Oh Hello Jo — CALA

Words:
Jo Rosenthal

CALA: The coolest fashion program you need to know about.
Have you heard of CALA yet? If not, you need to know about it. They are the world’s first fashion house technology that empowers creators around the world to launch their own brand. CALA provides everything you could need to make your fashion designing dreams come true. They help you out with everything from design assistance, material sourcing, sampling- everything you could ever want or need. They basically make it so that you can completely focus on your designs, while they build your brand. Last fashion week, Puss Puss got the honour of interviewing one of the heads of CALA, Marcel Pawlas to learn the ins and outs of what it’s like to run a company that’s changing the fashion industry one brand at a time.

JR: What exactly is CALA?
MP: It’s a three month incubator program where we help designers nurture brands and help design their collections. This year we worked with some Parsons students to do a three month program where we would choose about 5 to 10 of these pieces to do production for. So we helped set up an online store, LLC and an official business.
JR: That is so cool
MP: Yeah so we did all the casting, hair and makeup, all the press. We hired Gia Kuan to handle the press. We did all of the marketing and social as well. A lot of younger designers start out and they may know one aspect of a business, like a design part, or another part but there’s also all these different supplemental aspects that when you’re doing your own LLC you have no idea.
JR: It’s mostly with new brands that are just starting out?
MP: No, we work with pretty much everybody. We have well established brands too you know, like a Parsons student. But we did this special for someone just starting out to kind of like pave them and teach them the way. Right now, I’m working with a graduate and then they basically have like three months where they get all these workshops to come in maybe like twice a week or three times a week.
JR: How do you choose who you’re going to use for these projects? What’s the process? Is it like a competition or do you just go in and say “that one?”
MP: Kind of. To be honest I think it was like who’s the most interested.
JR: What do prices for pieces range from?
MP: 300 dollars for a big puffer coat to 90 for t-shirts. It really ranges.
JR: Is this a competition you’re going to be doing every year? Or like every season?
MP: To be honest, I’m not sure if we’re going to continue this one but we may change it up a bit in a different way. It may not be Parsons for example, it may be….
JR: What is the mission of CALA?
MP: It’s to really empower creators, whether what that may be. It may be from a graphic designer to an artist, to an influencer to a musician. We really want to help people launch their brands. It’s basically supplying all the different options that makes a brand smoothly that a lot of brands might lack the resources or the knowledge for. What CALA really is is an online platform you could start anywhere in the design process and put in your designers, drop in your comments, drop in different variants, drop in the quantities so then we price it out for you
JR: So people apply to you and you sort of give them a quote?
MP: Well it’s not really application, it’s more like subscription. So you subscribe to us and we’ll sign you on and do a whole work session with you where you can get a feel of the product and then you just drop in your designed and drop in your inspiration and we’ll literally take care of everything else beyond that. You don’t even have to have a tech pack or a the drawing. We find someone to make that for you. We also the product photography, we can handle all your fulfilment. So once it’s finished we’ll ship it out to you or to your customers.
JR: I feel like that’s the future. So your factories… you’re headquartered in New York but you have offices elsewhere?
MP: Yeah, in China, in Shenzhen. So we actually have a team of about 10 people in China that is an actual CALA China team. So just as much we’re CALA in New York here, we’re also in China as well. They have their own designers that submit through us and sometimes a US factory will be making for a Chinese designer which is kind of cool. We have factories pretty much everywhere at this point.
JR: So they would be contacting you directly and your team? There’s nothing sketchy where they’re like… When a brand wants to work with you there’s no like secret?
MP: Well I mean the brand, we’ll connect them to a factory and the factory talks to the brand on our platform so everything’s like accountable. So like if this color is wrong, you’ll drop them a comment. You’ll take a photo of it and be like “hey, jo,” let’s say you’re the factory, “Hey Jo, you sent me the wrong color, I wanted this pantone. This is this pantone,” and it will be obvious that the factory is at fault. And then you get unlimited campling too which is crazy.
JR: Is there a percentage of brands you work with that are complete successes vs ones that don’t do very well? And then do you give them feedback like ‘this didn’t sell so well but we can give you advice on what to do next time?
MP: We kind of stay out of it. Only a few brands we take down the actual sales and helping them push into stores. We just kind of leave the sales up to them. So we don’t tell the brand ‘you should try to go to dover’ or ‘you should try to OC with this.’ I mean we sometimes give them advice and say ‘oh here’s the buyers contact there,’ but it’s not really up to us to help with that. But we do help with any of the shopify and that. It’s a direct to consumer.
JR: Is there a CALA website where people can look at all the brands you’re currently working with?
MP: We kind of keep that disclosed at the brand’s discretion. We do ask a few brands ‘can we promote you as someone who uses us?’ but we try to be just the middleman of this all. We don’t want to make people be like ‘oh you’re a CALA designer.’ We’re just that middle person and we love what we do.