Fallene Wells talks about Modern Nouveau's big reveal and the price of garment production
For her latest endeavor, Fallene Wells went big: She launched a $20,000 Kickstarter campaign to fund her Modern Nouveau line. Fans of Fallene's work came through, the designer reached her goal, and on August 24, she will debut her fall mix-match collection at Walker Fine Art Gallery, in a solo, French-inspired show.
Julianne Brasher Pieces from Fallene's upcoming Modern Nouveau collection.
Since Fallene is ever the collaborator, a pop-up shop, Swank, will also be part of the big reveal; it will feature the work of La Samara Studios, Kitty Mae Millinery, Ink Jewelry and Ru Fabricates (pal Samuel Schimek of the I Heart Denver store is said to be representing as well). Fallene took a break from planning the upcoming "Modern Nouveau: Fall Friperie" show to talk about what it took to get here, and how a desire to produce locally continues to be a central focus for this positive-minded fixture in the Denver fashion scene.
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Westword: You had previous success with a much smaller Kickstarter project -- but this one, at $20,000, was a much bigger endeavor. Why did you choose to use Kickstarter again?
I felt Kickstarter would be a great platform to market my idea as well, instead of just getting a loan. It was a way for a lot of people to know about what I was doing, and be involved in the project. It was a good way to show people, look at how much it does take to do a line. I'm a hairdresser as well, and I have a lot of clients who ask me, "How come your stuff isn't in stores?" It's like, it's not that easy, you know? [Laughs.] There's a lot that goes on. For me, it was a good way for me to help people understand what it takes to produce a line -- so that maybe next time they buy a piece of clothing, it means more to them to support local, and support people's ventures.
Were you afraid at any point that you weren't going to make your goal?
Yeah. I think I had an interview with Westword when I was doing it, and I was asked, "What if you don't make it?" [Laughs.] I'm like, obviously, I have to make it. There really is no other choice. If I didn't make it, I would have just had to revisit my options. Getting a loan isn't that easy, especially for designing. You have to show things like, do you already have the customers? Are you in stores? It's a Catch 22: You can't have those things until you have your line out there. So I was kind of freaked out. But then I thought, well, I can just do one design at a time, instead of trying to do all of the separates that I'm doing.
But I'm happy, obviously, that I did fund it. I've learned a lot through doing it this way and doing it in Colorado. I've started to try to figure out what my next step is after I've shown my collection in August. There was a company that did approach me recently -- but the hard part is, they don't produce 100 percent in the U.S. That's something that I've really wanted to do. So I'm in this struggle right now of, do I have my designs out in stores? If I produce it all in Colorado, it's going to be very hard for me to re-sell it, because it's so expensive to produce here.
I'm really curious to see how my collection is taken in August, and if it's responded to well. If it is, I might have to take those steps so people can start wearing it. Obviously, I'm going to be responsible with where I'm producing; I don't want to support sweatshops, or anything crazy like that. But I also want my clothes to be accessible for a lot of people to wear, and so I can keep going as a designer. It was very hard for me to do it in Colorado, and I'm still not finished. I actually have to send all of my designs sent out of town to be sized, because there's no one here that does that. It's hard because we're so limited here for skills in that area.
So sizing is one part of garment production process that has to be done out-of-state?
Yes, it's called "grading" and there are not many people in Colorado that do it. Another thing I hope happens from my show in August is that maybe (I will meet) more people in the manufacturing business in Colorado that I don't know yet. Hopefully they'll come and teach me that there are people that can do it, and do it cheaper. The person I'm working with right now, I guess she's affordable for Colorado. But for instance, one of my blouses -- If I wanted to make, say, a $30 profit off of it, I'd have to sell it in a store for $250. That's insane, right?
I want people like me to be able to buy it, and I know couldn't afford that! I want people that want to support local fashion designers to be able to wear my stuff, and not think, "Oh, this is cool, but I can't afford it," you know? So it's one of those things -- how can I help people support local by making it affordable to them and how can I keep going as a designer? That's my next step -- figuring that out.