The secret behind our iconic Reversible Leggings isn’t the innovative 2-in-1 design, it’s Thea Perez. This woman is the face behind the amazing seasonal prints featured on this best-selling style – including our newly released Dreamscape Print. However, Thea is much more than a creative mind. Her expertise goes beyond curating the most-coveted portfolio of leggings, and has allowed her to revolutionize the fashion industry’s design process as we know it.
With years of experience as a fashion designer, Thea has developed a keen eye for design and a knack for predicting seasonal trends. It is this same attention to detail that allowed her to pick up on the inefficiency that was causing strain on the industry’s design process – especially associated with choosing prints. Knowing that the technology needed to revive this archaic process and reduce the time and efforts needed from a design team already existed, she set out to address the issue herself – founding her very own print studio, Polychrome. With a modern digitized process, Polychrome has been able to significantly reduce time, resources and efforts involved; all while simultaneously offering a platform for global creatives to sell their designs and enjoy the flexibility of working remote.
We caught up with Thea to hear more about her entrepreneurial journey, and how Polychrome has been able to transform the way brands like Peach choose prints for their seasonal clothing collections.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? How did you get into your current career path?
Believe it or not, I have wanted to be a fashion designer for pretty much forever. I think my focus on fashion came from wanting to create something that wasn’t merely beautiful, but also very useful. I liked the idea of designing to fill a need, and I also liked having the limitations and parameters of a product.
After graduating from Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in Apparel, I held various positions at fashion companies where I started to realize just how inefficient certain parts of the development process were. There was simply no time to waste in the typical design calendar, and no reason we shouldn’t be able to take advantage of all the digital design advances – which had the potential to help alleviate the time and energy that goes into the process of finding and developing prints each season. Print studios, at the time, simply weren’t providing the tools that companies needed, so I decided that there was room in the market for a print studio with more modern processes – which is how Polychrome came about. However, even though I segued into running a B2B serving the fashion industry, I still consider myself to be a designer at heart.
Tell us what the print choosing process used to look like, and how you’ve been able to revolutionize it by creating Polychrome.
Traditionally design teams would attend industry trade shows where they could engage with a multitude of print designers and vendors. However, fashion brands that had established relationships with print studios would often have them visit their offices to show the latest prints – especially those located in fashion capitals like New York where print vendors can plan to see several clients during one sales trip.
By founding my own print studio, Polychrome, I’ve been able to provide designers a resource that allows them to shop where and when they have time, and gives them the ability to receive their print purchases instantly. The technology had been there, but it always takes time for the industry to acclimate to a new way of working. I took advantage of the two major shifts I saw happening within the fashion industry: 1. Eliminating the need for a physical swatch by making print artwork available digitally, and in a format that designers could use to communicate with their agents or mills during the production process. 2. Eliminating the need for designers to attend trade shows. The speeding up of the development calendar has squeezed designers’ schedules to the breaking point, and many of them don’t feel they can take the time to go to the shows – even when they are right in the same city! Ultimately, I think we are ahead of the curve, and I’m excited to be able to offer these services so that we can save our clients a lot of valuable time.
In addition to streamlining a once incredibly time-consuming process, this new digital format is also more environmentally friendly. What is it that makes this a more sustainable option?
It is much more sustainable in a number of ways! The option to purchase prints directly from the Polychrome website means clients can take advantage of digital delivery – reducing our carbon footprints by eliminating the travel associated with print shopping for both the studio and client, as well as shipping. Since there is no physical shipping needed, this process also cuts down on all the waste associated with physical print-outs and fabric samples. By making sure we deliver the best quality digital files, we’re also able to save on resources, time, and money.
What else sets Polychrome apart from other print studios?
No matter how much clients love a print, 90% of the time they’ll have to change something about it – additional colorways, removing a motif, or creating a complimentary print. That usually means a lot of work for their department, especially if they use many prints within a season. Polychrome delivers a digital file that is not only beautiful, but also a working tool because our prints are engineered so that they’re really easy to edit. Everything is layered, and the layers themselves are very organized so it’s clear where you’re going to find the motifs; and of course, all our repeat prints are truly in repeat – no more eyeballing it!
Most other studios’ prints are just flat hi-resolution JPGs – which could take even an experienced CAD person six hours or more to make changes. With Polychrome prints, edits can take under two hours – and in many cases, even less. That’s a significant amount of time that our customers are saving on the development process.
What was one of the biggest hurdles you experienced while starting your own business?
It’s very easy to get distracted by the details and to want everything perfect before you launch your business or implement the next big step. It’s important to not get hung up on this, and to realize that you will end up changing so many things about your original plan along the way – it’s just part of the process. Even now, I can find myself getting stuck in research mode, but I know it’s far more beneficial to just put ideas out there and let things develop and improve as I learn. I guess this is an on-going hurdle for me!
You make the prints for our iconic Reversible Leggings – which print has been your favorite so far?
This is a really difficult question to answer! My team and I have really enjoyed working with Peach on all of these prints. On a personal level, I typically go for a more abstract print on my activewear – so the newly released Dreamscape Print is definitely a favorite.
In addition to offering a gorgeous collection of prints for designers and brands to choose from, you also offer trendcasting. What goes into determining the future of print and color, and the trends to come? And what does 2020 have in store?
Yes, all of our trend forecasts are available for purchase and are delivered instantly from our site as a high-quality PDF. We use this information as a foundation for all of the prints in the collection; focusing on the motifs and color palettes of those specific trends. This ensures that there is a sense of continuity in our collection, even though we have dozens of artists, each with their own unique style, contributing to the collection from all around the globe.
We start preparing this forecast 18-24 months before each season. To help us determine what we feel will be trend-worthy for upcoming seasons, we accumulate info from all kinds of resources – runway shows, art and fashion exhibits, cultural events, research on consumer behaviors, and more. You can check out all of the data that goes into this process by following us on Pinterest, where we make our boards public as soon as the season is at retail.
This year, the Olympics will have a strong influence on Spring/Summer 2020 – especially for activewear. We have a trend in our assortment called “Shinkansen” that is inspired by bullet trains and Japanese mid-century architecture, early Yamamoto and Issey Miyake pleating. Another trend we feel particularly strongly about for Spring/Summer is “Safari Style” which relies on utilitarian details, tropical foliage prints and of course animal patterns!
How does it feel to be able to align yourself with a company like Peach with similar values and a focus on creating an empowering and supportive community for female entrepreneurs?
For an industry that employs so many women, women are still under-represented in positions of power. I think only in supporting one another can we start to achieve some balance here, so I love working with organizations like Peach that are doing their part to create opportunities for women to step into these roles.
Many women need access to flexibility and support to be able to thrive in all the facets of their busy lives. Peach is able to offer this through their Stylist Opportunity – giving women the chance to work anywhere, anytime while building their very own fashion business and providing access to an empowering community to support them along the way. Similarly, Polychrome’s virtual studio has allowed me to offer a way for designers to pursue their creative goals while working remotely. And through founding the Apparel Designers Network I’ve also been able to encourage a spirit of collaboration, support, and mentorship in our industry as a whole. While we are more than happy to work with gents, the majority of designers working for Polychrome and members of Apparel Designers Network are in fact female – and that’s pretty exciting!
What is something you are still striving to achieve in your career?
It’s going to sound awfully familiar, but the answer is balance. Fashion tends to be a really intense career; I don’t know anybody that works 9-to-5 in our industry. It’s even harder when you run your own company – in the early years, it feels like you could spend every waking moment on the business. I’m looking forward to the day when I can focus on the big picture of where to steer my company, and have a well-rounded team that allows me to be less involved in the day-to-day details. My hope is when we get to that point, I have a bit of time left over to devote to my family – I am sure your community can identify with that desire!
Shop our collection of Reversible Leggings here.
Shop our latest Peach Collection here.