Exit 21

by Virginia Bruce

Erick Siffert started Exit 21 Apparel Solutions LLC, an apparel consulting company, in 2009, after 20 years working at Nike and three years at lululemon. The company moved into their office on the upper level of the new Milltowner Center last fall, relocating from Old Town Portland because it had just gotten too dangerous. Siffert lives in Cedar Mill and was one of the first tenants to sign a lease in the new center.

The team works from the client’s seasonal brief . Erick makes sure it all flows smoothly and on time.

The company provides design, material, and product development, color and sourcing solutions for mid-size apparel brands that want help creating seasonal collections for their consumers. “We are fortunate to have a very experienced team and strong relationships with our manufacturing partners in the Far East, Europe, and the Americas that help us create the best finished product possible for our brand partners”, says Siffert. Based on the customers direction (the seasonal brief), Exit 21 creates innovative designs, sources sustainable fabrics and trims, determines the right fit, and finds the right source while guiding the entire process to deliver the finished product on time.

Examples of their work in the conference room

The clients they work with offer mostly technical outerwear, functional activewear, lifestyle apparel, and professional workwear. They share the goals of sustainability, durability, and value. You can see examples on their website, exit-21.com. Most of their business comes from recommendations from other clients.

“We provide all the expertise for companies that don’t need a full-time staff 12 months a year,” says Siffert. “It’s cost effective for them, because we can take the product creation, sourcing, and production issues off their list of concerns so they can focus on sales and marketing.”

NgNine software captures all the details so they’re available to everyone in the production chain

Erick and his team use a software platform, NgNine, developed by a former partner, to track every step. The software lets everyone on the team capture the details to provide information to manufacturers. Every aspect of design, sizing options, down to the details of, for example, exact sleeve or back length for the garment in various sizes, goes into the database that the garment producers use to create finished pieces.

Kristine Cleary

The open design of the office ensures plenty of collaboration. Each member of the staff brings extensive experience in the garment industry to the client. This allows smaller companies to achieve high-quality results with fewer headaches.

Kristine Cleary is the trim developer and colorist. She works with the client to determine fabric and trim colors that express the direction for their next seasonal collection. Precise definitions using a library of sample colors and color-sensing equipment ensures that what the client chooses is what they get in the finished product.

Jason inspecting a new fabric sample

Jason Calderon handles all internal design and works with fabric suppliers to provide the quality and features that meet both design and pricing goals. If the perfect choice isn’t available in Exit 21’s library of swatches, then he can get new samples from their suppliers.

Teresa Roether

Teresa Roether handles product development, pulling together the input from the rest of the staff to provide a “blueprint” for the manufacturers. Through the use of the software, every detail specified by Exit 21 is available to the mainly offshore garment manufacturing companies. Prototypes are reviewed and fit until ready for production orders to be placed.

Erick works with suppliers all along the chain so that the company has access to the best sources at the right price. He ensures that all the moving parts fit together so the products are delivered on time and on budget. “We work with around ten companies now, who have sales in the $1-10 million range.”

Exit 21 held their annual sample sale in mid-December, but it was right in the middle of the big freeze, so they donated the unsold items to Second Edition Resale near the Cedar Mill Community Library. We’ll be sure to share information about the next one.

Precise color selection ensures accurate orders

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