As an avid bike commuter, Reid Miller understood a truth that many women have come to know – most female apparel is just plain uncomfortable.
The 33-year-old Durham designer is seeking to remedy this with her namesake clothing line, Reid Miller Apparel.
Through forming partnerships with manufacturers in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, Miller is also working to bring jobs back to the U.S. She recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise capital for testing out made-to-measure production technology.
“Women’s clothing is a little bit antiquated,” Miller said. “It’s not up to date with the current needs that women have. We’re adding things like pockets and pleats and breathable fabric.”
Miller said she wanted to be a fashion designer while growing up outside of San Francisco, but initially entered the public health sector. She’d mentally design clothes during her bike rides to work every day. When she reached a crossroads in her career in the summer of 2014, she decided to change her path.
At first, Miller thought she would open a clothing shop for women who commute by bike but ran into a problem – not enough women’s apparel existed for her to even fill up a shop. So she decided to design her own.
She also soon realized that her scope was too narrow.
“I figured I was designing clothing for bike commuting women, but six months or a year in, I realized it wasn’t just women who commute by bike who have a need for higher-quality, functional clothing,” she said.
Miller began meeting with other clothing designers who connected her with manufacturers that became her mentors. In January 2015, she designed her first pieces. She showed a riding jacket to local women as well as business professionals like Sarah Yarborough, the owner of Raleigh Denim, who encouraged her to expand her focus to all women.
Miller kept creating prototypes and finally settled on her two current products, denim jeans and a riding jacket.
“We want to stay in the realm of classic wardrobe staples that last a long time and don’t go out of style,” she said.
Miller noted that women’s denim is typically hard to move in. To combat that, she uses high-quality denim from Greensboro and adds a second layer of reinforcement around the crotch so the fabric won’t wear through in the inner thigh area. In addition, the jeans include wool tweed that is hand-spun in Scotland by looms powered by pedaling – a nod to the apparel line’s biking roots.
The jeans are now assembled at a factory in El Paso, Texas, but soon production will move to Tennessee, consolidating the line’s manufacturing in the Southeast and creating additional jobs.
So far, the jeans are sold on only Reid Miller Apparel’s website and in Liberation Threads, a Durham store that sells ethically-sourced goods with a focus on local designers. They sell for $165.
Miller said that the jeans arrived at Liberation Threads in May just as the weather heated up, so sales haven’t taken off yet.
“We expect some great sales this fall when it’s a little cooler,” she said. “One thing customers always say [about the jeans] is the fit. They break in really well.”
Rebecca Kuhns, owner of Liberation Threads, said she was impressed by Miller’s passion for bringing a breath of fresh air to women’s apparel.
“Supporting local designers is something I feel very strongly about,” Kuhns said. “Her brand is such great quality that I knew it would resonate really well with our customers.”
In addition, Kuhns noted that Miller’s commitment to ethical sourcing fit perfectly with the aims of her store, which will celebrate its first anniversary in November.
Custom-made in the U.S.
Miller’s riding jacket, inspired by old school sportswear when people used to ride their horses to meetings, is made to fit each woman’s individual measurements using digitized patterns and computerized cutters, which reduces wasted fabric and cuts cost.
“I figured out I could make custom-made womenswear using technology,” she said. “There’s tons of menswear being made but much less womenswear.”
Miller found partners in the Southeast who agreed to create her made-to-measure products, including SewCo in Hendersonville. Women who wish to buy the blazers will take a worksheet to tailors who partner with Reid Miller Apparel, and these professionals will record their measurements. Then, individual customers will send in the worksheets to Reid Miller Apparel, so blazers can be constructed to best fit their body types.
Miller said tailors are best suited for this step, since most women do not know how to accurately take measurements. However, this may change in the next few years with the development of phone apps.
To make sure the jackets’ made-to-measure technology is accurate and to raise additional money, Miller launched a crowdfunding campaign Sept. 26 through the iFundWomen platform. The campaign is following five local women as the riding jacket is adapted to each individual, documenting the production process in a video.
“We decided, well if everybody is in our area, why don’t we take a video of each of our pieces so we can share back to them what we’re doing with their dollars,” Miller said.
Her goals with the campaign are to raise $15,000 and to more accurately determine the riding jacket’s price point. She estimates it will sell for about $625, but that could vary depending on how much fabric is used in its production. Several customers have already signed up to purchase a jacket, she said.
The campaign will run until Oct. 25 and will feature a mid-campaign celebration event Oct. 14 at the Durham Hotel, where attendees can view the videos, try on the riding jacket and meet the five women involved in the campaign.
“We’re inviting all kinds of interesting professional women,” she said. “We want to connect them and help them think of themselves as problem solvers.”
Moving forward, Miller hopes to create a blouse in the spring, using similar made-to-measure techniques as the riding jacket. She also plans to seek more investors and bring on additional partners, since currently she runs the business by herself, with help from an intern and a videographer.
“I would love to have a small team of very talented partners,” she said. “There’s so much opportunity to make clothing better for women, to tailor clothing to how a woman’s body moves.”
Reid Miller Apparel will host an event on Oct. 14 at 5 p.m. on the second floor mezzanine of the Durham Hotel, 315 East Chapel Hill St., Durham.
Reid Miller’s website is www.reidmillerapparel.com/
It’s crowdfunding page is at https://ifundwomen.com/projects/custom-made-womenswear