A week later the patterns for five new jeans arrived at our apartment, everything from High waisted flare to Ultra skinny jeans. It was my job to get all the samples made in the next three weeks so everything would be ready for The Magic Clothing Convention, which was only four weeks out. I brought the patterns, denim and all the trimmings to our local denim factory in San Francisco. I was told they would be ready in a week, but as usual, when you’re a small fish you’re left on the back burner so to speak.
One week turned into two weeks which then turned into three. Allan was calling me each week asking me what was going on with the samples etc… I, in turn, kept calling our denim factory and they kept saying, it will be ready shortly. It was really beginning to stress me out as we desperately needed to have some type of a fashion line going to Vegas - our usual two jeans were not going to cut it.
On the Wednesday before the event, I called down to see if our jeans were ready. I could see the patterns and denim sitting in the same exact spot from the previous week. I was livid. I called Allan and told him the story. He said, “ok, drive down to LA in the morning and meet me at my house.” 3am the next morning, I drove to LA like a bat outta hell with all the patterns and denim etc.. I got to his place at about 8am.
The first thing I saw when I arrived at Allans house was a car that was covered over with a patched jean car cover which I thought was pretty trippy. I must be in the right place.
We worked all day in his house cutting up the denim to make sure the patchwork looked the way we wanted it to. That day and night we designed nine pairs of jeans in his house. Now we had some variety! We had a collection =) We didn't have the time to do everything we wanted, but we had a small line that was a lot cleaner than what we originally had.
The following morning, we went to downtown LA and met Angel (Allan’s friend) our Mexican sewer, a super reliable, nice, honest, hard working guy.
Angel worked with us all weekend long, sewing up the jeans. I couldn't believe it. The BS and stress I was going through in San Francisco to get some jeans made and I come to LA, and bang, over a few days everything is made.
I stayed in LA all weekend working with Allan and Angel. By Sunday, all our jeans were sewn up. Now all we needed was the finishing touches, trimming, pressing and hardware.
I left all the jeans with Allan and I drove back to San Francisco on the Sunday evening as I was flying out to Vegas on the Monday morning at 6am with my wife and three models who we were bringing to Vegas to help us promote: Mataisse, Lawrence and Anna. We were meeting Allan there with all the pressed and finished jeans!
Yet again, we got to the trade show the day of the event and had to scramble to set everything up. We shared our booth with a girl I knew from San Francisco: Hilary from Hillside Bags. Hilary and her mum were promoting bags and we were promoting jeans. It was pretty funny, we had two very different groups, on one side of the booth was us (a motley crew of models, a young couple and a 70 year old designer in sun glasses) and on the other side of the booth: Hillary and her mum. Hillary and her mum were pretty chilled out and we were there to make some noise - guerrilla marketing style.
We were set up in a show called “Pool Trade Show.” Pool is a smaller trade show (part of The Magic Clothing Convention) mainly for fashion and accessory start ups.
This time we arrived with 3000 flyers and immediately went to war putting them everywhere. We even put them in all the trade show magazines that were being given out to all attendees. Security came over to our booth with Anna (our beautiful Russian model who was really pretty shy and very honest) as if she was under arrest. “We caught your model putting flyers in our trade magazines” the security guard said. I gave him the “Gold Fish” look, as if to say, and ????
Yet again, we got told off by the authorities - no more flyers allowed. Fuck that, I thought, we still had about 2500 flyers and we weren't about to take them back to San Francisco with us. As soon as security was out of sight, I told Anna to get back out there and put the flyers out. Anna gave me the puppy dog look and begged me “no Gerry please, not again.” Allan didn't know what to make of me either.
Ok, I said, don’t let Lawrence or Matisse know that security were here. I called Lawrence and Mataisse back and told them that we needed to get all the flyers out ASAP, it has to be done today.
They put them everywhere, it was classic. Then at about 4pm, security came back to our table and this time were not so easy going. One guy took my badge off me and took a photo of it and gave me some BS power trip crap about getting me thrown out of the trade show for some code violation. I told him with genuine sympathetic eyes, I was sorry and it wouldn't happen again. He told me they would be back with his boss. I never saw them again. We still had about 1000 flyers left and ended up putting them on every slot machine, bar table, restroom stall, night club table and wherever else we could. I then got a message on my voice-mail that night from the hotel security telling me to come down to the front desk at the Mandalay Bay Hotel about all the flyers everywhere. I gave that a miss and never heard anything again.
Over the three days, we had a few people check out our jeans. We didn't get any orders, but we had a lot better reception than our last event and learned a lot more. We went out to a few parties that were put on by the organizers of Magic it was mainly to network and spread the word about Sonas.
I think Allan felt sorry for us, yet again, we were trying everything to get people to come to our booth. He started bringing over buyers that he would meet walking around in other parts of the convention. I guess when you're in your 70’s and you approach people, you get a bit more respect than young models with flyers. Good on him. He tried everything in his power to help us.
I remember calling into his room later that evening to see if he was up for a beer and he was wearing a “True Religion” t-shirt and had crossed out “True Religion” with a big black sharpie and wrote Sonas across it instead. That was a great memory reminding me that people, aside from my wife, believed in me and my goals.
Lessons I learned from that stage of my business:
1. You need a team, you can’t do everything yourself. Extreme dreams require extreme teams.
2. Before you go to any trade show make sure that you call as many buyers as possible and set up appointments to meet them there.
3. LA is the denim capital of the world, if you’re designing fashion denim LA is the place to be.
4. Patience and persistence. You just gotta keep on keeping on.