It all started with the idea for a garment that could be worn many ways: as a dress, a skirt, a blouse, a wrap. In fact, the Versalette can be worn 30 different ways. Friends Kristin Glenn and Shannon Whitehead were inspired to make this super-versatile garment after they had spent time traveling. They turned to Kickstarter to produce the design, and raised over $60,000.
Glenn studied business in college, and the Versalette was her introduction to garment manufacturing. "Neither of us had any experience in the fashion industry," said Glenn. "We were just learning from scratch about how our clothes are actually made. What we learned was pretty horrifying and we decided that we really wanted to do it better."
Glenn has gone on to become the founder and designer of Seamly.co, which launched in June of 2013. All the garments are made in Colorado from deadstock fabric sourced from U.S. textile makers. These are fabrics that have been discarded by other manufacturers, perhaps because they were excess or were dyed the wrong color. Seamly uses these fabrics to make small batches of garments.
In addition to the original Versalette design, Seamly offers other multiple-use garments. For example, the Jenny dress can have a long maxi skirt or can be adjusted so that the hem falls to the knee. "I usually think about versatility first," said Glenn. "Even though I'm using sustainable fabrics, in order to be really sustainable we have to think about having fewer pieces and more options."
She describes her personal style as fitting in with a casual Colorado mentality, and that comfort is an important factor for both the clothing she wears and designs.
When the site launched this summer, Glenn was sewing everything herself. She said that gave her an appreciation for what she asks of her sewers now. When it became clear that she would need more help, she began working with a husband and wife team that has been doing her production ever since. "Everything is produced within a 45-mile radius of my house," said Glenn. "So, everything is kept really local and shipping costs are really low."
Using deadstock fabrics also helps Seamly keep the cost low, as does selling her garments exclusively online. "I don't do any wholesale," she said. "If I was trying to sell out of boutiques, I would probably have to double my prices."
The coolest part of Glenn's design process is that she uses crowd-sourcing to make decisions about what goes into production. Her site features a "Vote" page, where anyone can contribute to what Seamly makes in the future. "In fashion, it's a smart idea to have people tell you what they want before you actually make it," she said. "It saves money and it also cuts down on waste, which is a super important part of things for me."