We had the idea, but we weren’t quite familiar with the market. Next logical step was to do some research and especially look into shirts that are not made from traditional cotton, but rather synthetic materials.
I want to take a quick detour from the main topic of this post and mention two things that we noticed while doing our research, doing so in a Q&A format (the most concise way I could think of, without having to drop another 1,000 words on you).
Q1. The notion of synthetic fabrics being either inferior to cotton, or more environmentally unfriendly.
A1. They were inferior, years ago. Quality modern synthetic fabrics feel softer on the skin, as well as more comfortable to wear. On the environmental side, when comparing the production cycle of synthetic fabrics VS cotton, in an informed way, turns out the mass production of both equally impacts the environment, actually in many cases cotton having a bigger negative impact. (We’ve saved this topic for a separate post, where we will thoroughly investigate and document it. Do expect.)
Q2. If you wanted a non-iron/hassle free shirt, you can just buy one of the many cotton shirts that are sold under a non-iron label.
A2. Not entirely true. Non-iron cotton shirts are simply cotton shirts, that are chemically altered with a finish coat that initially prevents wrinkles, until washed a few times.
Nevertheless we needed a sample shirt, that we can physically interact with and wear, to even see if such a product is as valuable as it sounded on paper. We ordered some samples from the company that we thought are the current market leader, wore them a few weeks and saw that the product indeed has potential (quality of product execution being the variable) to remove some hassle out of caring and wearing a dress shirt, while keeping the looks.
There were some shortcomings of the shirts we received, but we definitely saw that there is an opportunity to improve the experience and provide value to people with similar clothing preferences as ours. Next step was organising an efficient trip back home, where we can show the samples around and see how we can get the whole thing started.
Keep in mind our professional backgrounds were mostly in marketing and IT, with absolutely zero fashion experience, which made the whole idea of starting this even more interesting, challenging and fun.
Funny enough, at that point we didn’t even know who we are meant to reach out to. Is it fabric suppliers, companies that do dress shirts, sport fabric companies, or manufacturers that can take care of the whole supply chain and production?
We approached organising meetings with eventual manufacturers, by going through directories of companies in the textiles industry in Bulgaria and reaching out to every company that had an email address and a website, with a general enquiry about producing dress shirts out of sport fabrics. In total we approached over 60 contacts.
The percentage of replies was not that high, so thankfully we would be able to see nearly all of the ones that replied and seemed appropriate, within the planned week. The schedule was in place, the calendar planned and we were off to see how viable our idea actually was.