Long time no write! Things have been busy here at Maison Mikumo in the past year - we’ve launched a new collection of ecoviscose dresses, added new features - including carbon neutral shipping and a size recommender widget - to our website, and created our own sustainable marketplace, a curated collection of sustainable goods from other WOC- and women-owned brands. Now, we’re gearing up for our next and third collection, which I will be discussing the development of in-depth in this journal entry.
A couple of months ago, we conducted our third annual design survey, which was our biggest one yet, with over 30+ potential styles featured. Big thanks to the 125+ participants who so generously shared their time and thoughts with us! And congrats to the lucky survey raffle winner, Jenn L.! Firstly, I’ll quickly go over the survey results:
|Standard clothing size (US)||%|
This info tells us that our current range of XS-XL is still sufficient for the vast majority of our current community! As always, we encourage anyone who does not feel represented by this range but would otherwise purchase our clothing to kindly let us know - as an ultra-small business (note that it takes fashion brands on avg 3-5 years to become profitable, and we're only in the middle of our second year) we need concrete justification to incur the additional costs and inventory risks that come with grading and manufacturing a wider range of sizes.
Now for the fun part...
(Note that all colors and prints shown below are not finalized and for representational purposes only. Additionally, since questions asked for participants' top three choices, percentages won't add up to 100%)
The Euphemia dress first sample!
Euphemia dress top 3 colors:
1) Ballet slipper pink with 46.1% of votes
2) Ivory with 39.1% of votes
3) Pastel blue with 35.2% of votes
Close runner up: Muted lilac purple with 34.4% of votes
Euphemia dress top 3 prints:
1) Solid with 78.1% of votes
2) Gradient floral print with 70.3% of votes
3) 2-color small floral print with 42.2% of votes
Millie shirtdress and Sylvie wrap skirt top 3 colors:
Keep reading further below to read about development updates and see sample photos for Millie & Sylvie!
1) Rose milk tea brown with 51.6% of votes
2) Milk tea brown with 45.3% of votes
3) Black with 42.2% of votes
Millie shirtdress and Sylvie wrap skirt top 3 prints:
1) Solid with 67.2% of votes
2) Plaid with 64.8% of votes
3) Houndstooth with 49.2% of votes
Top 3 dress designs:
1) Elle bow-front midaxi dress with 43% of votes
2) Marlene pleated dress with 41.4% of votes
3) Lilith 2pc dress with 37.5% of votes
Top 3 top designs:
1) Mika off-shoulder blouse with 39.8% of votes
2) Holly milkmaid top with 37.5% of votes
3) Anmei mandarin-collar top with 36.7% of votes
Top 3 skirt designs:
1) Manna hanfu-inspired wrap skirts (short & long vers.) with 75.8% of votes
2) Tilly pleated mini skirt with buttons with 62.5% of votes
3) Carmel mermaid skirt with 38.5% of votes
Top 2 jacket designs:
1) Teddy fleece-lined jacket with 57% of votes
2) Cornelia belted blazer with 40.6% of votes
Close runner up: Cecile slouchy asymmetrical blazer with 39.1% of votes
Extra thanks to those who left us kind notes; they truly made our day to read!
It’s always super interesting for me to see what our community thinks of our designs! Sometimes, I get surprised by which designs are popular and which aren’t. For example, I love the Marlene dress, but I wasn’t expecting this design to actually be chosen! I guess you guys love pleats as much as I do :)
So - now that you've shared your thoughts, and we've started coordinating the logistics, here’s the down low on our current stage of development:
We’re currently in the sampling stage and working on developing a custom yarn-dyed fabric for our pleated items (like the Sylvie skirt, Mana skirt, Millie shirtdress, and Marlene dress) that is made with a blend of ecoviscose and recycled polyester.
As much as I try to avoid polyester, there are some use cases where it can’t be avoided, like when you need permanent pleats. No other material will hold a pleat through the wash, and most people don’t have the time nor the skills to press their own pleats every single time they want to wear something. Remember, sustainability is a multi-faceted concept, and clothing that is made with sustainable materials but is very high-maintenance is not actually realistically sustainable for the vast majority of people.
At Maison Mikumo, we always strive to balance sustainability with practicality. The ecoviscose and poly blend allows for a balance of practicality and comfort and will be soft and breathable enough for sensitive skin like mine (I have eczema and lots of skin allergies including to fabric dye & many metals, and get contact dermatitis from excessive friction, so this is always something I take into consideration as a designer).
One major downside of making this custom fabric with recycled polyester is that it requires high MOQs, which is typical of any recycled material. In our case, the MOQ per colorway would be 5000m. To put that into context, given a dress consumes around 5m of fabric, this would mean we would have top make 1000 dresses PER COLOR. Obviously, this is not in line with our small-batch production concept, which calls for quantities of 300 units per style or less per production run.
This fabric is also yarn-dyed, which means the individual yarns are dyed first before being woven into a piece of cloth, which allows you to create beautiful plaid and check patterns. Most fabrics are piece-dyed, meaning they are woven first in a white or neutral “greige” color and then submerged in dye or printed afterwards to give them color.
Insisting that the fabric be yarn-dyed also results in a higher MOQ and price point, but the alternative would be to digitally or screen print plaid patterns onto a solid piece of fabric. As a very passionate lover of plaids, I personally think this looks cheap and takes away from the beauty of the pattern, especially when you look closely and see that the colors don't match up with the actual weave of the fabric or flip the fabric over and see that it’s blank on the other side. Double-sided fabric printing is possible to give the illusion of the fabric being yarn-dyed, but at that point, the price is so high that it’s not even worth doing that instead of just going the yarn-dyed route.
So here’s how we plan to deal with this fabric situation -
- We will select classic colors with dark academia vibes and try to limit the amount of colorways (perhaps 2-3) to minimize the MOQ as much as possible. We will aim to produce at least one warm-toned and one cool-toned colorway, to offer a flattering option for as many of you as possible!
- We will not use all of the fabric in a single production run - instead, we will store some of the fabric and use them in subsequent production cycles, so that we are still producing in small batches. Another plus of this approach is that fabric production is often the lengthiest part of our development cycle, so having our own fabric in-stock for future collections will drastically cut down on the time needed to enter production.
- We will focus on pushing styles that have pleats and require polyester content. The more of these styles we make, the less the quantity per style needs to be. Styles like the Euphemia dress and Anmei top, which will be made with 100% ecoviscose butti fabric, will be saved for a future spring collection, which they're more suited for anyways!
Based on this new context I have for the custom fabrics and the survey results, here are the items that will be tentatively included in the next collection:
- Millie shirtdress
- Sylvie wrap skirt
- Manna (蔓娜) mamianqun wrap skirts
- Marlene dress
I love wrap skirts because of how forgiving they are sizing-wise, which means they're more likely to stay in your closet for longer, throughout various stages of life and body changes.
Some of the following styles may also be included depending on the development schedule and logistics:
- Mika off-shoulder blouse
- Tilly Skirt (with built-in shorts, due to popular demand!)
- Riza blouse
- Carmell skirt
- Teddy jacket
- Cornelia blazer
- Academie dress
These items were popular in the survey and will be tentatively slated production in our next spring collection:
- Euphemia dress
- Elle dress
- Lilith dress
- Anmei top
- Holly top
On-demand knit items currently in development that are slated to launch this fall/winter season:
- Merlina dress
- Meryl top
Upcoming on-demand knit designs currently in development:
- Cozette top (square neck puff sleeve top)
- Funke top (bell-sleeve top)
- Lottie skirt (fit & flare skirt)
If you made it all this way, thanks so much for reading - I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek behind-the-scenes and are looking forward to one, some, or all of these designs!
If you have a bit of time to spare, please consider sharing your thoughts with me here or on IG, or support us by sharing this blog post or our website/socials with a friend! Thanks again & talk soon~ ^^
- Tina ♡
Please look forward to more updates in the future!!