I get asked several questions all the time: where did you come up with the idea for Cake For Dinner? How did you do all this? Do you have a background in fashion or design? What about merchandising?
I don't have a background in these fields, but I have a teenage daughter. The inspiration for this business came from the struggle of her "never having anything to wear." And I have to say, she was totally right when this idea came into my head.
At the time, Claire was attending a school that required a uniform. She was in fifth grade, and we knew she would be switching to a non-uniform school at the beginning of sixth. As we started cleaning out the uniform-infested closet and taking inventory of what she had, we narrowed it down to pretty much nothing. Maybe three things weren't athletic/leisurewear, which she wasn't allowed to wear to school. Needless to say, the next several weeks were a series of online shopping, in-store shopping, in-store returning, and way too much time and money spent at the UPS store shipping things back.
After all that, the pieces we did manage to find here, and there were…meh. The kids' sizes that should have fit her just didn't. And the few things that did were too baby-ish. On the flip side, the adult styles that she really loved didn't fit either. They were either too long, had too much fabric in the top, were cut too low – the list goes on and on. I kept telling myself since we couldn't find the clothes that fit Claire, we just needed to make them.
To be honest, I could not have been more clueless about this industry when my idea started forming two years ago. I started browsing online with searches like "how do you start a clothing line?" It seemed so easy – find fabric, draw sketches of what you want, find a manufacturer, and that's it! So, we started doing just that.
In my mind, the fabric part was easy. We started with a couple of local fabric stores…but after literally getting laughed at by one of the store employees, I realized that upholstery fabric stores do NOT sell apparel fabric😆 . It was around that point in time when I started rethinking all of this, and we hadn't even started!
With my tail tucked between my legs, we finally found the "right" kind of fabric store; but every place we went told us that the fabric in the store was the last one of that type. I would ask, "well then, how do clothing lines make multiple pieces?" The looks I received were priceless. Another significant pride-swallowing moment was that clothing lines do not buy fabric from the local hobby shop! Moving on.
I was so excited to find a local manufacturer that seemed to be interested in talking with us. I made an appointment; we grabbed our little plastic baggie of fabric swatches and went to the meeting. The sweet man we met with couldn't help but laugh. He started asking questions like: do you have a pattern? What about a tech pack? Did you plan to source fabric yourself, or do you want us to do it? And my favorite, do you even have an idea of what you want? We had come "prepared" with fabric and a few pictures of styles, and we tried to explain. But basically, we ended up back at square one.
After that, school started, life got crazy, and the idea was put on the back burner. There was no way Claire would let me pick out clothes for her anymore, so I would order random garments for her when she would send me links( knowing I could just return it if it didn't work out). But nearly everything she sent me was from a random website – and the pieces were so cheap, it honestly cost more to ship them back than to keep them.
The quality was the worst part. Any dress, shirt, or other pieces of clothing literally would fall apart after wearing it once or twice. But then, Claire and all her friends started selling clothes they didn't want on Instagram. When she asked me to ship something from her closet to Virginia, my idea that had been simmering came back to life.
I took the knowledge I had gained from our humble beginnings, and I realized I was definitely not a designer, and I needed a designer if this was ever going to become a legitimate business. I called the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) and asked if they might have a student interested in designing one or two styles, perhaps as a class project for credit. Instead, I was told a SCAD alumnus had recently been in touch and may be interested. They put me in touch with Mallory, and that's when things really started to take off.
I tell Mallory all the time that the stars aligned for us. I am so thankful for her and her incredible talents. I can't believe how lucky Claire and I – and our team of "ambassadors" – are to be able to work with one of the most gifted people I have ever met. I am in awe of her ability to take ideas and opinions from a room full of girls and create these beautiful sketches, which then turn into amazing styles with the most detailed tech packs (I know what those are now, but I will let her elaborate on the importance of them, as she has it down to a science). All of her amazing talents aside, though, one of the things I'm most thankful for is that she happens to be one of the kindest people I know. I couldn't be more thrilled to have her as a positive role model for the girls involved, and I am proud to call her my friend. She is the absolute best, hands down!
What started as an idea (and a lot of laughing at myself and how much I didn't know) has now turned into a brand ready to launch. Mallory has designed Cake For Dinner's first small-batch fall/resort collection, with assistance from Claire and her friends, who serve as our ambassadors. They all have become integral to this process and are the reason we started this company. We want to celebrate them and all young women by giving them the styles they want that fit them the way they should. We hope you love the debut Cake For Dinner collection as much as we do!