What we are trying to pull off here is crazy hard. We are trying to bring manufacturing back home when the story is always that manufacturing leaves never to come back. But our town wants to make jeans again. It spent 3-4 decades learning how to do that well. And it is not going to let that skill go without a fight.
This is our fight.
But we will not rely just on sentiment of our town making jeans, and superior quality. That will only make us as good as the best. And that will not be enough for us to get the town making jeans again. A big part of the fight will be our ability to have ideas that have never been done before. The HistoryTag is just one. There will be more. And judging by the sheer number of orders, people want us to win. We had almost 3 months worth of orders within the first two weeks. That has brought with its problems to solve. And we have had some teething problems. So I want to share some of the Lessons I have learnt so far.
Doing the right thing isn’t the same as doing the smart thing.
This is my learning about doing the right thing. We made the decision to make orders in the date that they were received. It was the right thing to do. But it meant we would be making one of this, and one of that. We were doing the right thing, for sure. But we were also doing the most in-efficient thing too. Instead of making 50 pairs a week, we would be lucky to be making 25 pairs.
So our desire to get everyone their jeans meant people were waiting much longer than they had too. It was the opposite of what we wanted. Yup, doing the right thing isn’t always the same as doing the smart thing. We now make our production in bulk.
Embrace wrong thinking.
We want to get everyone their jeans as quickly as we can. That led us to doing orders by the date that people ordered. It made us half as efficient as we can be. For the right reasons we were doing the wrong thing.
Let me give you an example. You know when the plane lands and everybody stands up to leave; it results in everyone waiting longer. It’s slow. And it’s slow for pretty much everyone. But if everyone sat down, and one row left at a time, then 80% of the people would get out of the plane quicker.
So when we have been making small runs of our jeans, we have been in our way slowing things down. We have been making 2 of something because we have had orders for 2 of that thing. But, when you work out that more time is spent walking from machine to machine than sewing, then you think differently.
So making 5 pairs at a time, even though we don’t have orders for all 5, doesn't take that much more time than just making the 2 which we have orders for.
Counter intuitive as it sounds, wrong thinking is often oddly right.
Say thank you.
But my fourth piece of learning is that we have a maverick bunch of customers. To have waited this long for our jeans says something. The truth is most people would have walked away. And who could have blamed them. But most haven’t. And that is humbling stuff.
Our first 500 customers will be our foundation with what we build this company on. Yes, the teething problems will be sorted out. And, yes, we are going to learn how ‘Do one thing well’. But the dream is clear.
Through quality, craftsmanship and invention, we are going to get this town making jeans again.
So don’t stop being angry with us for being late, so don’t stop challenging us for crap customer service, but do remember this is a fight. And we are fighting for big things here. And without you we cannot win the fight.
So thank you. Your patience is amazing. And, yes, yes, they are coming.
Ignore the business plan. Listen to instinct. Start hiring.
I don't know where I got that phrase from, but there is a lot of truth in it.
If important values,dreams, aims aren't put into place from the beginning, they don't just magically turn up during the journey.
I remember one day having a conversation with the landlord about how bad the floor was, and how I thought he should get it painted. His mindset was different to mine. He was happy with mediocre and I wasn't. I ended up walking out and left the landlords in the factory without any goodbyes being said. The next day, we went and bought some floor paint and some rollers.
I wanted everyone to know that if we were going to make great jeans, we wouldn't surround ourselves with mediocre. Mediocre is contagious. And it would set us out on the wrong path.
The floor is now part of folklore of Hiut. Everyone in the factory knows what our intent is: To be great at what we do.
One way to make sure you beat mediocre is to work with people who have already battled with it and won. I like working with a small team of people who have proven to themselves and the outside world that they have the desire to push things forward.
My idea for the factory was to make it feel precise, to make it feel uncluttered, to make it feel almost zen like, where the only thing to concentrate on was the art of making a great jean.
One member of our small team is Russell Ashdown who runs Remodel Design (Others are Nick Hand who designs the Year Book, Jon Heslop who develops our internet strategy). He designed the space at the factory and in so doing, he shaped our future. Of course, helped along by the Landlord.
I will put up some more photos next week. I will end by sharing his thinking on the project.
‘Think about the difference between the factory space and the workshop.
One is about production, the other is about craft.
Remodel has helped design a new manufacturing facility for Hiut Denim.
One particular challenge was key for this unique denim company.
Can you have a modern production space, geared to the high speed needs of the marketplace.
But still create a place that supports the workflow and thought process of craft.
The finished space has the feel of an efficient manufacturer.
Dead straight lines of sewing machines, a regimented order for handling the jeans give away the careful thought that has gone into the layout.
Also however, allowed to creep in here and there, is the mild chaos of the creative space, the workshop and the artists studio.
The new space tells the story of a serious little company, with its roots firmly in the craft tradition.’