Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Right Bank Babies

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am happy to be bringing you Ellen Uzarowicz who is the of the wonderful clothing line of the Right Bank Babies.  Thank you for joining us today Ellen!

Hello, James, I’m very glad to be here!

Would you be so kind as to describe your products for everyone?  What makes your clothes so special?

Our goal is to create clothes that are “timeless”, wearable, beautiful and fun. I want to look back at photos and not be able to tell what year it was. I want little ones and moms to fall in love with the styles and patterns - to be able to wash them and keep them for years not just months. We don’t make disposable fashion.


With such great looking clothes and experience in the industry, why bring your product to Kickstarter?

I love the concept of supporting growing businesses and I’ve always thought if we could just show everyone what’s we can do I know they’d want to be a part of it. I didn’t want to bring it to Kickstarter unless I all the pieces were in line and we were really on the verge. I’ve been doing this now for over 5 years and really feel that we know we are doing and have a great infrastructure and support system in place.


So your video says you want to “get your brand back on track”  what do you mean by that?

There have been some tough years. I have invested everything into this company just as the economy plummeted and department stores stopped testing new brands. I had bad timing and some unfortunately partnerships that did not live up to their contractual obligations. All of these strained the day to day operations and we had some late arriving seasons and had to pare down some of the lines.

You are asking for $30,000, that seems like an awfully lot of money for clothes, where does all that money go?

Well, it goes into the production. Its not all that much in the overall scheme of things - we tend to spend between $50K-$100K on production per season. We’ve already paid the preproduction - the fabric and development costs - and the $30K will go toward cutting and sewing costs.

Why is it so much more expensive to produce clothes here in America?  I mean aren’t all the materials made in country shouldn’t the reduction in shipping costs help?

The reduction in shipping and duties absolutely helps. When you add in those costs it adds about 30% to the cost of the product you are importing. But we still have to ship large fabric rolls and to the local factories and it adds up. Local production is much more time and management intensive. The fabrics are generally more expensive locally because they tend to be imported. If you import goods the factories abroad will handle everything from ordering trims to pattern making to packaging but if you manufacture locally each of these is a separate task - and overall our labor just costs more. But generally we think its worth it. We like to be able to check the quality at every step of the game and really make sure everything is handled. The only products we’ve had a very hard time getting made locally are sweaters. We haven’t found anyone locally that can produce them for under $200 retail and we just don’t want to charge this for a kids sweater.

I’m pleased to have my wife join us for this interview since she is the fashion conscious bargain shopper of the partnership.  Sharyn what would you like to ask?  

About time you had me on here!  [Laughs] My first question is: what made you pick the name “Right Bank Babies?”  It doesn’t sound like a baby clothing line.  

I get asked that a lot! I lived in Paris and the Right Bank is considered the fashion district. While I was there I fell in love with the way the Parisians dressed their little ones. They layered and mixed patterns and nothing seemed to match but it worked.

The clothes look really great and very unique.  However, the pricing doesn’t seem very family friendly.  Especially since kids will either destroy or outgrow the outfits in only a season, why should I buy one of your outfits versus five of a cheaper one?  

I LOVE this question! First of all most of our outfits are at least 2 in one because they are reversible. Secondly, the prints and patterns are bright and busy and FORGIVING. My daughters have gotten tempura paint on many a Right Bank piece but it just added to the design. Next we really work hard to make the style grow with your child - the Reversible smock dress lasts 2 years as a dress and then is great worn as a tunic top. The reversible skirts start out hitting below the knee but can be worn for years until the become mini’s because the way a toddler’s body grows the waist slims out from 2 years and up. My 9 years old can still wear the 6X dress that she wore when she was 6 and her size 5 skirts are her favorites! The fabrics we use are washable and the woven cottons and cotton blends get softer over every wash. These clothes are investment pieces - not disposable - and not overly trendy. I hear all the time that they are “my child’s favorite” and we all know that definitely makes it worth a little more because you know it will get worn!

What materials are you using? Cotton seems best since it breaths but other fabrics might resist staining more.  

The majority of our pieces are 100% cotton poplin or 65%poly/35%cotton blend. I was very hesitant to use a poly blend but after testing it I realized that the styles are very breathable and this fabric even seems softer that the 100% cotton many time and best of all it doesn’t wrinkle as much! Even when we use our non-traditional fabrics - our wools or satins etc I like to take them and wash them and see what happens - I do a lot of field testing on my own daughters. This coming fall we have some amazing tweeds and brocades in the line and they are so rich and gorgeous. I’m really excited about them. We’ve also added some cotton spandex pieces in the same prints - cozy knits to mix and match and layer.

Thank you my love for taking time out of your busy day to join us.

You’re welcome!  Thank you for having me.  

Thank you for answering my wife’s questions Ellen.

Of course!

How hard is it to gain an audience in today’s marketplace?  Where are you selling these clothes?  

We have had some amazing press and wonderful luck with celebrities and photographs! This is great PR but doesn’t always translate into sales. It is very expensive to go to the tradeshows but we do them once or twice a year. We are selling in high end boutiques and will be launching our new retail website in the next week or so. This is our first season with our new distributor in the US, Jamari, Int’l, and we are now in showrooms all over the US.  

Since your kids are only getting older are you planning on creating older kids clothes?  Keep designing new clothes for them until they graduate?  

I would love to but I’m not sure how feasible this is. I called a lot of my boutiques last fall and asked them how they felt about an RBB tween line and 80% of them were all for it and the other 20% only carried babies. There was an overwhelmingly positive response so we are definitely considering it. We are also looking into expanding the line into housewares - bedding - decor for kids rooms using our patterns and reversibles.

A key part of successful Kickstarters is backer participation and how to convert a potential backer into a full backer.   How are you engaging your backers?  What kinds of things do you have planned for updates to give notice to those who just hit the “remind me” button and surf on?  Interviews?  Videos?  Stories from the project?

We’ll be updating with bits on our Fall 2013 photoshoot this upcoming weekend and the launch of our new retail website.

What kind of media attention have you received with your project?  How are you spreading the word?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Google+? Youtube?  Advertising?  Are you using Kicktraq to track your progress?

I’ve been spreading the word with Facebook and Twitter and some bloggers and photographers have picked up the story.

Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?

I think the best advice is just to do it. Don’t put it off or think you can’t do it. Ask for help and put it out there and you’ll get it done.

Thank you for spending your time with us!  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

Thank you for having me! I hope everyone enjoys a little glimpse into our adventure and will help support our growth. Its been amazing to feel all the support from other mom’s and business owners.

Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!

Thank you!