jL from Black Milk here, :) just checking in to give you a little bit of an update. (I am actually stranded in Indonesia at the moment by a volcano so probably a good time to blog!)
I spoke with a few of the girls at Black Milk who have asked me to comment on some of the questions that we have been asked recently, and give a bit of clarity to some of the issues.
No problem at all - let’s talk about it!
Before I get into the specifics, I do want to make something really clear – that if you have for whatever reason had a less than awesome/amazing/stellar experience in shopping with Black Milk, I am really sorry. I apologise. Any failures that we have as a company ultimately go back to me, and I am truly sorry.
I have never worked anywhere in my life where people care so deeply about creating something amazing. The team at BM constantly go above and beyond, to the point where we have to tell them to stop working! These guys really feel the pressure to do a great job, day in day out. They love Black Milk and they really believe that we can make it great.
I remember in the early days of Black Milk when I sewed everything myself, personally feeling an incredible amount of pressure to live up to the expectations of my new customers – all the while knowing the awful truth… that I really had no idea what I was doing! I will never forget one afternoon walking to the Post Office with a huge bag of Black Spartans and hearing the voice of self doubt in my head “No one is going to want to wear your clothes, just throw them all in the bin and save yourself the embarrassment…” At that moment I saw a large rubbish bin out the front of the Post Office. I had to make a decision – take a leap of faith, or admit that I was kidding myself. I walked past the bin and posted the leggings, and went home and anxiously waited to see what girls would say. I was so nervous.
That desire to do a great job is still part of BM culture.
However, building a great business is actually really hard! Even though you work really hard to make everything perfect, sometimes it just doesn’t go right. A great business thinker once said that growing a business is a bit like building an aircraft while it’s flying. If you have ever been part of a business attempting to scale up, you’ll know how true this is! So please understand that if problems happen, it’s not because the business is evil, or filled with wicked lazy jerks – it’s just because it’s just damn hard to build and grow a business! (If anyone doubts this, I would recommend starting a clothing manufacturing operation from scratch in Australia with no money!)
Anyway, that being said, we are excited about making BM better than ever, so let me answer a few questions, and then tell you the plan going forwards. Cool? Let’s go…
1. “Hey, have you guys changed the printed fabric you use for your normal printed leggings?”
No, we really haven’t. We have been buying the same fabric from the same company for our printed leggings for the last 6 years!
Of course, that’s not to say that there can’t be problems – of course there can – but if problems do arise, they are not because we made a decision to change fabric.
I personally find it strange that we have been accused of changing fabric in order to save money. Think about it - if we were really interested in saving money in the manufacturing process – do you think we would be manufacturing in Australia and the USA? (Answer: Nooooo).
Black Milk is not a fabric manufacturer. We don’t actually create any of our fabrics, we just buy them. Like any business, we are part of a complex system with thousands of variables. We sit in the middle of a supply chain and in many ways we are at the mercy of our suppliers (who are at the mercy of their suppliers).
If our sewing sucks, or our designs suck - we can deal with that, because we are a sewing and design company. We can take 100% responsibility for those things. When fabric issues arise, we can often feel a little powerless. What happened? Was it manufactured wrong? Was it stored wrong? Did a supplier change something? Did it spend too long on a boat? Should it have been rested before being cut? After being cut? Did a wrong label get on something? Is it a problem with a certain part of the fabric roll, or the whole roll? Or the entire batch of fabric? You get the point.
Does this mean that we throw our hands in the air and give up? Hell no! We are super passionate about our fabrics and making sure they are the most awesome in the world! We stand or fall based on the quality of our fabrics and we are going to do whatever needs to be done to make sure we are continuing to get consistently great fabrics.
So… what’s the plan?
Well, we are working really hard with our suppliers to get more consistency and quality in our fabrics. We are weighing them, going through different batches and doing whatever we need to do to make sure that everything we send out is as good as we can get it.
I’d love to say that all our issues will get fixed overnight, but of course, with stuff like this it just takes time. If we want to get it right, we are going to have to spend the time getting it right.
Your patience is appreciated. :)
2. “Have you guys changed the sizing on this product…?
As a general rule… no. But for sure, sizing consistency is an area where we certainly need to do much better!
So I want to apologise for a lot of mistakes that we have made with our sizing. We need to do much better (and we will!). It’s something that we are going to be really focusing on over the next few months, so your patience is (as always) appreciated as we really look at improving our fit and consistency. :)
Okay, let‘s talk about what sizing consistency is, and is not.
Sizing consistency does not mean that we should expect different clothes of the same size to be the same shape. Rather, sizing consistency means that if you buy an S garment, and you have an S body, you should put it on and feel good! If you have a S body and you put on a M garment, it should feel a little on the loose side, and if you put on an XS, it should feel on the tight side!
To use an extreme example, if you measure the waistband on a pair of pantyhose and compare it with the waistband on a skater skirt, you shouldn’t be surprised that you get a very different number. To use a less extreme example, don’t be surprised that you won’t find the same measurements in the waist section of a printed play dress, an Awesome play dress, and a Matte play dress. They are different fabrics, with different qualities, so they are sized differently! And of course, over time fabrics change as well.
We are not aiming for consistent measurements in the shape of the garment, we are aiming for a consistent fit experience for the customer. At the most basic level, this means that if you buy something that is your size, and it fits you, mission accomplished! That’s the promise we want to make to you, and that’s the promise we need to keep. :)
Do we ever completely change the fit of a garment? Yeah, occasionally. If we see a problem across the board with a product’s sizing, we will admit we have made a mistake and make a change. Usually it will be a full size up or a full size down. In those situations we are going to have to do a great job communicating with you, the customer, about what you should expect. In the past we probably haven’t done a great job with getting this information out there, but in the future, we’ll make sure that any major size changes are thoroughly communicated. :)
So what’s the plan to improve BM’s fit and consistency?
The first thing that needs to happen is that we need to have a really good look at our processes to make sure we are doing the best job possible. And we have already started that process.
And we would also appreciate your help. :)
First, we need to make sure our sizing chart is accurate. I have been working with the team for the last few weeks on revamping it and I think we have made some improvements. We would like to test the accuracy of our chart on some of our customers to make sure we are on the right track. We will be looking at holding an event for anyone interested (who is in Brisbane) to get measured and see where they sit on our improved size chart.
Second, I am thinking it might be good to hold more ‘fit feedback’ events in both Brisbane and LA, where girls can come in and experience the new shapes we are working on and tell us how they feel. You guys are the ones wearing the clothes we create, we want you to be confident in them!
Also, we want to let you girls have a closer experience of how their clothes are actually made. This means that we are going to be holding more BM tours so girls can see the whole process that happens to create their clothes. I will be happy to personally answer any questions people have on these tours.
Should be fun!
Lastly, on a more personal note…
Black Milk started on a kitchen table by a guy with two dodgy sewing machines who had no idea what he was doing. He fell in love with the process of making clothes, and so, despite the lack of qualifications or talent (lol) he just kept going. No, I didn’t really know what I was doing, yes, I made lots of mistakes, but I got better. And despite the mistakes, there were always girls who believed in what I was doing, and kept believing in what I was doing. For those girls I am unbelievably grateful!
We want to repay that faith in us.
We’re at a new level now. The challenges are bigger, the stakes are higher, and the pressure is way more intense. If I could click my fingers at everything would be perfect right now, I’d click them. However, the fact is that we are just going to have to put our heads down and work hard to keep making BM better.
We will keep working to create something great, if you keep believing that we can. :) Deal?