Monday, November 16, 2009

Exploring the boundaries......

Sue Rock Originals
Design Studio
1069 Bergen Street
between Nostrand & Rogers Avenues
Brooklyn, NY 11216
Hours of Operation: Tuesday through Saturday
11:00am - 6:00pm
Free Sewing Classes in Studio
First and Third Saturdays of Every Month
Donations Accepted

This is becoming an interesting process. When my husband and I first explored this indie fashion scene, it was with the naive approach thought that with a few chance meetings on Craigslist, we could pick up enough fabric to maybe make a few skirts or tops, selling them at flea markets and events throughout the city.

Our first pick up of 15 50 pound bags of vintage fabrics changed that tune. I look back on that time, going through the seventh bag of fabric thinking "this is out social security!" However that was 2005.

I was working at a law firm and picking up evening shifts when I needed them. The money was flowing in that sporadic check to check way and mindlessly, I planned for the future. As the economy became worse, I was fired from one and then shortly after - TWO law firms. The bottom had fallen out the first experience due to management change with ensuring hiring preferences, and the second firm had been responsible for CREATING the sub prime mortgage documents that were circulated nationally. (They're now dissolved after 150 years in business - go figure!)

For the past year, I have taken on the experiment of being fully vested in this company from top to bottom. Sue Rock Originals now has a location from which to showcase its work and manufacture new items. But the mindbending scope of it takes its toll......

With the collapse of our national economy and unlimited supply of resources, how does a person make a living? What do you sell to people who have for all intent and purposes have stopped shopping? When Macy's commercials seem to beg for the Walmart customer, what chance does an independent designer of high quality items have in an ever declining market?


Sue Rock Originals is a creative design house that uses beautiful fabrics, notions and yarns that would have otherwise been discarded, to make apparel and accessories. As we have grown, so has our focus. In the beginning of our process, we were mainly a house of handcrocheted women's apparel - cute supersoft boleros and ponchos, one of a kind vintage styled crochet skirts crafted from merino wool and cuddly pullovers. We began to bring in Tailored items in the form of the A-line skirt and Wrap pants for the Summer of 2006 and developed relationships online through Etsy and on the street with Flirt Brooklyn!

When the bottom fell out of the economy we had to change gears and quick! When I spoke to women at Flirt this spring, I stressed that our focus was to keep the business relationship strong, but also to ensure that their customer could still buy a quality item from Flirt without being forced to go to the sale rack! We had come into a case of vintage belts and began to work with these at a great price point for all involved. These sustained us throughout the summer and ironically enough, were the only item NOT already in the store!

We also began classes. These classes in sewing and crocheting brought revenues into the organization that we had not expected. Teach a person to fish and all that! Although we were eager to enter into manufacture and create with these beautiful materials - our limitations were greater than our ability to create! Loans and Grants unavailable, AND moneys for festivals/events out of the question - we continued to clean and organize the studio and restrategize.

As the co-director began to take in alteration work, and the classes continued, what we had not realized was we were developing a community base. People were becoming accustomed to stopping by to see what we were up to - or to help by volunteering a few hours to sweep or fold fabric. Each extra person gave their contact information and encouraged us to let them know what we were up to!


Today we have a fully furnished retail space in the front of the studio, with holiday themed window dressing. In addition to selling from our stock of handcrocheted hats and sewn scarves, we have taken orders for custom work for the holidays! And at our first Fall fundraiser we raised just under $400!!


Growing a business takes a great deal of determination and hard work, yes, but most of all it takes consummate patience. What we are learning is that Sue Rock Originals, as a design house, has a life of its own. Once thought of as the lead it is now the funding engine for our non profit. Once thought of as an autonomous line, it is being sought after in partnerships internationally for unique high end lines to support the organization.