I have to share with you, I’m stunned by how often things fail.
In developing products for Bluffworks, I’ve got entire dustbins full of clothing that just didn’t make the cut. When I fail a product, invariably a supplier says, “this would be good enough for every other brand we work with”. I could release things that meet conventional industry standards, but I’m out to make the best travel clothes out there - or really, the best damn clothes for me - and normal just isn’t good enough.
So why is it so unbelievably hard?
- Risk. I once thought I had a blazer nailed, that did everything I wanted. But, when I went around the world to shoot a video for Kickstarter, as soon as I got home, the product fell apart. It was two more years before we finally launched the Gramercy Blazer (which has been a smash hit). The reality is, things fail all the time.
Is it possible to avoid the risk? Not really, because...
- Innovation. My view is that all entrepreneurship challenges require defying something in the status quo to succeed. We’re solving a new problem that hasn’t been addressed before with each of our products, whether it’s creating machine washable dress pants or technical yet breathable shirts. I’m constantly compelled to look for something better than I have now. I can’t resist. And to make something better, it requires innovation.
So what stands in the way of success??
Possibly unrealistic expectations. I might have them. There’s something about the way I tick that makes me frustrated with the way things are, and want them to be better. I want everything to be lighter, softer, more comfortable. For me, my passion is taking on big journeys, and I need gear that gets me there.
Maybe I should back off a little, but then...
Customer feedback says...I can’t, because I have learned that our customers also have high expectations — like really high. This is partly my fault. I love it when we deliver a product that makes people go, “Thank goodness!” But the fact of the matter is that each product we’ve developed to date was a real breakthrough.
Our Originals set the bar for the first wrinkle free pants you can wear five days in a row. Did you know that our Chinos start by being woven at 60 inches wide and contract to just 48 inches through a crazy process? It makes production people shake their head and the fabric enormously expensive. Our Gramercy Blazer took years to reach my standards - including the round-the-world jacket failure I mentioned above. Our Meridian travel shirt is such a specified weave to have a natural look and feel that it only works in a pattern, not solids.
So what is it that makes developing our products so hard?
The perfect balance. We’re always trying to weigh competing priorities. Soft things aren’t strong. Strong things aren’t comfortable. There are trade-offs every time we decide to design something new. Our aesthetic is to create technical travel clothing that doesn’t look technical. And finding the right materials to get us there is a real challenge.
That brings us back nearly full circle to: why go to all this trouble?
The things we make should be special. The space in my bag or in my life is coveted. I’m on my own hero’s journey, and I only have room for amazing things.
That’s why I started this company. My pants used to drive me nuts, and I wanted a better way. And, as it turned out, you did too.
I’m thrilled to have you along. I hope you keep the candid feedback coming. It strikes fear in my heart. But, also keeps me going.
P.S. As you probably know, travel clothes for women are perhaps even more challenging to get right than men’s. There are fewer options overall, and what is out there either looks extremely technical or is stylish to the point of not being functional. We’re working on launching a women’s line in 2019, so don’t forget to sign up for our list for opportunities to make suggestions and get updates along the way.