Patterns, Samples + A Fire: Launching New Fashion Sun Protection Designs, Part 4

This is Part 4 in a series about our Heliades Designer/Entrepreneur's experiences launching new and existing fashion sun protective clothing designs.

This series is an update on our entire UPF50+ fashion sun protection clothing line: the UV Sun Gauntlets Collection (sun gloves and arm sleeves), reintroduction of our signature Sol Escape sun protection cape, and launch of two new designs the Sun Shrug and Sun Dickie, plus the Sun Bolero which is in the design idea phase. I'll also cover issues that occurred regarding my heat press, fabric labels, fabric manufacturing and production set backs (there was a fire!).

I hope this gives you some insight into what it's like running a small business and dealing with seemingly small challenges that upend the process of launching new designs and getting product back in stock on our store!

Part 4: Roadblocks With Pattern And Sample Making Process (this is the part about the fire).

This phase of refining the patterns and samples has been going on for so long; I have to tell you I feel so embarrassed about it.

My goal is still to reintroduce the Sol Escape and debut new designs: the Sun Shrug and Sun Dickie. (I've shared updates with our fans, if you missed them go here to get our updates delivered to you.)

However in doing so I wanted to be more efficient with using the fabric in order to eliminate fabric waste. So I worked with a series of pattern makers and sample makers throughout this time. That in itself is a long process to identify local pattern makers and sample makers with expertise in the type of clothing I design and the type of fabric used.

It is often trial and error as you need to engage and test to see if the quality of the product is in line with your brand vision. There are all kinds of setbacks and sometimes we forget that the clothes we are wearing were made by humans. And these people making the clothes have lives and families to care for.

You may recall that a previous pattern maker I was working with fell and broke her shoulder. She had a long recovery period and I unfortunately had to wait until she was well enough to send me my pattern files so I could have my patterns finished elsewhere.

A sample maker I was working with, her husband fell ill and was hospitalized for weeks. A little while later, her fabric cutter had a health issue (gout) which prevented him from standing up - this delayed their manufacturing, so I had to look elsewhere for both a pattern maker and a sample maker.

But every once in a while, the stars align and you find the diamond you were searching for - and this happened when I reconnected with Lynn and she was available to work on both my patterns and samples. In short, Lynn understands my aesthetic and she has mad sewing skills. The work she does is beautiful and refined. And I am close to convincing her to do my small batch production! (Otherwise I will need to search for another Bay Area sewing factory that is willing to do small batch production.)

About two weeks ago I checked in with Lynn as the last round of pattern changes and samples were due for inspection. I could see the light at the end of this long tunnel and oh it was so bright! I knew something was up when she responded to my email and told me to call her right away. My heart sank into my stomach as she told me there was a fire in her building and the sprinkler system flooded parts of her unit. I was relieved to hear no one was hurt. There was no smoke damage. Most of her fabric, patterns and materials were up off the ground and did not get wet. But her computer, plotter and the sewing machines did get wet. As did the big cutting table. And worse, there was water damage inside the walls as it flowed from the floor above down to her unit. 

It's going to take a bit of time to get the insurance sorted and building management in to remove and replace the drywall. In the meantime, her business is at a standstill. No work means she cannot pay her employees and it's a lot of stress with the back log of projects waiting for completion.

Honestly, last week I was stunned and hit a low point. My optimistic, entrepreneurial spirit was dashed and for the first time in a very, very long time I wondered if this was all worth it. I dejectedly went to my SF Made small business mixer and was able to commiserate with other women entrepreneurs dealing with their own roadblocks. That was so very helpful.

I realize I could've gotten these new designs and products to market much faster if I'd lowered my standards or skipped some certifications or cared less about fabric waste. But I wouldn't feel good about it and that would be a very different business and not the Heliades way.

So thank you for reading all of this, in many ways it has been a cathartic process to lay this all out for you, and I feel better. I hope to have another update for you soon and especially hope to be in production soon.

Please know how much I appreciate you and all your support of Heliades. Our mission remains unchanged: to help stylish, skin-conscious individuals like yourselves defend your glow - maintain healthy skin and a positive self image, and raise awareness about the importance of skin health as it relates to your overall health by protecting skin from UV sun exposure.

Read Part 1 - Repairing A Heat Press Myself

Read Part 2 - Fabric Labels, Please Stick!

Read Part 3 - Developing Technical UPF50+ Fabric

Be well,


We are a woman-owned brand and emails are a crucial way for us to contact our readers and fans. We regularly provide store offers, tips for keeping your skin healthy, how to's for staying stylish and sun smart, and updates on what it's like to run a small business. Sign up to receive our updates and get 10% off your first order. Give us a try, you can unsubscribe anytime!
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About our founder

I started Heliades with the intent to combine fashion with function by designing sun protective apparel with an elevated look that doesn't scream beach, resort or activewear. My goal is to create stylish options to protect our skin every day, for every occasion.

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