“I saw a need in the market for a high-end factory that was not afraid to produce complicated garments at lower volumes.” – Houman Salem.
If you’re a designer looking to launch a Made-in-America brand, finding a production partner here in the USofA is a challenge. And if you’re starting out and just need a few samples made, that challenge becomes even tougher with costly minimums.
The lack of partners, options and support is what spurred Houman Salem to create ARGYLEHaus — a full service fashion design house and apparel factory. Along with his business partner/co-founder Priscilla Condinach, founder of Priscilla Jade Lingerie, the ARGYLE Haus team helps brands launch and stay in business.
This summer, we met up with Houman and Salem in California offices to learn more about how ARGYLE Haus started and how they can help the intimate apparel industry:
Q&A with Houman Salem, ARGYLEHaus of Apparel
Houman, I’m hoping you could give our readers who might not be familiar with ARGYLEHaus an overview of what it’s all about? When did you start work on ARGYLEHaus? What was the spark that gave life to the ARGYLEHaus concept?
ARGYLEHaus was launched in September of 2013. At that time, I had a lingerie retail store and website (Chelsea Manor Intimates) and I was searching for a factory in Los Angeles that could produce my new lingerie collection. I had visited no less than 30 factories during the Summer of 2013 and I was dismayed that no one in LA was able or willing to produce my line.
There were a variety of reasons given, but the main reasons were that I either did not meet their required minimum orders (generally at about 1000 pieces per style) or that they were not familiar with lingerie. Going overseas for production was not an option for me so I set out to start my own factory.
I saw a need in the market place for a high-end factory that was not afraid to produce complicated garments at lower volumes.
Above: Priscilla Codinach, Vice President of Operations.
Who’s on the ARGYLEHaus team? What are their roles?
The two principal partners are myself and Priscilla Codinach. Priscilla is an expert bra maker and had her own lingerie collection called Priscilla Jade Lingerie which was sold through high-end boutiques throughout North America.
She is the Vice President of Operations and oversees the day-to-day tactical operations of the factory. I oversee strategic end of the business operations looking for growth opportunities, new business development, and responsible for the overall financial performance of the company.
Could you give us an overview of how Argyle Haus can help an emerging brand?
We are a full service fashion design house and apparel factory. Aside from helping to develop and produce their brands, we also assist with management consulting in areas of operations, marketing (digital and traditional), and branding.
What services do you and your team provide?
ARGYLEHaus offers three distinct services and clients hire us for any one or a combination of all three. Our first service offering is fashion design services. Many of our start-up clients are Mid-career professionals looking to transition into fashion, while others have some fashion experience but little to no design experience. We have a team of designers that works with clients to develop technical flats from the ideas and inspiration provided by client.
The technical flats are the drawing we need to get to the second service offering, which is Pre-Production. Once we have the technical flats (either created by us or supplied by the client) we go into Pre-Production which involves making patterns (all done digitally using the latest apparel software and tools), size grading, sampling, and creating tech packs. These are all the element the client needs to go into full production. Sometimes a client may chose to go with a different factory for production (either locally or overseas) and our Pre-Production deliverables can be used in any factory.
However, more often than not, the client will remain with us for Production, which is our third service offering. We offer mass production with relatively lower minimum quantities than most other factories (averaging around 300 pieces per style). Our minimums are based on the complexity of the garment; therefore, more complicated garments have lower minimum quantities, while the easier garments have higher minimums. Overall, we aim to be a turnkey solution for designers looking to launch or expand their lines.
Would you be able to walk us through the steps of how a designer can launch a brand with ARGYLEHaus?
We are pretty easy to work with. As mentioned before, many of our clients are new to the fashion industry and we take time to work with them and help them understand the industry. We advise on pricing strategy, marketing strategy (online and offline), social media marketing, and e-commerce. Before we take on a new client I have to be certain that they have a clear path to profitability.
We look at the category of products they want to launch and evaluate the competition in that category. If I don’t feel that the client will be successful, I do them a favor and refuse the project because they will just end up burning money. We look for companies that have a viable opportunity to sell a lot of products and we stand ready to advise them on all the necessary business fundamentals.
Is ARGYLEHaus just for emerging brands? How can establish brands and designers work with you? Why should they work with you?
In the short amount of time that we have been in business we have worked with a wide variety of companies. About 50% of our business is start-up brands. However, we also have several corporate accounts which constitutes about 25% of our clientele.
The remaining 25% of our business is coming from well established brands that are looking to come back to the USA for manufacturing. The majority of the time clients choose to work with us because of our expertise and quality. We only hire master seamstresses who go through a rigorous hiring process and that are capable of producing high-end garments effectively and efficiently.
What brands and designers have successfully gone through ARGYLEHaus?
We have had over 150 clients over our short lifespan and the vast majority of our clients require anonymity, which we respect. However, I can tell you that one of our corporate accounts is CINTAS (the largest uniform company in the USA), we manufactured uniforms for a major Las Vegas casino for them. We also work with many celebrity and VIP clients including DJ Williams of the Chicago Bears and Mariah Woodson (daughter of coach Mike Woodson of the NY Nicks and currently with the LA Clippers).
What’s next for ARGYLEHaus?
We have been growing at a much faster pace then we ever expected, and unfortunately, the majority of our operations can not remain in Los Angeles due to the increasing amount of regulations and costs. As a result, we will be moving all our mass production to Las Vegas in 2017 and only keeping our fashion design and Pre-production services in Los Angeles going forward.
This is a great opportunity for the City of Las Vegas as we will have the bulk of our workforce (70+ employees) in Las Vegas under a new entity called ARGYLE Manufacturing Company Las Vegas (AMCLV). Our Los Angeles office (ARGYLEHaus) will house all our designers and Pre-production staff (approximately 10 employees max). Los Angeles is and will always remain the epicenter for fashion and apparel development in the USA, but in an effort to remain price competitive with factories in other States (and overseas) our mass production manufacturing will have no choice but to move out of LA. This is actually good news and something I am really looking forward to.
For any of our readers that want to learn more about ARGYLEHaus, where should we point them to?
Please visit our websites:
ARGYLEHaus at http://www.argylehaus.com (current operations)
AMCLV at http://AMCLV.com (future Las Vegas facility)