We love the idea behind Afingo, a site that helps new and experienced fashion designers find vendors, producers, and business partners, with plenty of practical advice along the way. The group also puts on popular bi-coastal, forum-focused events — the Afingo Fashion Forums, which feature a wide-ranging cast of industry experts and serve as real-life meet-ups for designers making their way into the industry. Liza Deyrmenjian, a fashion industry veteran and the site’s founder, spoke to us about Afingo’s roots and where it’s going next.
These responses have been edited for length.
The High Low: How did you get Afingo started?
Liza Deyrmenjian: Afingo is the result of the knowledge and experience I’ve amassed over the course of 20+ years in fashion manufacturing. I opened a design studio when I was 19 and by the time I was 23 it had grown into a complete factory producing third party orders as well as two of my own lines.
But I saw a greater opportunity in package programs where the factory buys all the materials in addition to producing the garment for the client. So I sold my businesses and opened up a second plant devoted to a more full-service offering. In addition to a private label for Costco, we produced lines for clients such as Marmont, Sierra Design and London Fog. I built the business to $3 million in less than two years.
A few years later, burnt out on overseeing a brick and mortar factory, I moved to consulting for start up brands and emerging labels. It was clear that while someone may have a great idea, they don’t necessarily have the knowledge to execute the concept. To address those needs, I started my seminar program for the fashion industry, “Liza D: 48 Hours to Your Own Business.” All the attendees invariably had the same four questions:
- How do I source/find the right contractors?
- How do I know what to pay?
- How much money do I need?
- How do I sell?
Not everyone has access to a professional consultant that can help propel their business, as well as save them from avoidable pitfalls. Which is [where Afingo comes in]. Whether you’re designing ball gowns or T-Shirts, you can use Afingo to get the resources and tools to successfully manufacture your line.
HL: So the impetus to launch Afingo was in response to the demand for this kind of a matching service? Or did it stem more from your recognition that designers could use this kind of support?
LD: There is indeed a huge need, not just for emerging brands but for the entire spectrum of labels. Efficient sourcing is critically important to the success of a brand. Large brands employ anywhere from 10 to 50 people or more dedicated to sourcing, which demonstrates the importance of this facet of the business.
HL: How do your members use the service the most?
LD: Afingo takes what has historically been a difficult, often overwhelming process and makes it transparent and seamless. Regardless of how large or small their business is, Afingo users can efficiently identify the most ideal vendors – qualified and vetted factories — saving time and money. This function doesn’t exist anywhere else.
HL: Any favorite success stories?
LD: Rochelle Behrens approached me with a novel, trademarked idea called “The Shirt.” I helped her with the technical aspects of production, including sourcing fabric, identifying a pattern maker and factory. She was a quick learner, and after eight months of working together she had over $40,000 in sales and a clear direction of where to take the business. She quit her day job, worked on her line full-time, and in January 2011 her product was featured on-air among Oprah’s “5 things you need for 2011.” She now cuts 5,000 units at a time!
HL: We love Afingo’s global approach. Is there a lot of matching going on outside the U.S.?
LD: Having a global perspective is important, but going overseas isn’t always the best answer. The content on our site educates the user as to what countries would be best for their product based on volume, price point, etc., and gives them information on taxes and fees. Afingo breaks the logistics down simply enough so the user can do business successfully without getting bogged down in minutiae. These details are important — but [they] don’t need to be overwhelming or unwelcome surprises. Afingo guides users toward making the best choices for production, which indeed may be domestic (which means in the country in which they’re located, not necessarily the U.S.).
HL: Are you making any plans for expansion?
LD: Absolutely! We’ll be rolling out a new suite of easy-to-use and well-designed tools over the next year, including a costing calculator, a global manufacturing calendar, and online support.