Behind Knuckleheads There's a Designer Mom
“Behind The Brand” gets personal with Knuckleheads’ “head” designer Melissa Nash. The popular active boy’s brand is a little bit retro and a lot rad. Melisa shares the success story of her family business and previews what’s up for Knuckleheads for Spring ‘10.
When was your brand born, and what was the initial inspiration?
Our goal was to create a cool 50s greaser vibe mixed with Dennis the Menace. Our first 3 pieces were; grease monkey coveralls, Greaser Jeans and a mechanics jacket. These three styles gave us the unique start that we needed to stand out. We still have these pieces in our collections.”
What was the biggest challenge you faced when starting?
- Money 2. Patterns 3. Factory to sew small quantities with quality. (in that order).”
What do you feel are the three biggest keys to your success?
- Being unique
- Constant PR
- Have a team of employees and sales reps that work together.
We concentrate all three equally, you can’t have one without the others.”
Describe a typical new product development cycle for your business?
? First we search for fabric, either we source in open market or we design our own fabric. Once fabric is found, we go through our patterns on file. We generally use the same patterns each season, and change a few details. That is one thing with the boys’ line verses our girls’ line, Hula Mula. A boy’s button up is a bo’ys button up, nothing too crazy there. It is what you do with that simple pattern that makes Knuckleheads unique. Extra stitching, snaps, cool pockets, etc. It is all in the details.
We send our fabric choices and pattern with specs via e-mail to our factory in China and 4-6 weeks later the sample arrives. Once we approve the sample we order our sales rep samples. Easy peasy!”
Do “green” or eco-friendly concerns influence your business decisions, and if so, how?
With the CPSIA lead testing, we had to slightly raise our prices. We have found that moms do not spend as much on their boys as they do girls, while there is a demand for boys out there, it is not as high as the girls demand for sure. One of the reasons that we have grown so fast and gained our loyal customers is because of our price points. We are affordable. The cost of eco-friendly fabrics are too high for our brand, customers just won’t pay for the extra cost. We try to use 100% cottons as much as possible and we pay attention to blends, we won’t make anything that we won’t put on our own kids.”
What is one new trend you’re seeing in the marketplace?
Bold colors, and soft fabrics. We love soft fabrics on babies and we try to add washes to make our fabrics even softer.”
How does your business make use of the Internet?
We have an online ordering system on our Web site. Groupe BDM designed a software unique for our needs. Our customers can log in anytime, place an order and print an order. All of our reps have access to this site as well. We couldn’t survive without it. It is a great feeling to open your e-mail and see orders come in during the night; it is like having an order fairy! We also send out e-mails to our customers monthly updating them on sales, press or new seasons.
We also have a blog, facebook and we are on Twitter. It is great meeting our customers in these forums. It makes us feel closer and more connected. We have met many great friends and gained support on all three.”
What is the biggest challenge your business faces today?
I think that we have finally found our groove. In the beginning it was finding financing, then it was finding stores and finding reps. We are extremely lucky that we have found the best group of sales reps we could ever want. Everyone works together and jives really well.
We are always looking to make our product better and for a better price and that means that we are always trying out new factories. We typically use at least 4-5 different factories per season, then we have to coordinate it all to arrive in time to make our ship dates. Dealing with customs can be a nightmare for sure. Now with the CPSIA lead testing, it added another challenge. But I think we got it now…knock on wood.”
What is one change/addition that’s had a positive impact for your business in the last year?
We hired an office manager and a sales manager. Before it was me, I was doing it all. And I couldn’t focus on what is most important like PR, designing, etc. You can’t grow when you are dealing with the small stuff. And now I can. It has been amazing and the best decision we have made. They are both worth every penny and some!”
If you had one piece of advice for someone entering the children’s market, what would it be?
Find something that is missing. What is needed? If you can figure that out then you have a gold mine. Then jump in, it is all or nothing. You can’t be a fence sitter. I have known too many designers who started brands and held back and didn’t go for it. Now they are out of business, and it is not a surprise. You have to commit and put 100% into it, or you will fail. It is a lot of work, and in this industry you have to network, gather info…do your homework. Nothing will be handed to you on a silver platter, every successful brand out there has a very hard working CEO behind it.
This is a fun industry and there are so many kind people and we have made so many friends that we will have forever and that makes all the hard work worth it.”
Back to the Beach Party Days!
This year, we headed back in time to the beach”, says designer Melissa Nash. “Our goal was to create a rad style that you would have seen back in the 60s, and early 70s, full of color, style and texture. Included in the line are corduroy shorts, some awesome striped tank tops, and some rad new graphics on tees. Also back by demand the popular fedora hats, in a big bold houndstooth print.
Gettin’ Down to the Skivvies!
Also new to the collection is a great selection of colors for the popular Skivvies. “Skivvies have been our best seller hands down. We sell them year round because of the popularity of them, they make great gifts and are a hit at baby showers, they have that “Oh, so cute” factor. “We are so excited to introduce 5 new colors for spring, they are bright and fun,” says Nash.
Big Guys Rock Too
With the growing demand for unique clothing in larger sizes for tweens, Nash met that deficit by adding new sizes to the line. “This new line is exactly the same as our children’s line, just larger.
We added sizes up to 14 for tweens and adult sizes S-XXL.,” states Melissa. “We chose our favorite and most popular items for the line, both youth and adults rock the style.
Knuckleheads for Knewborn Preemiers!
The new preemie line is also an add-on to the popular infant collection. The new size is called Newborn and fits up to 8lbs.
The Knuckleheads Spring 2010 line will be showing internationally in London, Japan, Netherlands, and Canada. US shows include, Kidshow Las Vegas, Atlanta Market Center, Dallas, San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles tradeshows and our showrooms.
Founded in 2004 and a traditional family business, Knuckleheads’ focus on quality clothing and current style is key to its tremendous success.