Chapter 16 - From Patchwork Blankets to New Jeans


Kieran at Skyblue told me to come back on a Saturday, when the factory was quiet, and he would take a look at my jeans. I went back the following Saturday, he looked at what I had, raised his eyes to heaven and basically told me that I had to redo everything from scratch.



Originally, I would wash two foot lengths of denim in my local launderette on a high temperature to pre-shrink the denim so there wouldn't be any shrinkage problems with all the different denims I was using. Then, we would cut it all up into 10” x 6” rectangles. My wife and I would then put them together on our living room floor in whatever pattern/design we desired. It was a crazy amount of work - we would work till 4 or 5 in the morning arranging the sequences.
Later, I found a professional launderette that would pre-shrink the denim in 10 yard pieces and then another guy would cut it all. Kieran introduced me to a Chinese woman who agreed to sew the patches together into blankets. Once that was done, we brought the patchwork blankets over to Skyblue and they would cut the jean pattern out of the sewn blankets. My wife didn't like to waste anything, so all the scraps were made into greeting cards.

I remember I got a call from Skyblue to come down and collect my first sample from them. Kieran and the sample maker were used to making samples for Levis so you can imagine what they thought of my creation. It was a bit wild/busy - very different from what they were used too.
I was excited and a bit nervous after my last experience. They pulled two pairs of jeans out of a box that they had in their office waiting for me. I was blown away! I loved them. I couldn't believe how cool they turned out. They had proper buttons and rivets on them also. I basically stripped down there and then and tried on both pairs. That was it. I was hooked. After the crap I went through with the last sample, this was a major step up for us. I think that they thought I wouldn't like it, but I was blown away. It was the real deal in my books. A real pair of unique patchwork jeans. Finally, my vision was coming to light.

I left Skyblue that day ecstatic and called over to a friend of mine “Dave Keane” also from Ireland. Dave was the only guy I knew that had any experience in fashion whatsoever. He had interned for a Summer at a fashion label ten years previous.

I told Dave my vision for Sonas and how I was going to start with jeans and shorts and then make jackets, skirts, t-shirts, hoodie tops, laptop cases and eventually cool fashion furniture all with a unique patchwork twist. Dave loved my vision which was very encouraging for me.

Then, Kieran told me that I should take a trip to a store called “AB Fits” in North Beach and speak to the owner “Howard” a cool Asian guy who’s been selling jeans for about 30 years. Howard looked me up and down. He then stood there thinking for a few minutes and then said, "yeah, I’d sell them." Howard told me that the denim business is a pretty snobby business and I was a breath of fresh air which he really liked.

I was super excited and put in an order for 100 jeans and then signed up for my first ever trunk show which was about six weeks away. I was told that it would take about two weeks for the jeans to be ready. Two weeks turned into three weeks, then four weeks, then five and then six. Fuck, I was freaking out thinking that they wouldn't be ready for the show. In the end, I picked up the jeans about 8pm the night before the event. I took them all home and tried on a pair. To cut a long story short, the jeans came out a lot smaller than I had planned. The 32’s were like 29’s the 30’s were like 27’s and the 34’s were like 32’s. I had made a lot more 32’s than any other size, since it's been the most popular size. So the sizing "issue" turned out to be a bit of a pain. (But a good learning experience.) The denim business is all about fit, fit, fit, fit.

The trunk show was held on the 6th floor of the Metreon Building in San Francisco. Along with my wife, Dave also came with us and helped us set up. We had a small table and a lot of jeans and flyers. I was so naive. I thought that everybody would rush our table and go crazy for our jeans. Fuck, was I in for a surprise and a rude awakening. I tried everything to sell our jeans. I stopped people inside and outside and would drag them over to our table. Some of the folks at the other booths were getting pissed off with me. I put flyers everywhere and I mean everywhere. I taped them to the front and back of the restroom doors, men’s and women’s. I taped them to the walls in the lift. I put them on the restaurant tables, everywhere you could think off I put them. At about 12pm security came over to our booth and told me that I had to stop, enough was enough.

We ended up making our first sale that day to a cool guy named Jason.

Lessons I learned from our first run ever:
1) Make sure you check all your products before you leave the factory.
2) If you're selling clothing, have a mannequin displaying your product it really helps.
3) Put flyers everywhere, promote like fuck