Ellie Klimczak has always been crafty and creative. Her mother was a seamstress and dressmaker, so she was surrounded by that do-it-yourself spirit growing up. Even more, she had a passion for the quirky and fun, the embodiment of her current brand, Coquetry Clothing.
Starting the shop from her home back in 2005, she had an eBay page, a sewing machine, a heap of stretch fabric, and plenty of ideas. Launching the brand's main site, CoquetryClothing.com in 2006, the brand has grown from a team of one to a team of 15 who all embody that "crazy, quirky, super fun" spirit to create clothing made exclusively with stretch fabrics: spandex, nylon, and Lycra.
Seeing much of her inspiration come from her customers, the brand thrives on attention to detail and working closely with customers to bring their ideas to life. With an endless amount of creativity a team that is always down to try something new, Coquetry Clothing is living proof that if you can dream it, you can do it.
MORE: What's your creative process and assembly look like? It looks like each team member has his or her own "specialty"!
Klimczak: They do, and everyone works together pretty smoothly because we all know our part in the process. From fabric ordering and inventory to pattern cutting, to construction and serging, top stitching, quality checks, packaging, and shipping, we have an ever evolving system to create each order exactly as it is ordered... The bigger our team gets, the more "specialties" there are!
And each piece is so one-of-a-kind. How does that unique business model influence your customer-brand relationship?
When our customers email us with their ideas, we need to have very clear communication and make sure every detail is planned out. Sometimes it is just something simple like a lengthened inseam... But sometimes it is much more complex, requiring color changes, different elements such as sleeves, hoods, zippers, etc., as well as custom measurements. All of that info needs to be entered onto the invoice so that it will be understandable to the cutters, the sergers, the top stitchers, and every other person down the line. I am very proud of the process we have built!
As a designer, where do you look for inspiration?
Our customers! We work closely with our customers, they bring us ideas and inspiration, and we help bring it to life. From these projects, we often adapt new patterns and styles. Also all of our shop members! We have some very crazy, quirky, super fun and kinda weird people in our shop.... It is not uncommon for one person to just jump up with a random idea, and we immediately get it on the table and start working on it. Some ideas are inspired from current events, celebrities, and spoofs.
What are your best tips for a young woman who might be interested in starting her own business?
You will have to work really hard. Be prepared to put the gas pedal to the floor and leave it there. You have to keep working for every small gain all the time, and you cannot ever let it coast. This means you will have to make sacrifices. Sometimes it is hard to balance your work and the rest of your life. This is such a great time to start a business. Entrepreneurs are everywhere, and there are so many networks, tutorials, and forums to help. With the internet even a small startup can reach the entire world!
What's one thing you wish you would have known about owning a business before you started?
There are so many more than one, but it's hard to know what you don't know until you find out the hard way. I would suggest that any first-time entrepreneur find good tax, bookkeeping, and insurance people early. These professionals have seen most of the mistakes that can be made and can advise you ahead of time.
What do you feel has been one of the most standout moments for you as a brand owner?
Moving the business out of the dining room! Getting out of the house and into a shop where we had more room to work made all the difference in regards to how much business we could take on. Two years after we moved into our first shop, we moved to our current, larger location. Having space to spread out definitely helps our creativity.
What are your goals for 2017?
To help our employees grow professionally and financially because if they are doing that, we are, too. And to make even more awesome custom spandex clothes for amazing people all over the world!