Meet Andy Parauka, creator of Properfit Clothing Co. - an apparel company, pattern provider, and YouTube channel. Much like I discovered Eric Yelsma and Detroit Denim on YouTube, I discovered Properfit through Andy’s fantastic sewing tutorials (do I spend too much time on YouTube?).
It all began when Andy moved from Michigan to Lake Tahoe, California to pursue a career in snowboarding. He was studying business at the time and snowboarding everyday. As he delved deeper into the local scene, one thing became clear: it’s kind of like a fashion show at the mountain. Before people see you snowboard, they look at your clothes and judge you by what you’re wearing. It was a weird vibe, but it was cool. Soon, Andy took to making his own clothes. Nothing too involved, more basic modifications and additions than anything else. As he continued creating his own clothes, people took notice and started asking for what he was making. He was just having fun, but knew that there was a lot of potential in what he was doing.
He began learning to sew and started making his clothes from scratch. As he got deeper and deeper into this new interest, he started to consider a move to LA for school and to build a network in the design world. He got accepted to FIDM, the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, moved to LA, and jumped right in, but it didn’t take long (one semester) for Andy to realize that his money would be better spent on growing a business than at a school where, if he were honest with himself, was behind where he was at in his craft.
So, he moved back to Grand Rapids where he began making more and more clothing out of his parent’s garage. Soon, he moved to a warehouse space where he could expand his operation with plenty of room for industrial sewing equipment. There was, however, one problem with the space - there was no insulation and winters in Michigan are not kind. When the opportunity arose, he jumped on a storefront property in town where he could work all year round in more reasonable conditions. Foot traffic by his new storefront brought in customers and business began picking up.
The original idea behind Properfit Clothing was too provide a sort of custom clothing service to his customers. One where you’d be able to choose a design out of a catalogue, and then request certain fabric to be used on different parts of the design. The result would be a garment made just for you based on your specifications - a Properfit piece of clothing. He soon realized that the business model wasn’t sustainable. That’s when he began making patterns, or templates that people could print out and sew on their own.
His business was growing, but his YouTube channel was growing faster. Soon his YouTube channel brought him more of an audience than the storefront did, and so Andy pivoted accordingly. He closed the store doors to the public and began to focus more heavily on creating content for aspiring designers. Not only was Properfit providing patterns, it was providing the knowledge necessary to create the finished product with those patterns. About two years into his time at the storefront, the property was sold and his new landlord had plans to raise rent. Because he wasn’t using the space as a storefront anymore, Andy moved once again.
Andy is currently in transition as he searches for a new property to setup shop - preferably a warehouse, only this time with insulation. While Properfit will still be a place for Andy to sell apparel, his main focus will be on creating patterns and YouTube content.
Andy has also been serving others in a sort of consulting role. He'll get emails from folks who want to start producing hats, but don’t know where to start. He’s guiding them through the process of sourcing the machinery and materials needed to fulfill their desired output within a budget, and he's really enjoying the process.
Personally, Andy is looking to begin designing clothing for the high fashion scene under, not Properfit, but his last name: Parauka. He’s going for a clean, futuristic, and functional feel. He loves the idea of being able to use your clothing, and not just wear it.
My first question to Andy was simple: how in the world do I print out this pattern for a pair of jeans? I hadn’t looked very closely at the document before asking (my bad). Apparently you just print out all of the pages involved and then tape them together! Piece of cake!
Andy then asked me, “why jeans?” And my response was simple: I’m trying to learn all that I can before deciding what apparel I’d like to create officially for SANS END. He agreed with my philosophy!
My next question took a wider approach - what advice would you have for someone who’s looking to start a clothing line? His first thought was an uplifting one - don’t get discouraged by all of the “big guys.” They’ve established their brand already and have the infrastructure to release new clothing every season. This goes back to his thoughts on dabbling in design - don’t rush it, you’re still developing your brand and eye for design, it’s a slow build.
The first thing you design just won’t be a home run. It takes time to stand out in a market as saturated as the apparel industry. So take your time! The longer it takes and the harder it is, the better the story, and as well learned last week - your story is your brand.
His last piece of advice is somewhat at odds with what we’ve been discussing, but equally true.
There comes a point where you can’t develop any further without taking a leap. You can learn and design and strategize forever, but at some point you need to jump. This, often times, is the hardest part of the process because you don’t feel ready - you never feel truly ready. There’s a balance between the “slow build” and seizing an opportunity. I think the key lies in how you react to the outcome. I say, take the opportunity, even if you're not ready. Worst case scenario: you fail. It’s your reaction to the failure that really matters. You either let it defeat you, or you learn from it and continue building. Are you building?
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Podcast SANS END theme music: Church by BenJamin Banger. Find him @ http://smarturl.it/hjfi20