Prerecorded and posted: August 26th, 2021
Rachel Elspeth Gross
Rachel Elspeth Gross 00:01
Hi, everyone, we're here with another installment of I can do that here with Little Red Fashion Today we have with us Andrea. And she's here to talk to us about some more secretive kind of sides of fashion world jobs that don't always get as much credit, but are still super exciting and really, really interesting. There's so many ways anyone could have a career in fashion if they put their mind to it, and they do the work.
Jonathan Joseph 00:26
And we are so happy to have Andrea here with us. Those glasses are amazing.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 00:35
The glasses are pretty great. Um, so would you start off by talking by telling us a little bit about your work at origin?
Andrea Kalmbach 00:49
Sure, so um, what origin does as we are really like, we focus on Brazilian jujitsu gear, making GIS and, and gi pants and things, things that serve kind of the Jiu Jitsu lifestyle. But we also make jeans and boots and T shirts, and, you know, supplements and all kinds of things. So it's very interesting. So that's what I'm working on right now is in manufacturing. I've worked many other jobs, but I'm working in manufacturing right now.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 01:32
I mean, we I think we don't always think about the fact that sports were not like, literal fashion eSports wear, where but the kind of garments that people need to wear, when they're competing, or practicing or training. It takes probably just as much design and just as much thought as any other kind of clothing line. Here's a question. Are there seasons in this kind of clothes?
Andrea Kalmbach 01:57
kind of, they're they're kind of are. And we have you know, for us, it's more like, sale seasons, because because for us, like jujitsu doesn't really have a season. But, um, you know, as far as it, you know, as far as like, things coming in and out of the seasons, we do have short and long grass guards. You know, like, there are things like that, that, like, there are certain that we make beanies and things like that that like, are kind of more in season, but really, we're kind of we're really like an all season kind of gear. I mean, we're based out of Maine. So I guess that tells you everything you need to know, you know that we are based out of Maine. So everything is kind of built to hold up through male winters. And, you know,
Jonathan Joseph 02:54
yeah, yeah, absolutely. And many rounds as it were.
Andrea Kalmbach 02:57
Yeah. Like, and yes. You, you know, somebody is getting choked out. And one of those jujitsu keys every day and coming back. Oh, my goodness.
Jonathan Joseph 03:09
Yeah, absolutely. I think you know, it's something for me, that's top of mind, because our second title in our library is all about a technical design and performance fabric from the Soccer World. It's called a The Little Red Kit. So it's all about, you know, things like Umbro. Yeah, like the development of those textiles and the introduction of different performance fighters for those garments. And so I would imagine, and please correct me if I'm wrong, that with the work you're doing at origin, it's very similar in that you're always looking for performance fabrics, that will be better moisture wicking in a gi. Or have different technical aspects that are meeting the needs of your consumer, I would love to know, you know, what inspired you to get into this facet of fashion manufacturing? Did you start in, you know, performance, textile, and apparel, manufacturing and things like that? Or like, what was that journey like to get to where you are now with this specific type of technical design?
Andrea Kalmbach 04:10
Well, that's, that's an interesting question. And I actually did not. This was the last thing from my mind, honestly. Last thing from my mind, um, what happened was, you know, I lived in Los Angeles for a long time. And I had always been a costumer, I built lots of costumes and things like that, and, and that that's my, that's, you know, that's my passion, and that's what I love. Um, but my so my husband got this job at the University of Maine. And I just kind of tagged along and was like, Alright, we'll go to Maine. Right. So I got this job at Origin. And that and this is actually the first time I've really worked in sportswear because I've worked in like secondhand clothing and vintage clothing, like up until this point. Okay, and it was my technical skills that actually got me this job. It was, you know, knowing how to use a felling machine, knowing how to use a hemmer, knowing how to use, you know, a, something to make belt loops or a buttonholer. And all these kinds of things, that that actually got me into this.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 05:33
Yes, I'm sure any of us who So know that you can definitely injure yourself trying to thread a serger.
Andrea Kalmbach 05:41
And you can and I, you know, I've sewn through I think all of my fingers at some point in time. And that like, and, and it gets me to the point where like, I think for anybody who wants to work in fashion or anything, even adjacent to fashion, I think working in manufacturing is is very key, because you get to hone those technical skills. You get to you get to learn what stitches are what, you know, what machine, if you want to make your own business, what machines you're going to need, you know, where you're at, with? How well can you actually make a product, what does you product look like, and it's and it's working, it's kind of working without the creativity, I think that really hones those, those technical skills, you know, you're making someone else's product, and you want to do it well, obviously, and you know, we're doing well, right. So you're working in and you're making somebody else's thing. But you're also learning how to, you know, use a serger or, you know, you know, all of these other machines.
Jonathan Joseph 07:07
That fluency gaining technical fluency.
Andrea Kalmbach 07:12
Absolutely, absolutely. That's exactly at technical fluency, which is what you're going to need, if you want to start your own thing, or you want to anything you want to do, you're going to need those technical skills. So I would I would recommend to anyone kind of starting out with fashion or anything else, that those technical skills need to be absolutely perfect.
Jonathan Joseph 07:37
Yeah, well, you know, when I, when I was consulting to in luxury, women's wear, for example, if you're relying strictly on a factory to handle, for example, your tech packs, versus knowing to having the technical know how yourself, you can bust out a much more effective tech pack, save yourself hundreds of dollars per design having to go back and forth, and it becomes a process. And I think that's something that designers who don't have necessarily that technical facility where they're just, you know, creating designs and drawings and then sending them to a technical designer, you're adding links in the chain, which then adds an eats away, or rather eats away at your margin. And so if you're trying to start a business, those technical competencies are so important. And I think, you know, for kids or any young people watching, that's why starting early with learning how to sew and learning how to mend and taking those baby steps, and building those skills little by little, and getting those basics out of the way earlier rather than later is so important. No one's gonna start on a serger you know, hopefully not punishment, right? But, you know, it's something every time I speak with some in manufacturing, this comes up where it's this ethos of like, you should know the ins and outs, no pun intended, given how a needle works. technical design, and I think, even for those, you know, we've done a lot of interviews with curators and folks in the conservator space and things like that, if you have a facility in manufacturing and with technical design, it also I would imagine, becomes much easier to then identify those methods when you see them in exit garments within a collection and it helps doing factfinding of or sleuthing of fashion also makes it a lot easier.
Andrea Kalmbach 09:23
Rachel Elspeth Gross 09:24
Make you a better shopper too.
Andrea Kalmbach 09:26
Yes. Oh, yes, absolutely. And like I think like and part of the thing is like you know, when you work in manufacturing, you go through like, you know, you learn about quality control. So when you go to the store, and you know you're going to buy jeans or something and you're like, Oh shit, these have a twist. These have, you know, these are these are knots. There's something in these that is that never should have passed the floor to come. out into production, and
Rachel Elspeth Gross 10:03
not buy anything, the pattern doesn't wrap around and match the themes. It makes me crazy.
Jonathan Joseph 10:09
To me crazy,
Rachel Elspeth Gross 10:13
silly, maybe, but it matters, I swear.
Andrea Kalmbach 10:17
And it's just like, you know, like I said, those technical skills are, you know, knowing what weave direction things are going and, and you know, just certain things that you're not going to learn really anywhere else and, and really like this, you know, manufacturing is a job that you can get, essentially right out of high school. In a lot of cases, like you can that that's somewhere where, you know, say you're going to fashion school or, you know, you're going for, for whatever else, and this is somewhere that you can go to get to really hone those technical skills and get paid for it.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 11:03
Yeah, I would think that it's probably like an all you know, training like a sort of like an apprenticeship maybe not technically called that. But you're right. If you aren't the type who feels like college is the right choice for you if you want to, like a gap year, but not like suffer the economic kind of fallout from that.
Andrea Kalmbach 11:20
Rachel Elspeth Gross 11:20
See how learning some kind of, like you're saying the real work the part that no matter what your education is, when you're starting out in a real job. I mean, that's a great idea. I hadn't really thought about that. But I'd love to see more stuff made in America. Jonathan, I were talking about that the other day. And yeah.
Andrea Kalmbach 11:39
Yeah. And you know, we we just opened up well, but when I say we really doesn't have anything to do with me, but like my company just opened up a another factory in North Carolina to make all of our weaves for our sweatshirts and T shirts. And and those kind of like,
Jonathan Joseph 12:02
The more lifestyle apparel.
Andrea Kalmbach 12:05
Rachel Elspeth Gross 12:06
But it's like a fabric facility. Like they're actually making the fabrics there.
Andrea Kalmbach 12:10
Yes, they're actually making the fabric. And and that's the thing that we do right now. For the jujitsu gear. We do that right now. And, you know, all of our fabrics, and everything for all of that is straight up made right in Maine.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 12:28
That's so cool. That's such an important thing.
Andrea Kalmbach 12:32
Rachel Elspeth Gross 12:33
Sorry, I get excited.
Andrea Kalmbach 12:35
like we, we, you know, like, there are so many jobs that have been created. Just Just by this thing happening in our in our little, small Maine town. You know, I just moved to me, about a year and a half ago from Los Angeles.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 12:58
Culture shock, Im sure.
Andrea Kalmbach 13:00
Yeah, it was, it was pretty weird. And I went from doing like music videos and things like that, from, you know, from all that to straight up working just in manufacturing.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 13:14
Yeah, I think that's a really good point. Because regardless of what a person's dream job is, regardless of what position a person finds themselves in, it's really important, like you just said, to do the work, you do well, and to be able to adapt. And I mean, obviously COVID has pushed to the forefront of the idea that there are a lot of obstacles that none of us have any control over. And being able to build a skill set, being able to have a tangible kind of a thing that no matter what the world does, you can gain employment, you can find, you know, work you can play. Yeah. And like you also said, you know, if you wanted to have your own company, at some point in time, very few of us are in the financial position, or have the contacts start off that way. And so I definitely agree that, you know, learning how business works from the inside is an excellent way to, you know, test stuff, but not on your own budget.
Andrea Kalmbach 14:16
yeah, and then just get in there and learn how things work and to get those technical skills and everything and it's funny because, um, you know, I started working there and was just like, ehh this is just gonna be a couple of months, you know, whatever. But I ended up you know, I love it. And I think a lot of people who, who end up in manufacturing, really end up loving it, and don't and don't leave. You know,
Jonathan Joseph 14:51
what do you think it is that draws them to that? What do you think is in your estimation that that pole or at least what was the pole for you?
Andrea Kalmbach 14:59
For me, it was the camaraderie, honestly, of everyone who works there. It was the people like, I went from having like zero friends to having like 150 friends, like, in this small town. Right. And But more than that, I think it was that we were working, working for kind of a greater purpose to bring manufacturing back to the to the United States. I think that was important to all of us, because I think as, as everyone knows, like, we can do that. And it's and it's a great, it boosts the economy, like, you know, bringing these jobs back is a great thing. So for me, that was part of it, but part of it also was honestly, kind of a sensory thing with hearing all the machines like that. Yeah, yeah. Funny, the weird symphony of the baylor and the hemmer, you know, and the buttonholer, and all of that, that weird symphony of noises is just like, there's a certain kind of person who kind of adapts to that and just like, gets it and loves. It doesn't matter if you're sewing the same zipper 8000 times a day. But, but that that,
Jonathan Joseph 16:33
That fashion ASMR.
Andrea Kalmbach 16:36
Exactly, exactly. It's ASMR. Exactly.
Jonathan Joseph 16:41
Yeah, no, I've heard that before. I've heard that before. I've had conversations about that with other manufacturers in LA. You know, that. It's, like you said a certain type of person that is very calming, soothing, attractive. There's something about that, that. You know, we talk so often in fashion history about the embodied garment. Yes. Like the technical CounterPoint.
Andrea Kalmbach 17:05
Absolutely. Yes. You're so right about that. You're so right about that. It's it's just the, like, there's a certain kind of person that gets the vibe.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 17:18
Yeah, no, it reminds me of fashion design school, and there'd be work rooms. And not every student stayed after class so that you know, you're working. But those of us who did, we'd be there, like two o'clock in the morning, but it was thinking of a thing, music community, and hearing all the machines and the puff from the steamer and then someone's got the iron music and the symphony is a perfect word. for it. There's a and it is comforting. I don't know that I've thought about this and many years. I don't know it's nice. We say on this show, Andrea a lot that people are I do maybe better humans when they do work. And they're better people when they know. People, people are better, I think when they're working when they're doing stuff that matters to them. And when you can add a community to that being around a bunch of people who all have the similar understanding similar skill set, similar desire to do good things. I mean, I've definitely sat there and done, you know, the same prints of style I'm seeing when he says over and over and over again. It does get old, but it's also really fun to be able to pick it up and not have to pin it. And like just know how to put it through the machine know exactly what a seam line looks like.
Jonathan Joseph 18:40
Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah. So we asked all of our guests on this show, at some point in the interview, you know, what? books or what book would you recommend to a young person who's interested in the textile or manufacturing or technical design side of the business? who's looking to get their feet wet? Are there any particular books that spoke to you and your journey through the fashion industry that helps you help you now? What is your guide to sewing? Okay, paper folding, pushing that a couple of weeks ago.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 19:24
I had when I was in design school in Chicago. I had this. She wants to be in her 70s she was this lovely German lady and she sat there knitting through all of our like basic construction classes and she would just knit these tiny little perfect socks for like, you know, the babies, grandbabies and whatever. And she was very harsh, and she was very precise and very specific, but she was also your grandmother kind of she swore up and down that you could this was the best selling book of all time, it would teach you or show you anything. And then it was great. In addition to that, because there's not like a huge amount of debt. development of new scenes or new stitches, that doesn't change a lot. So if you're working on a budget, you can get once a few editions old every year or so. And you're not gonna lose anything. You're just getting older PDF document. Yeah. Oh, it's so funny. Glad to know she's right. I really liked that lady.
Andrea Kalmbach 20:20
Yeah, she's the Reader's Digest got, if you can learn everything in that book, you will know everything you ever need to know about sewing. Yeah, you will probably be a better a better tailor or seamstress or, you know, whatever you want to call it by reading that book than anyone else on the on the market. Like, if you've learned everything in that book, you, you've got it. You've got everything laid out.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 20:54
It's beautiful. But yeah, no, I'm sure that like I was just saying the images change from addition to addition. But sure, anyone who's curious about a sewing book, I mean, it lays out was a picture of the fabric, just how to fold. I mean, it's very easy to read, even if you weren't like necessarily English literate. I'm sure that was just the image you would be able to work yourself through. And I mean, I still have posted tabs in mine with you know, Princess style or whatever. Sewing it's a great resource. And
Jonathan Joseph 21:32
All the best books are beaten up.
Andrea Kalmbach 21:33
Yeah, all the best ones are you know, very much used. So So that's, that's my recommendation for a book. And like, I, in my opinion, that's only when you ever actually need. Everything else. Something is frosting or gravy, or, you know, whatever else. Yeah, yeah.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 21:58
That in the draping book, and you're set, there's a fair trial or something like that. Why I Really? I mean, that's a whole other box of wax. I guess there's probably not a lot of, But yeah, for sure. One quick question I have before we sign off on there, I know that in like a lot of maybe ready to wear brands will have an established kind of a design leather shoe, they'll have a shirt. And season by season, they will reproduce essentially the same design, but different writing styles, different patterns, or different colors. And I was wondering, in the kind of sports garment industry, is there an equivalent to that kind of a process? Do you make them in green sometimes or plaid? Or is it always black and white?
Andrea Kalmbach 22:48
Well, that's actually that's a good question. Um, we do kind of go through seasons, but for us, for you know, in the industry that I work in, it's mostly short sleeve or long sleeve rash guards, it's, you know, it's heavy hoodies versus, versus light hoodies. It's It's very, it's easy. I guess I would say it's very easy.
Jonathan Joseph 23:20
Right? I would imagine. Imagine, I would imagine for you that with origin, the most technical garments that you're producing are the GIS of a number of guys who are Brazilian jujitsu people, I'm hoping they're gonna be telling them all about this particular interview today. They have been pestering me to write a little red ghee, because they want to see that. And I was, you know, what do you find is the most technically challenging thing about that most technical garment that you're producing? Like, what's the largest challenge or issue that someone who is, you know, doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? What's the performance aspect of it that you're trying to meet?
Andrea Kalmbach 24:06
Okay, so that's a great question. I'm glad you asked. So for us, we make we make several different type of gi. And we make one, which is, it's called the Rift and we make it with a special type of wave, which is called the dragon weave. And we weave them all, you know, in our main factory. And, you know, we do run into fabric defects and things like that, which I think would be the the thing that's it's the hardest thing to control. Because when things are coming off the loom, like, you know, that's all mechanical and we have to get in there and figure that out if something's happening, but, um, I would say like, you know, we make several different types of weaves and for us, our main thing is to make it hard to grip. Because when you're gripping, someone you're trying to, you're essentially trying to choke them out. Right?
Jonathan Joseph 25:16
Its grap, your grappling.
Andrea Kalmbach 25:19
Yeah, you're grappling and so for us, the thing is, is that our dragon weave makes it a little bit harder than than traditional ghee weaves to grab someone because it's a little bit more more slippery. And and so that's why our gis' are kind of becoming a little bit well known for that.
Jonathan Joseph 25:44
Right? Well, it's similar to, you know, to bring it to Little Red Kit and it's it's top of mine cuz I'm in the middle of writing it right now. You know, it's like the Adidas predator shoe, right, you know.
Andrea Kalmbach 25:54
Jonathan Joseph 25:54
Everything behind the Adidas predator shoe that saved the company was being able to have that, you know, pad on the front of the shoe, better contact with the ball and cupping it traditional boot that's going like, and that's at the core at the core of technical design, right is here is problem that the end user has to solve. Here's how we're using textile and construction to solve that problem.
Andrea Kalmbach 26:19
Yes. And you know, everyone at the top of my company is a, you know, World Champion jiu jitsu person. Which I'm not.
Jonathan Joseph 26:32
Oh, me neither, me neither.
Andrea Kalmbach 26:34
Not at all.
Jonathan Joseph 26:35
I'd wear a little red gi, but I wouldn't know what to do.
Andrea Kalmbach 26:39
I mean I have a gi, but I wear it because it's like, kind of I feel like it's like a smokers jacket.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 26:44
Andrea Kalmbach 26:46
It looks amazing. I feel beautiful. Right. But But yeah, like, the performance aspect is is always at the forefront of of, can they grab it? Can they? Is it? Is it gonna be slippery? Is it which is which is good, actually. Is it? Is it gonna be easy to roll? And how are these going to hold up? It's it's a very, like, it's very performance.
Jonathan Joseph 27:25
Yeah, absolutely. I would imagine there's also sometimes maybe, like, an anti microbial element, because they're sweating in the garment.
Andrea Kalmbach 27:32
And you're sweating. And we actually be changed our weave because of that. We were doing a 5050. And,
Rachel Elspeth Gross 27:40
and you know, number 50s? like half cotton.
Andrea Kalmbach 27:44
Cotton poly. And now we're doing just cotton. Yep. Yeah. And everything is Yeah, we make the weaves and everything, which like I said. You know, sometimes, some will get into the, to the loom, and we'll make like a fabric Skipper, whatever. And, and it happens.
Jonathan Joseph 28:05
yeah, it's part of the process.
Andrea Kalmbach 28:07
It's part of the process. But then also like, like I was saying, for tents, it's like, you know, how you notice something is wrong, you get a very sharp eye from working in manufacturing, you get a very sharp eye of how things should be, you know, how, it should look and how to, you know, use multiple machines. And, and I think that's great. And, and also, you know, this is a job that you can get, like, right out of high school.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 28:44
Yeah. That seems Yeah, and I, I don't know, I'm excited. I've been doing a little research and I'll, you know, flesh out some of this for the posts that we'll be putting up before. But I think it's really cool when companies who have the opportunity to, you know, exploit or, you know, they could make it as cheaply as they could, they could be maximizing the products and I always love it when a designer or a corporation or whatever, chooses to go for quality and chooses to go for ethics and choose to go for like innovation instead of just having it be about how many pennies Can I have in my gold parachute before I did the bank. That's such a neat thing. And I really mean, Reba, this won't get off the thing and then go look up the factory, because that's so neat that that's, that's what they're choosing to put their, you know, whatever money the company is making, that they're diversifying in such a way that not only supports, you know, literally the manufacturer of the product, also the people who will be I mean, there's people who work in those factories will be able by Gi's for their kids, their kids can take jujitsu, which is what I mean that just wish that was a big deal for somebody working in a garment, kind of a a world to you know, actively make that choice. And I think that's a wonderful thing to support it, I can understand why the culture, the company would be such a lovely place that that's, that's who's running and
Andrea Kalmbach 30:11
It's been an amazing place to work, you know, like, they gave us all, you know, LL Bean is another made in Maine company. Yeah, so LL Bean and origin did a thing where, you know, every Origin employee's, kids got a backpack full of school supplies, and the LL Bean slash origin, backpack full of school supplies with the, you know, gift cards, new balance, which is also another company to buy shoes for the kid and whatever else like they they treat their employees very, very well, which I think is kind of something that's sort of dying off, I guess, as well as manufacturing here, here in the States.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 31:04
You don't hear a lot of stories about positive.
Jonathan Joseph 31:08
Well, I've learned it from me. Oh, sorry. There's a tiny bit of lag sometimes.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 31:16
No, it's funny sometimes.
Jonathan Joseph 31:18
Yeah, but what was at you know, I think for domestic manufacturers, at least the ones that I know whether they're in California, Georgia, Maine, as you're saying, the ones that are here and are genuinely making that effort to produce here in the United States, and cut out on this ridiculous fast fashion. So massive supply chain 10 links in the chain situation is that they're very deliberate and intentional with what they're doing and giving back to their employees, even when they're, for example, integrating newer technologies, whether it is you know, prototyping, purely digitally in Clo 3d and Gerber and Browzwear to cut down on sampling for environmental purposes. But then, you know, there's always that external argument, you're taking jobs away from the pattern makers, and we're, you know, with all the manufacturers, I speak to you at least hearing us say, No, it's not about that. It's about empowering my employees that I do have to be able to do what they're doing better and more efficiently. So they don't have to go into overtime and so that they can spend more time with their family, and they can get the jobs done more effectively and efficiently.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 32:23
Happy people do better work, stay at their jobs.
Andrea Kalmbach 32:28
Better Work. And, and that's kind of like, you know, at origin it is it is all family for us. You know, I needed a few I'd like I'm I'm here where I am right now, actually, because, uh, you know, I, I had a pretty tragic death of one of my good friends. Origen, he was like, you just take as many days as, as you need. And so I was able to come here for, you know, a funeral and, and you know, all that stuff. And, you know, a lot of companies would be like, Well, too bad. That's your loss. But this place is amazing. It's an amazing place to work. And I would encourage anyone, you know, looking for a place to work to ask around about how they treat their employees.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 33:29
Yeah, for sure. I mean, that's one of the things you know, you don't know until you're in the thick of it, and there's some wonderful brands and companies and there's some that not.
Andrea Kalmbach 33:36
Ask, ask around because this place treats me great. And I've been treated not so great. And about. I don't know.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 33:47
I think we've all had terrible experiences. Well, Andrea, thank you so much for taking the time to do this with us.
Andrea Kalmbach 33:57
I hope I'm not to boring.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 34:05
Not at all. Thank you for me.
Andrea Kalmbach 34:07
It was so great to meet you Jonathan.
Jonathan Joseph 34:09
oh, likewise its a pleasure.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 34:17
we'll cut this off now but if you hang out for a second once I'll say goodbye off camera.
Jonathan Joseph 34:29
Thank you so much. for another episode of I can do that part of our Little Red Village initiative here at Little Red Fashion. I am Jonathan Joseph joined here every Thursday at 330. eastern standard time by our amazing in house fashion historian v esteem Rachel Elspeth Gross. And today our amazing Andrea who is joining us from origin. You should check them out, especially if you're into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and make sure that you're heading to Little Red fashion.com and downloading your copy of the little red dress our first digital title print copy pre orders coming soon. Stay tuned for that in the next few weeks.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 35:05
Bye, everyone. Thank you.
Andrea Kalmbach 35:06
Bye. Thank you