-based platform allows emerging designers, creatives and other novices to focus on designing a great product without having to worry about the technical details of sourcing factories, finding pattern makers and technical designers, and securing financing on their own. CALA’s collaboration platform facilitates communication among stakeholders during the design phase with a comments feature so users can leave feedback on their project. Its network of vendors offer fabrics ranging from Lycra and Lurex to silk charmeuse.

Related Stories

To keep things transparent, the platform shows how a project’s price changes according to the complexity of the designs and the numbers of units to be manufactured. According to CALA, platform users can offer their product for sale in as little as six weeks after the first sample is in hand. Those in need of brand strategy and marketing direction can get help through CALA’s services, too. Plus, the startup takes care of direct-to-consumer fulfillment, from warehousing to shipping to managing any returns. The goal: to be a full-service solution for the next hot new brand.

“Today, many of the world’s most creative individuals have an audience and a vision, but lack the access to infrastructure and working capital that is required to make them successful,” Wyatt explained. “Our vision is to leverage technology to remove these roadblocks, allowing designers to spend more of their time and energy on what they love—the creative aspect—and CALA will take care of the rest.”

Design schools like Parsons are already among the platform’s fans. “The School of Fashion at Parsons has educated generations of illustrious designers and leads the global industry though innovative, rigorous programs and projects,” Burak Cakmak, the school’s dean of fashion, said. “As such, we’re continuously looking for the most innovative tools to bring into our program and we could not be more excited to be leveraging CALA to help our students grow into the next generation of successful fashion designers.”

A$AP Ferg, Buffalo London, KidSuper, Madeline Poole, Vaquera, UglyWorldWide, Office Magazine and Barragan are some of the 200-strong group of creatives and brands using CALA in a pilot since March of this year. To date they’ve worked on 90 style ideas, and produced 8,000 units overall.

“Before CALA, we would work with a different factory in a different country every time we did a new order –it was pretty much a mess and basically everything you could think of that could go wrong, went wrong at some point,” Colm Dillane, founder of Brooklyn’s KidSuper apparel line, said. “We started with just one style on CALA and after our first experience immediately submitted our second and third. Now, when we sell out of a product it takes literally five minutes to re-up on our order and it’s in our customers hands in weeks! Weeks, not months! It’s insane! It feels like we have a twenty-person team now, but it’s still just our OG KidSuper squad!”

CALA’s invite-only waitlist is currently 1,500 names long.