The purpose of the grant will be geared towards preparation and fulfillment of the two primary immediate goals. As the nexus of design and sustainable manufacturing is a relatively new field at a global level in general, and in Ecuador more specifically, there is a substantial amount of research to be fulfilled. The grant will be, in part, geared towards research materials, to be used through the summer in the initial learning stage of the project. These materials include literature and technical manuals, as well as tools to for interviews in order to perform potential market research.
As a complementary step to the research, the funds will be directed towards designing the first prototype. This will involve purchasing of materials, software for product design, and commissioning of samples for assembly, if the project and product gets to the final stages.
The goals for the venture at this point are relatively flexible, as the project is mostly about learning about the industry, and understanding dynamics of consumer behavior and perceptions with regards to sustainable apparel. However, I do aim to have substantial feedback from interviews, information from research, and an awareness of the market availability of the components of primary designs.
In terms of the venture product itself, the goal by the end of the summer is to have functional design possibilities, and hopefully the first physical manifestation, or prototype. It is not expected that a finalized product will be achieved, but an initial iteration of it is well within reach and expectation.
The ultimate goal of this stage in the venture and the grant, however, will remain the learning component, in the attempt to understand the forces at work, the actors to be involved, and the actual potential of the idea.
Throughout the time in the field, progress will be tracked through interview and photography based documentation, as well as the constant reworking of the design process.
What have you learned about your venture and what progress have you made since receiving the grant?
The biggest lesson I have learned since receiving the grant is that the textile industry in Ecuador is not conducive to entrepreneurial projects. The scale at which orders have to be made to generate a beneficial partnership for both the clients and the manufacturers is massive, as the globalized economy has driven textile production margins down. That being said, it has been a great learning experience in how to navigate the business of negotiation, on how to effectively communicate my vision, and on conveying the final design for my project to the variety of manufacturers. It was a great exposition of the gap between a good idea, thoughtful design, and effective execution.
Our biggest accomplishment was...
understanding the textile industry in Ecuador, and designing a product that was simple, functional, and environmentally friendly.
I learned the most during...
Something I think we did well...
was engage with a variety of potential manufacturers to identify the best suited to the product vision.
We need to improve on...
identifying the reality of a national economy within the global context, to understand the true feasibility of the project.
In the future, I hope to...
pursue the vision of sustainably sourced, designed, and produced apparel. I want to finish what I started, taking from the lessons learned in this iteration.