Success Story is a Sourcing Journal feature highlighting innovative solutions across all areas of the supply chain.
You know what’s even better than a spontaneous beach vacation in the winter? Being able to purchase made-to-order clothing for it!
Since its founding in 2016, on-demand resortwear brand Bohn Jsell has sought to reimagine destination dressing by catering to shoppers’ appetites for unique garments that also minimize waste.
In particular, brand co-founders John Bell and Kasha Reavis wanted to offer shoppers newly produced runway collections that can be bought and delivered in a few weeks’ time, instead of waiting for multiple seasons to debut.
“That’s always a selling point for consumers,” Reavis, the brand’s art director, told Sourcing Journal.
Soon after launching the brand, the co-founders enlisted quick-turn production software and services provider N.A.bld (pronounced “enabled”) to bring this reality to life.
With the partnership, the luxury resortwear brand started selling on the platform’s Nineteenth Amendment pre-sale marketplace, which is designed to get upstart apparel brands off the ground by making products available for purchase without any upfront inventory investment.
Bohn Jsell now sells products on both the Nineteenth Amendment marketplace as well as its own Shopify-powered e-commerce site.
Through N.A.bld, the brand can add work-in-progress updates such as purchase orders, bills-of materials and related costs to a production timeline, where both the brand and any sourcing partners can manage the information in one place. Additionally, Bohn Jsell can link its e-commerce site with N.A.bld so that it automatically updates the timeline when a shopper makes a purchase.
The made-to-order brand typically has a limited product line, showcasing approximately 10 products at a time on its site as part of this slow pace, Reavis said. This gives Bohn Jsell confidence to place orders for materials and production and know that it will use and sell all of it.
“We use a lot of deadstock, but we also use reorderable fabrics. For example, we are very consistent with seated chiffon, so that’s something we purchase when needed,” Reavis said. “Those garments stay up on the site all the time, because we can always find that fabric. We just remove some items when the fabric is done, but most times, we don’t take down the older SKU unless it really cannot be made again.”
The N.A.bld platform also brings a full suite of manufacturing and product development solutions to brands, with additional features such as assisting with patternmaking on product samples, creating line sheets for companies heading to trade shows and connecting fashion merchandisers with materials producers.
Local sourcing, manufacturing delivers specialized garments
Bohn Jsell’s material collection, product development and manufacturing processes all take place locally to the company’s New York-based operations, with the high-end fashion brand’s factory located in Manhattan’s Garment District. The company’s seamstress is on Long Island, N.Y., and a tailor is in Newark, N.J.
While the luxury brand has offered a swimwear collection manufactured in China, the intent is to keep the main product line in the U.S.
The brand procures fabric from numerous local sources, stemming from Bell’s time as a student at Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) where he could access it via professors, classrooms and even donations. He has since sourced fabrics from assorted factories he’s visited and fabric stores that are still holding cancelled factory orders.
“A lot of times, we’ll collect fabric we’re inspired by or attached to, and we’ll come up with a selection of colors that pairs with it,” Bell, the brand’s head designer, told Sourcing Journal. “A lot of that fabric we do have is deadstock, so we can produce works in small batches.”
The brand typically purchases 5 to 10 yards of fabric per day, but that can range up to 20 on some days, Bell said.
“As a smaller business, when we’re trying to get custom or specific fabric, a lot of those factories want you to purchase 50 yards or more. We can’t afford to operate like that,” Bell said. “Finding those little yardages that are canceled out is good for us, because you only can get that fabric from us now.”
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Bohn Jsell quickly pivoted to use scrap materials from other designers to produce its “Fleur-de-Lis” headband face masks, while it used deadstock fabric for its “Afri-Mosaic” headband face masks.
“We produced the mask within two to three weeks,” said Reavis.
‘See now, buy now’ fashion show set for return
The N.A.bld partnership hasn’t just benefited back-end operations at Bohn Jsell.
In 2017, the brand teamed with Nineteenth Amendment to livestream its first-ever runway show during New York Fashion Week. The runway show, which aired on the Nineteenth Amendment YouTube channel, drove 65,000 live viewers with an average view time of five minutes and resulted in a 500 percent increase in sales for the fashion brand, which was the company’s highest-grossing sales day at the time.
Bohn Jsell collections showed with both 2018 and 2019 fashion shows before the pandemic shelved plans for a 2020 edition.
This September, Bohn Jsell is bringing the runway show back into the fold as in-person events return, with 18 new resortwear looks.
“I definitely am trying to reach a bigger audience this time. The venue is a bit bigger and we have access to more resources than we did in the past,” Reavis said. “We’ll be able to showcase more interesting pieces and have something for everyone. We’re going to have a swim mix in there. We’re exploring jewelry, so we might have our own earrings in the show. I’m hoping that the ‘see now, buy now’ aspect of the show really puts us in a good place, because I do think that there are pieces that people are going to want to purchase right away.”
Going forward, Bohn Jsell will have to execute a delicate balancing act as it advances growth initiatives, according to Reavis. The brand is exploring more small-batch options and overseas production since it is seeking out retailer partnerships, but understands that potential consumers might not want to wait a few weeks for a delivery.
“We still want to keep made-on-demand in mind because that’s where our heart is,” Reavis said. “I don’t want to have too much inventory stored, or overproduced product that ends up in landfills or has to be marked down. We’re not that type of brand.”