Retail partner success is all in the details for Rhonda Stark Designs.
As Rhonda Stark Designs is known for handcrafting wearable works of art from luxurious fabrics, it comes as no surprise that Rhonda herself understands every detail down to the inch is important. This is especially true because of the company’s “cut to order” process, making individual pieces of clothing for retailers upon request. We talked with Rhonda Stark about her 30-year career and how those details come together stitch by stitch to ensure the company’s [and their retailers’] success.
What is your brand philosophy?
We do a Southwest-Western type of line. Most of my fabrics currently are wool-blends, and we cut and sew everything here so we pretty much cut to order. We cater for our customers [retailers] so nothing is pre-packed. They can pick and choose their sizes which that allows them to cater to their customer base, which nobody does anymore.
Tell us about the brand – who do you make products for?
[Customers that have] a young spirit or colorful spirit. My fabrics are very colorful. We don’t do anything in a solid. I design all of my fabrics and have them woven in Italy so it pretty much keeps our own patterns [unique] to my brand.
Have any products stood out as a retailer favorite/best seller?
It’s funny because I’ve been in business over 30 years. However, people that are new to us, they just find us. You don’t know where the people are coming from [that have a favorite piece]. Then it could be a current retailer that we have didn’t notice a fabric and then maybe the next year (as we carry some fabrics on from year-to-year), [they] will notice and say, ‘wow, this stands out in my line now,’ or their package or store where they merchandise it differently, and they have a new favorite.
Are there any trends you’ve noticed in the market lately?
That’s hard to say, because I sometimes go for certain colors that are going to be popular and try to bring those into the color line, or the design of the print of the woven fabric that we’re doing. But since it’s a Southwestern pattern, they’re many colors, and sometimes it depends on the cut of the vest or jacket or coat that we’re doing, that will make it pop out in a certain way.
After the ups and downs of 2020, do you feel buyer confidence is returning?
This time last year was crazy, because I was sitting in my office by myself basically, because I had to lay my employees off. We didn’t know what was going to happen. So many orders it was a cancelation or hold on the order. Because we cut to order, we don’t build stock unless it’s sold to somebody, so we couldn’t go very far ahead for fear that they’d be canceled. So 2020 was a very strange year, and we’re seeing a lot of repercussions because of it. Unfortunately, we lost customers, whether they retired or felt it was too much of a struggle to go forward, but we found many new customers in 2020 and even in 2021 so far, so now that we’ve gone through 2020, we’re looking very optimistic for 2021. We’re still busy. We can pivot quickly. We’re made in the USA, and our customers appreciate that, right down to our buttons. Plus, we’re increasing our business as well. We never really had a strong spring line before. We are just a small company so we were still cutting and sewing for deliveries for fall and such, but now we’re implementing a spring line that would include cottons that will give us a year-round base.
Do you set up at major market events? If so, which ones?
We’re still at Denver Market. I’ve been with my rep there for over 25 years. They’re finding a new building that they’re moving into, and I used to have my own showroom at Dallas Market and have been doing the temporaries since then. Now we’ve just struck a deal with Tammy Taylor, and we’ll be going into her permanent showroom in Dallas Market.
...we found many new customers in 2020 and even in 2021 so far, so now that we’ve gone through 2020, we’re looking very optimistic for 2021. We’re still busy. We can pivot quickly. We’re made in the USA, and our customers appreciate that, right down to our buttons.
How do new retailers go about setting up an account?
They see us at Market generally, or they see our advertising in Cowboys & Indians and call us directly or [call] one of my reps that rep the line.
What is your advice to retailers looking to gain ground in 2021?
Be able to be individual, to put together packages and displays in their store. Maybe somebody is not going to come in and buy the whole thing but make it interesting enough that maybe something or a few things are going to work for that customer. As we find, our size items are very popular of course, but our one-size items, our ponchos and capes are very popular, and then that way the retailer doesn’t have a lot of money stuck in sizes that they [may not] sell.
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