Why So Many Colours!?!

Why do Jackets for Jasper jackets come in such a huge variety of colours?! We’re glad you asked! A complete rainbow of colour options was not our original goal – it makes inventory and ordering complicated. Also, how normal is it for a clothing company to have a stock of over 30 colours in any single product – other than a paint store? But now that we have adopted an “every colour” policy, we are proud of our unique products and of the fact that we are using material that was considered one person’s “trash” and turning it into treasure: beautiful jackets and education for Resmi and Jasper.

Getting Started: Summer 2012

We started this project in the summer of 2012 when Kamal (Jasper’s dad) pounded the pavements of Kathmandu seeking a quality manufacturer that we could work with. Kamal went from store to store (each store is, in fact, its own mini-manufacturer) trying on jackets, checking zippers and to see if down was leaking from jackets: “No look like chicken, Didi!”.

He found one manufacturer that seemed better than all the rest. This was Rajan! Kamal arranged to ship us some samples: the prototypes weren’t quite what we wanted, but the quality was very good and we were happy: Rajan is our man. We started a lengthy process of talking, designing, tweaking – then Rajan would sew and ship another sample batch. Slowly, we honed our jackets to look more like what we wanted, and Rajan was very easy to work with.


The prototype styles weren’t quite what we wanted, but the quality was very good.

But, as we progressed through our many iterations of design, manufacture and shipping, redesign, manufacture and shipping, we learned that Rajan only ever had very limited quantities of any one material. If there was one fabric that we really liked a lot in a shipment, we would ask for more, but were out of luck. We would have conversations trying to “describe” colours to each other in stilted English that has since become our new language:

  • L&L “We liked turquoise from the ‘before order’. Do you have more?”
  • Rajan: “No Dai, no Didi. Turquoise is finished.”
  • L&L: “Can you get more same Turquoise?”
  • Rajan: “I have, Didi, I have. It is same, but leettle bit different”
  • L&L: “What different is new Turquoise?”
  • Rajan: “It is little bit same, Didi. Very shiny like ‘before order’, but not so blue. More green Turquoise not so dark Blue from before”
  • L&L: “So it’s little bit green Turquoise but not Green like ‘before order’ other Green?”
  • Rajan: “Yes, Didi”
  • L&L: “Then we like the ‘after order’ Turquoise that is little bit different but same. OK, we will order the green Turquoise!”

Roll-Ends from China

Street scene outside fabric market

The fabric market in Kathmandu. Doesn’t look like much, but this is where all the beautiful colours come from!

Most of the world’s sport fabrics are manufactured and used in China. You’ll certainly have seen the products that come from these huge Chinese factories: North Face; Patagonia; Columbia; etc. Well, once one of these big brands creates a new line of clothing and it is manufactured in the quantities desired, there is always some fabric left over. These are the “roll-ends” of a giant roll of fabric. Sometimes there is enough to make 100 jackets out of the left-overs of exactly the same batch and dye-lot of material. But sometimes there are fewer than 20 metres, which equals less than 10 jackets. And occasionally, only 2-3 jackets can be made from the left-overs. No matter how many metres are left, these big brands no longer have any use for these fabrics, and they somehow get loaded up and brought across the mighty Himalaya right to the heart of Kathmandu. Right to this street in the photo: this is the “fabric market” in Kathmandu, and this is where Rajan does his shopping.

Rajan looking at rolls of material

Fabric Street 2 Outside Fabric Store


 

No Colour Consistency

For our first season of jacket sales starting in November 2012, we were very frustrated by the lack of consistency in colours. Because we didn’t have enough jackets in stock to make everyone happy, we ordered in jackets for people – but we never knew what colours would be available or what a “similar” colour would look like. Which meant that people would not necessarily receive what they were expecting. It was very frustrating for us and had the potential to be disappointing for the people awaiting jackets. It took us many different shipments and until about April until all people who’d pre-ordered jackets received something close to what they were hoping for! It was a long haul for everyone.

A sample of swatches and quantities available

Rajan ships a page of fabric swatches with each shipment – so we can pick and choose for the next order.

Embracing the Variety!

But this year, we are doing something different: we are revelling in the uniqueness and scarcity of each colour available! Since the Kathmandu market is full of an ever-changing supply of colours – all in one-time, limited quantities – we have gone crazy with colours. There surely must be other jacket companies making their products in dozens of colours, but they’re not your Eddie Bauers or Mountain Equipment Co-ops. With each new shipment, Rajan sends us a new page of fabric swatches with a number and a quantities of “pieces” he can make out of what he has. We use these ID numbers to talk about colours for our next order: no more crazy conversations trying to describe colours! By saying “Yes” to all the prettiest and sharpest colours Rajan shows us, we’ve been expanding the selection of colours we will have available for the 2013/14 season AND you certainly won’t see many other people wearing the exact same jacket as you!

And with the embroidery on the women’s jackets being created free-hand on embroidery machines, each one is a little bit different than the last: our jackets really are unique!

The Roll-End Rainbow

So, what started out as a challenge and a frustration has turned out to be one of our favourite qualities of our jackets: more colours than we could imagine, and we just keep expanding the variety! And the fact that we’re using up someone else’s cast-offs to make these beautiful jackets that are supporting Jasper and Resmi’s education is the icing on the cake.