Conventional wisdom usually advises against reinventing the wheel. In business, however, finding a new way to deliver an existing product can help launch an entrepreneurial empire.
That’s what Sano Design Services, a New York-based computer aided design (CAD) studio, hopes to do after creating its new web-based textile design service in June of this year.
Called EzTextiles.com, the website offers fabric designs for as little as a dollar each to users from the fashion, home furnishings and textile industries. The site combines more than 25 million production-ready textile designs with supporting sketches and product photos.
Started as a side project by company founder John Sano, the site launched offers fabric designs ranging from woven plaids to knit designs that can be edited, adjusted and used in any design application.
“Our vision was to create a user-friendly and cost-effective design tool that can be used by a wide range of people – from design students and freelancers to senior designers and merchants of the largest corporations,” said Sano, whose studio clients include Abercrombie & Fitch, Urban Outfitters and Vera Wang.
The site eliminates the need for the traditional practice of manually searching, buying and converting textile designs for each new season or product line, said Sano, which can be both costly and time consuming.
Visitors to the EzTextiles site can view and search all designs, build a personal collection and visualize designs and patterns on product sketches or photos.
After downloading three images free of charge, users can choose from a variety of subscription packages that offer royalty-free, non-exclusive image downloads.
Brian Kaminer, who owns a merchandising design company in New York, explained that costs for a textile pattern – used for apparel, shoes, even wallpaper – traditionally range from $150 to $2,000. “He’s putting these patterns online,” said Kaminer of Sano, “and the cost is a lot less.”
Kaminer, whose company provides design direction for the U.S. Polo Association clothing line, said he showed the site to his design team “and they went crazy with it.”
“They knew just what to do,” he said of the designers’ ability to sort through all the plaids and stripes on EzTextiles to find the right patterns for their creations.
Inspiration through experimentation
Textile designer Robin Lewellen said that because EzTextiles does a lot of the trend research, the website allows her to spend more time experimenting with patterns and colorways (different colored versions of each pattern), as she develops lines for next fall.
Lewellen, who has worked with design teams from Abercrombie & Fitch and Express, said she was able to click through the site, see a pattern on a scarf and realize it had different applications that she hadn’t envisioned.
Sano worked in the textile/apparel industry for 12 years for corporate brands including Old Navy and Victoria’s Secret, helping them to synergize their design and technology departments.
Staking new territory
Since launching his own studio six years ago from his New York apartment, Sano has since focused on streamlining services for his clients by posting production-ready artwork online — which makes a quick design turnaround possible even for customers not based in New York.
“The only thing we don’t do is cut and sew,” said Sano.
It’s that organic approach to business that Sano said has allowed his studio to withstand the ebb and flow of the economy and give him the flexibility to reinvent the business to meet customers’ changing needs.
As the company grew, his wife, Tracy Sano, left a full-time job as a CAD designer with Structure to join Sano Design as vice president and concentrate on marketing and following fashion trends.
The design studio is housed in a 1,200-square-foot space in Manhattan’s Garment District and employs three full-time and two freelance employees.
But the financial challenges posed by some clients’ less-than-timely payments during the recession has forced Sano to rethink costs on his end – from office supplies to halving the number of employees on the payroll from a year ago – in order to keep his prices competitive.
Sano said the upside of experiencing business challenges is that it has allowed his company to reinvent itself and continue to find ways to streamline its business practices.
Ez-Textiles recently added a blog to its site to provide information on textile news and trends, as well as industry reports, to users to round out their design experience on the site.
Sano said he sees a number of different paths the company can take with the launch of the new website, including opening up to advertising and allowing users to input their own designs.
By allowing others to upload their own designs, the company also ultimately benefits from increased exposure.