Before + Again
The St. Louis-based company started by conducting countless fabric printing experiments in a one-room shop. That eventually led to its patented system, which enables it to transfer design inspirations and print concepts to pre-constructed garments. The process provided Before + Again with the ability to rapidly share a variety of looks with a broad consumer audience.
Momentum really began at Before + Again when Werner’s wife, Susan, asked if some of her designs could be printed on fashionable and trendy burnout fabrics. She and her friends started wearing the new-look tees and were literally stopped in the streets by women asking where they got their shirts, Daneyko says. “We weren’t going to get into women’s fashion at all,” he explains. “We were going to be an online e-commerce company where customers could print their own designs onto clothing. But, one thing led to another and instead of selling on the web we created a label and went wholesale in 2009.”
Today, Before + Again sells to about 900 specialty boutiques in the United States, Canada, Australia and the Caribbean.
Some of the major differentiators for Before + Again are its abilities to offer quick reorders, more choices and no minimums for its specialty boutique clients. “We are predominately in the design and print business,” Daneyko says. “We continue to expand the number of bodies and styles to print onto for boutique owners. The company has 20 different styles and hundreds of prints to choose from that can be shipped within two weeks.”
Before + Again produces its products to order and Daneyko says that has been the key to the company’s success. Its products are all manufactured in the United States from its headquarters in St. Louis, which allows the company to turn its product around within two weeks. “Because we produce to order we can be extremely creative and cater to trends and consumer demand in real-time, something that is extremely challenging with traditional manufacturing,” he adds.
The print-to-order method is ideal for Before + Again because each specialty boutique wants different garments to sell depending on their location. Prints are extremely personal and what is popular in New York may not be in Florida. “The specialty boutique owners can choose this print or that print in a long sleeve, beach cover-up or three-quarter-length top for example and better cater to their specific unique customer,” Daneyko explains. “Every part of our supply chain and manufacturing is made in the USA, which affords us even quicker turn-around times.”
Before + Again wanted to further differentiate itself in the industry by implementing the latest technology such as 3-D print software that allows it to move quickly from the design to a visual proof for its customers and salesforce. “A lot of the big shops are operating 20-year-old technology and the majority aren’t using 3-D modeling technologies to help them minimize their production timelines,” Daneyko notes.
Its 3-D software helps the company design more accurately and control its inventory. Before + Again keeps a lot of raw materials on-hand ready to produce garments as orders are placed. A benefit to keeping a large inventory of raw materials is that if one garment does not end up getting used in a particular season it can be carried over to the following year, which helps the company avoid taking a loss on the material.
To ensure its sales representatives have the latest designs and product information available, Before + Again provides them with iPads. “They just hit the app and photos, renderings and 3-D models are there to show to the customer,” Daneyko explains. “If boutique owners like a new print and want to know when they can get it our sales reps can say it will be shipped within two weeks.”
The iPad also allows the sales representative to look up a boutiques’ purchase history, which can help target a boutique’s bestsellers.
“It’s a balance of choice and personalization that’s one of our challenges sometimes,” Daneyko says. “Does the boutique owner want what’s new or what’s selling for them? The industry can be very fickle and we need to listen to our customers, and produce products that are strongly influenced by the real-time buying behavior of those customers.”
Crowdsourcing is one of the ways Before + Again collects its market data and keeps a conversation going with its customers. “We put sample prints on the web and ask customers their opinions,” Daneyko says. “Will we end up living in a world where you buy at large box–stores where personalization and choice are the first things to go? We are focusing on those two things and using technology to leverage it by asking customers what they want. We want to question, question, question versus design, design, design.”
Before + Again works with 12 designers who submit new prints every eight weeks for consideration and the winning prints are determined by internal and customer voting. “We are pretty democratic when it comes to print designs, so it doesn’t matter if one of the partners likes design A over design B – it’s based on the market,” Daneyko says. “That model has allowed us to democratize prints.”
The company’s designers will play a major role in its social media initiative launching this year, as they share their stories with the world, Daneyko says. “We want to feel the inspiration and stories behind the artwork and that will resonate with the Before + Again customer,” he adds.
Before + Again will also take its customers behind the scenes to show how designs are created. “We will show the designer starting out with a pen and paper, what goes into it becoming a digital animation and then production,” Daneyko adds. “Most people don’t appreciate what can go into design.”
More designers are taking a liking to Before + Again’s business model and Daneyko says a well-known designer will come onboard in April to create print designs for the label. The name of the designer is not yet being released.
Before + Again has set its sights on growing the label and has been hard-pressed to find supply chain partners that are as innovative and nimble to assist the company in its endeavors. To overcome this obstacle, the company decided to expand its in-house operations. “There are 20 styles we print on, and our model allows the customer to personalize their garment by choosing from hundreds of prints and match the print to the style of their choice,” Daneyko explains. “We are expanding and testing our personalized just-in-time manufacturing to a variety of new areas.”
Before + Again looks to leverage new technologies for greater in-house flexibility, which will further provide even more chocie to its customers.
“We’ve been able to add value to our customers by involving them in the process as we identify their needs,” Daneyko says. “As we expand our operation with people, technology and innovative approaches to our services, we look to help our existing boutique customers grow, as well as pursue exciting new web-based opportunities.”