By Aimee Blanchette
Star Tribune (Minneapolis).
If Pinterest and Etsy had a love child, it would be the Patchery.
So say the owners of a new Minneapolis-based online children’s clothing company (www.thepatchery.com) that puts parents and kids at the forefront of the clothing design process.
“Pinterest feeds our hunger for creativity … but often our creativity exceeds our actual ability,” said Amber Gunn Thomas, who started the business with her husband, Ryan Thomas. “Etsy lets us buy from artisans who have the skills, knowledge and tools to make beautifully handcrafted merchandise, but it’s a typical shopping experience that doesn’t exercise your need for creativity. The Patchery is the best of both worlds.”
We recently caught up with Amber Gunn Thomas to find out what inspired the concept.
Q: How does the Patchery work?
A: The Patchery is a design-your-own platform similar to customizing a vehicle on a car company’s website. Customers start their project by picking a dress or T-shirt, then mixing and matching fabrics for the sleeves, front, back, pockets, etc. There are over 400 million possible combinations. We like to say, “We make with you, not for you.”
Q: How did you come up with the idea?
A: The idea blossomed when I picked up an old hobby and started making clothes for my two kids. My favorite part of the process was mixing and matching fabrics to create something unique and different. I thought, “Why can’t this part of the process be available to everyone, even if you can’t sew?” Within 15 minutes, I built a basic sketch of the business in my head.
Q: What’s the price point?
A: Our current product line ranges from $26 to $52.
Q: Who sews the clothes?
A: We are building a network of contract industrial sewers right here in Minnesota. Generally, these are women working out of their homes. Some do this full-time, others as a side job to supplement their income.
Q: Why might parents be interested in this concept?
A: There is something tangibly satisfying about making something from scratch. I think that’s why so many people flock to Pinterest. Whether it’s cooking, decorating, crafting or, in my case, sewing, we want to be inspired to make something. I feel really proud when my kids get a compliment on their clothes and they say, “My mom made it for me.” Or even better is when something I made becomes my child’s new favorite thing. That’s the best.
Q: What can the Patchery offer that mass retailers can’t?
A: Mass merchants are in the business of appealing to as many people as possible. And they do that well. Pink and purple sell for girls. Blue and green sell for boys. What we are showing is that there is an opportunity to expand the market. When you let people participate, they start exercising their creativity. They push the design outside of the traditional boundaries. They see other possibilities. They start having a bit more fun. We get to see what they do and bring it to life.