Columbus, Ohio USA
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Royal Factory Atelier
Five years supporting and creating local fashion
By Therese Kaltenecker
November/December 2016 Issue
Felicia Jimenez, owner of Royal Factory Atelier
Five years supporting and creating local fashionThe Royal Factory Atelier at the corner of Fifth and High celebrates its five-year anniversary this year. To commemorate five years of supporting and creating local fashion, the Short North Gazette sat down with the owners and lead designers, Andre Bitmayl and Felicia Jimenez, to discuss their past and look forward to their future.
The conversation, condensed and edited for clarity, follows.
What was your vision for Royal Factory when you opened it five years ago?
Felicia: Since a young age, I did vintage. But I would always do vintage-new, so my skirt might be vintage, but my shoes might be designer. For me, it was all about how you mesh it together. That’s the concept of the store: how do you pair the old with the new, and how do you redesign it to ensure that it feels trend-right?
Andre: As far as what motivated us to open a store, I think what fueled it was that we both really love to shop. We were going to open our store in L.A. I’m from California. She’s from Michigan, but she moved to California and became head of flagship stores for Victoria’s Secret in California. We had met there in L.A., and we both loved thrifting and finding great vintage pieces, so we thought, let’s open a store. We were going to open a store on Melrose Boulevard. Literally, we were looking at spaces ready to sign contracts. We had all our inventory. Then she got a call.
F: I got a call with an opportunity to transfer to home office.
A: So we moved here, and we literally brought all the inventory. I got into real estate investing. She was working at The Limited. Then, Victoria’s Secret restructured and she left.
F: I was like, now’s the time for me to do this or not. I was thinking that I’m at an age where I can jump out of this, try to do my own thing, and if I need to jump back or if I want to go back, I can.
A: We lived in Columbus for about 7 years before finally opening the store. We already had the inventory ready to go.
F: Thank god vintage is vintage.
What type of clothing does Royal Factory carry, and how, if at all, has the clothing changed over the five years that you have been here?
F: We do a mix of product here. We carry local designers, vintage and reconstructed vintage, as well as some new product. In the past, we were heavier in new and local designers. However, we have transitioned from that to bringing local designers in house to actually construct and design under us versus having outside aesthetics come in. We’re still showing their aesthetics and what they do but –
A: It’s kind of a combination. In the past, we’ve always had local designers at Royal Factory. I mean we’ve had, I’d say, over 100, most of them CCAD graduates and whatnot. But what tends to happen is they’ll do only one collection because it’s hard to keep new collections coming from [younger designers]. Most of them, they’ll get sucked up into Abercrombie or The Limited, and so there’s no longevity. At one point, we were constantly bringing in designers, and it became harder to keep collections coming, so we were like what do we do? We can’t keep going through so many designers.
F: But we still have them here and we want to support them while also trying to build their brands into something that the customer is asking for. It’s like, how do we still nurture local designers and bring them in successfully so that the product that we all work on actually sells? We hear the client every day. We know what they’re looking for. We want to figure out how we can incorporate local designers to ensure our success and their success. New product, we still have it, but we don’t have as much of it as we once did. Now, we have three designers in-house.
When did you make that transition from carrying local design labels to bringing designers in house?
A: It’s been about a year really. It’s been about a year now we’ve been doing in-house.
I’ve noticed a lot of denim. Is all the denim upcycled and repurposed?
F: All the denim is done here in-house.
A: We have four or five who work on it together. Some will just bleach it, distress it. Others will get their hands on it and
actually attach zippers and modify it.
F: When we first opened, we weren’t doing a lot of denim. I was never into denim whole-heartedly, but hearing your client and understanding your client, we had to transition heavy into denim.
A: We’ve had a lot of success with it and we’re finding a lot of people are really coming to us for denim. It’s been something kind of easy for us to do. A lot of it is sourcing a good denim, 100 percent cotton, so that it frays really nicely, and denim on trend, whether high-waisted like last year or now cut-off. So denim, as it evolves, we evolve with it. But again, it’s about having good denim, like Levis or Wrangler.
We look for good vintage.
Where do you get the denim from?
A: A lot of it is thrifting estate sales. We go wherever we have to go to get our hands on good denim. You can’t really find good authentic vintage in the city, so a lot of times we do trips to Akron or Cleveland and we’ll go to rural farm areas –
F: And just really hit the estate sales.
Brenda Rangel and Jenna Champer, in-house fashion designers at Royal Factory Atelier
How many custom pieces do you do per week?
A: I’d say about 60 to 80. Today, I did 10 pairs of OSU reconstructed-denim jackets.
F: We definitely tap into the OSU demographic but in our own way, so that it’s still our own aesthetic. That’s been going well for us.
A: We have about five designers. We’ll essentially source for them bags of tulle and jerseys, and we’ll come up with a concept. We’ll give them bags of stuff and say “for this line or collection, make it denim,” so there’s usually a theme that will carry the collection, and they take it all and reconstruct it. We held back for a few years on the OSU stuff because, one, we are from California, and two, Felicia is very hardcore on fashion.
F: My thing was if we we’re going to do OSU, then we were going to do it our way. I wasn’t going to sell just shirts and basics, so I thought how can we do it in a fashionable way that’s still representative of the store, our brand, and what the client wants?
If someone brings a bag of his or her own material and wants you to design something for him or her from that material, can you do that?
A: Absolutely. That’s what we do. Right now, we have four bags of materials for the girls to work with. We’ll have people bring in denim and we’ll reconstruct it for them.
F: In terms of a full piece –
A: It’s a matter of selecting designers. We’ve selected designers with different aesthetics, so based on what the customer needs, we can assign the best designer for that project. We’re doing a lot of alterations right now. It’s not our preference, but we do it. What we really want to tune in to is couture, so if someone needs couture, they can come to us. That’s more of our focus, or reconstructing denim.
Where do you see the store and the two of you in another five years?
A: When we opened our store about five years ago, our model out of the gate was to feature local designers, so we had like 10 to 15 local designers, most of them CCAD graduates and Columbus Fashion Week designers. We’re at a point now where we’re creating our own collections. Royal Factory is becoming its own brand with its own hangtags. It’s a lot of work. The hope is for the store to become a staple of Columbus. We want it to be something that Columbus is proud of, something that can put us on the map. We want other places to see that we have a fashion house right here in Columbus where we design and make our clothes. We’re not making our clothes in other countries; we’re doing it right here on the corner of Fifth and High.
Royal Factory Atelier is locted at 1209 N. High St. on the corner of W. Fifth Avenue. Hours are Mon-Fri 1-7:30, Sat 11-9, Sun 11-7. Visit Royal Factory on Facebook or call 614-826-4155 for more information.
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