Sewn At The Source
Made in Seattle, State of Washington, U.S.A., Third Planet from the Sun, with globally-sourced materials and fabric from Korea / Japan / U.S.A.
The design and most of the manufacturing of our bags happens all in the same factory space at our Seattle headquarters (a small percentage is done by a contract manufacturer, also here in Seattle). We use globally-sourced materials and fabric from Korea, Japan, and the U.S.A. Doing it all ourselves allows us to develop processes, techniques and purpose-built tools concurrently with developing new bags: the design of a product and design of a process co-evolve. Innovating beyond existing processes means we needn’t design things to fit someone else’s way of making them because we design the way they're made as well. When Tom and Nik (Designers) work with Lisa and Fong (Sewing Supervisors) and our entire expert production crew, the feedback loop remains very tight, and we can forever refine and improve how existing designs get built.
And when we do make a new bag, we get to keep it under wraps until we are ready to share it with the world: if we used large contract factories elsewhere, we’d risk having any new features, fabrics and colors cherrypicked or high-graded by other manufacturers who might be “running product” through the same facility. Building nearly all our bags in-house, we know that when our designs are knocked off by other manufacturers, they’ve at least had to buy one of our bags to copy it. :)
Control Over Quality or "It's Turtles All The Way Down"
Actually for us, it’s quality all the way down: the foundation on which all else in our company is built is quality. And underlying that is ... well, more quality.
And making our bags in Seattle allows us to keep a tight control over that quality. If fabric arrives from the mill and we have any doubts about its suitability, we’re able to effectively deal with it before it gets sewn into bags. If we make a sewing mistake, we figure it out pretty darn fast and fix it. All of our bags and accessories are made in fairly small batches and inspected at multiple points during the build process. Because we keep a close eye on the whole process, there are seldom any big surprises.
We also have control over the quality of the jobs and careers we create. Working conditions in our factory are not some mysterious thing: we know what they are because we’re all working here together, every day.
Having Our Own Factory Allows Us Our Spontaneity
When we have an idea for a new product or accessory, it's possible for us design it, figure out how to build it, add it to our website and be ready to ship it out our front door, often within just a few weeks. How cool is that? Our creative energy is fueled by this ability to see our ideas manifest into products “just like that”.
We Get To Know Everyone We Work With
The entire TOM BIHN company—from customer service, to accounting, to sewing, to materials sourcing—works together in the same building. We get to know everyone and everyone's role in the company; we know each other's names and say "Hi" to each other every day. This, more than any other one factor, helps contribute to our sense of all being on the same team.
We're Proud of Making Jobs
The fact that what we do—designing and making bags—helps us create jobs and careers is something of which we're very proud. Our crew is talented, highly skilled, and diverse. We tell everyone we know how grateful we are to work with the folks with whom we work. Ordering fabric, spreading fabric, cutting fabric, sewing the cut fabric into bags, assuring the quality of finished bags, inventorying the bags, answering customer emails about bags, accounting for the sales of bags, shipping out bags—it’s all important work and no role or position is more important than another. Tom has spent a big chunk of his career behind a sewing machine; he understands that to get it right, and to get it right every time, is the hallmark of a skilled craftsperson. That work is never to be taken for granted.
Our Support of Seattle Muses
We want to do more to help create good jobs and that's why we support Seattle Muses Conscious Fashion Studio, a sewing production training house dedicated to serving immigrant and refugee communities. Seattle Muses elevates the sewing skills of its students—low-income immigrant and refugee women—to meet the local apparel industry's rising demand for ethical, local and high-quality production services.