I'm Katie Martinez, the Founder of Elegantees. I live in New York City with my sweet little family. It's my honor to run this company, and I'm glad you're here for a backstage pass.
I created Elegantees because shopping was hard. I needed tops that were pretty and comfortable with proper coverage. Having spent my life both on a farm in Iowa, and in the Fashion District of New York City, I’ve seen two extremes in the ways women dress. A common approach is to avoid fashion altogether and wear the same tee and jeans/leggings daily. The other extreme is where there is so much emphasis on fashion that it becomes an identity. Elegantees is for the woman who seeks to find a balance, while enjoying the comfort and movement of a regular tee.
Finalizing the Collections
My talented friend, Wildy, leads up the design. She lives in New York City also, where she researches colors and styles that are going to resonate with our customers best. When we meet up to plan the collections, it's the best of both worlds - friendship and fashion.
Once the final stamp is put onto the designs, we hand them over to our pattern maker.
Pattern making the Blueprints into Reality
Each design concept is made into a sample through pattern making. Jenna is our pattern maker and works from her home in Florida. She'll create and email a large PDF to our sample maker in Nepal. The patterns are printed on our large-scale printer. The sample to us in NYC, and necessary adjustments are made until the fit is perfect.
We turn to fashion forecasters that tell use what colors will be in demand for each season. These Pantone hues come back to us from our fabric mills in the form of lab dips (small fabric swatches that provide a preview of what our order would look like if we proceed). We don't order all new colors for each season, but we mix and match some new colors with leftover colors from previous seasons.
And Production Begins!
When the fabric is delivered to our center in Nepal, it is received in with excitement. The arrival of fabric means there will be more work and ongoing support. We receive in several rolls of each color at a time.
Our cutting masters are two incredible men who make the garment-making process as seamless as possible. Each layer of fabric is calculated to save fabric every cut. They inspect it for damages as it's being spread on the long table. Then they use a large electric blade to cut through the layers, and bundle up the sizes. It's serious and concentrated work, simultaneously in a fun environment. These men are also responsible for much of the laughter in our sewing center. We don't speak the same language as them, but we're told they are funny.
Sewing Each Tee with Integrity
I wasn’t planning to work in Nepal when I started this company in 2010. I believe it happened by divine intervention back in 2011. The man with the vision to eliminate trafficking in his homeland was praying to find a way to give rescued women meaningful work with and fair wage. With my pattern-making passion and gifting in logistics, I play a role that contributes to the success of the sewing center. This makes my heart sing and it’s the reason I love my work!
I felt eager for the challenge to work in Nepal and coordinate design and production to help smooth operations, and place orders. We’ve overcome challenges over the years, but today we have 20+ seamstresses sewing full time in Nepal. Our goals have to do with the waiting list that is for over 300 women. I keep aiming to increase business to one day exceed the waiting list. Each time we hire another, an entire family is significantly more protected from the risk of being trafficked.
Clean Photo Shoots
Sometimes we rent a studio and host a photo shoot. Sometimes we have a destination set to capture the inspiration for the collections. We gather models and style over 50 simple outfits for each season.
I love to see relatable women of various sizes on our site and on social media. Our aim is to break away from the unrealistic standards of beauty. Ideal beauty is an expression of something that comes from the inside. This confidence trumps an attempt to seduce that is commonly found in fashion photography. For styling and poses, we encourage simplicity with confidence as we coach our models. When a woman takes care of herself, and others with kindness, she's at the height of beauty. True beauty is in being clothed in strength and dignity.
SHIPPING WITH GRATITUDE
The last person on our team to touch your shirt before it's in your hands is my mom. She is proof that anyone can do anything. Beverly started packing orders in her early 60's and didn't know how to turn on a computer. She's teaching us the tricks now! Everyday orders are faithfully packed, labels printed, and finished with a post office drop off. It's truly a labor of love.
All this goes into the elegant tee. We love it, and are grateful it is possible every day. Thank you.