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Meet Sonora Goldman and Annie Carlson of frnds of ours

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sonora Goldman and Annie Carlson.

Sonora and Annie, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Annie and I have known each other since the 2nd grade, we go back 17 years as best friends. We both grew up in creative households and knew we eventually wanted to have creative careers. We both have always been into fashion and collecting vintage garments. When we were 23, we started a Depop account called Chick Habit where we re-purposed thrifted vintage items and donated a portion of sales to Planned Parenthood.

After running the Depop for a few months, we started to explore what it would mean to turn this hobby into a career and start our own brand. From then on we learned as we went. We started drawing up designs, sourcing fabric and created frnds of ours. Although we have no formal design background, we both studied business and come from entrepreneurial families which were extremely helpful.

Our dream was to start a sustainable/low impact and socially responsible brand that values collaborative design and showcases artists within our ever-expanding community. The name frnds of ours was chosen because we really design for ourselves and our friends. Items we can never find or what we all have dreamt of owning. We started the brand as a way to connect with our community.

Everyone we have worked with has either been a friend or has since become a friend through working together. We also see each piece we create as a new friend. The amount of time, care, and energy that we would put into a meaningful relationship is put into our garments.

Sonora Goldman has moved to Brooklyn to be hands-on with production which has been wonderful. This facility is woman-owned and employs 15 people. We chose to be made in the U.S. for many reasons. First of all, it is special to be able to go to the facility multiple times a week to pick up inventory and maintain a high level of quality.

Secondly, it is important to us that we are a socially responsible company and that each person who has a part in making our clothing gets paid and valued fairly. Lastly, we have fallen in love with the garment districts of L.A. and N.Y. They are special places where you get to experience the craftsmanship that goes into your clothing. Not much has changed in terms of how a piece is made, and this is so special.

So many jobs and skills are required, and the art of it all has hardly changed! The people who sell us our buttons, fabrics, thread, make our patterns, and ultimately sew our clothing are part of the process, and we want to know them. It is important to us to support this local economy that was once bustling with energy and has slowed since the move overseas.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Owning a business is NEVER a smooth road. The first year was full of bumps and mistakes and risks. Our first production facility fell through, we ordered fabric that was wrong many times and is now trying to re-purpose that fabric, we spent too much money on certain things and not enough on others.

However, the biggest challenge and something that people should really be aware of when buying from small designers is understanding why it is priced the way it is. It is extremely hard to use quality/sustainable fabric, be made in the U.S. in small runs, and try and keep the prices reasonable while still fitting a wholesale price in the middle of our cost and retail price for boutiques.

Often doing wholesale drives your retail price sky high and in the last few months, we have decided to focus on direct to consumer for this very reason. This way our prices can come down, we can design the way we want, be local and sustainable, and still be affordable! Our next collection will be priced much lower for this reason as we are foregoing wholesale until a later time when we can meet factory minimums which will drive our costs down big time.

Factories often require you produce 500-1000 units in order to get a reasonable price and this is too high for an emerging owner-owned brand with a small production budget and who cannot take the risk of sitting on that much inventory. Another problem that arises when looking at larger production is that the more sizes you make, the more you pay so we were unable to have the range of sizes that we would like.

We hope that we grow and can soon take on more risk, produce larger quantities, and offer a full range of sizes. Often times people don’t buy sustainable because of the price, and we completely understand that. However, what is being overlooked is everything it takes to make a piece of clothing in an honest and responsible way. These types of decisions and sacrifices have been the hardest part about starting frnds of ours.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with frnds of ours – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
frnds of ours is ever changing and expanding, and we don’t know where this road will take us! We are very excited and proud of our next collection which will also include a few collaboration pieces and accessories designed with our friends.

We hold ourselves to a high level of sustainability. We do not use synthetics, we do not overproduce and therefore there is very little waste involved in our brand. Our mission is to pull young people away from fast fashion and be part of the world of designers that encourage young people to buy from small sustainable brands. We are produced in the USA which allows for a high level of quality control, a living wage, and we know every person that touches our garment. We strive to support the local garment district by buying directly from people here in NYC or in LA when we are there.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We’d love for this to become our full-time careers one day, but for now, we are taking it day by day and really trying to have fun with it and stay creative. We want to make sure we hold onto what it started as which is basically a community of good friends designing and creating together. We would love to have a storefront/studio space for people to come shop and visit one day.

The biggest change this year will be the drop in prices because of the direct to consumer business model we have chosen. This will free us from the constraints of wholesale pricing and the wholesale buying calendar which puts a lot of pressure on brands to come out with big collections two or three times a year.

We will not be attending expensive trade shows or overproducing and sitting on too much inventory, and this will allow us to add pieces to the collection one by one in limited quantities. We will be doing a lot of pre-sale items in order to fund our production.

This means that people may not receive these items for a few months but we hope that the customers who choose to support small brands understand why this is the case and support us anyways so that one day we can hit the minimums required by factories and make as many as we want for everyone to receive right away!

We are choosing to grow organically and slowly, sticking to our guts with beautiful, timeless, high-quality pieces and we are really enjoying the ride!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Alexander Ablola

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