“When Megan Prange began her career in the fashion industry as a freelance pattern maker and sample maker for independent designers, she quickly discovered unresolved challenges that she could not ignore.
With massive minimum orders being the industry norm, Prange realized how difficult it was for up-and-coming designers to break into a business dominated by big corporations. She set out to create a new business model that would make clothing manufacturing more ethical, sustainable and accessible, and with that dream (and a whole lot of drive), Prange Clothing was born. Operating out of its recently expanded Nashville facility, the full development cut and sew manufacturing facility helps emerging and established designers bring their designs to life.
Although she went to college for fashion design, Prange realized early on that working behind the scenes suited her perfectly. She fell in love with pattern making and clothing construction and after graduation began freelancing product development for local design firms. With each project, the same problem arose: a need for small-batch production that was not accessible in Nashville or the South. Manufacturing was mostly limited to Los Angeles or overseas, with huge minimums that smaller independent designers simply couldn’t afford. So Prange decided to be the change she wanted to see and launched Prange Apparel in 2013, offering small batch minimums to work with independent designers.
“Most manufacturers have a minimum of 1,000 or 2,000 when you go overseas, and if you’re an independent designer, you sell to boutiques that aren’t looking for thousands. You must have a place to store everything; you have to have such a large budget that it’s really hard for independent designers to gain a foothold in the design community,” says Prange. “By offering small lots, it allows creators to start selling, to start their business with much less capital; it reduces waste, and then as businesses grow, designers can increase their numbers, but it gives them a starting point.
From new designers to seasoned veterans, Prange Apparel offers a full range of product development and manufacturing services to fit every step of the design process. A product development team works closely with designers offering apparel design consultation; creation of tech flat and tech pack (the details, measurements and information necessary for manufacturing); creation of patterns and manufacture of samples; digitizing patterns; the calibration and size of the series; and cut and sewn manufacturing as the final step. All garments are cut and sewn here in Nashville, with small and large batch production available based on the designer’s needs. With so many offerings, Prange Apparel quickly outgrew its previous factory and expanded earlier this year to a new 6,000 square foot facility, providing plenty of space for all stages of the production process to operate under the same roof.
“We never knew how fast the business would grow and we were running out of space,” says Prange. “We did a really big renovation of the space to get it ready for manufacturing and I love that it will allow us to grow over the next couple of years.”
Prange has developed its business model to best serve employees and designers. Instead of a pay-per-piece model where employees work grueling hours making identical pieces, Prange Apparel is relationship-centric and designed around what people can comfortably produce in a day. Here, seamstresses know the designers, feel invested in what they create, and continually learn new skills. Fair wages, benefits and a schedule that prioritizes a healthy work-life balance were also imperative for Prange.
“I wanted it to be a place where I would also like to work,” says Prange. “We do a lot of high-end. I wanted people to put a lot of quality and passion into the clothes they sew. Seamstresses know who the designers are, they can be proud of what they sew, have a nice and relaxed work environment, but still produce good quality clothes.
This passion for developing strong business relationships is also evident in the designers who work with Prange Apparel. “We don’t want to be seen as just entrepreneurs where you have something made and you never come back. We love working with [designers], grow with them and develop relationships with our customers. Once someone comes and works with us, we like them to stay with us,” says Prange. “We’re still working with some of the designers that we’ve worked with for seven or eight years.”
The growth and success of Prange Apparel is a study in the power of breaking down industry barriers, and Prange has proven that it pays to persevere. From employees to designers to the fashion industry as a whole, Prange looks forward to continuing to inspire change in Nashville and far beyond.
“One of my favorite things is showing people there’s another way to do this. It can be done better: it can be done ethically; it can be done with little waste; it can be made with employees in mind; we can create clothes without having to sacrifice ethics and sustainability. I’m on a mission to prove to everyone that it’s possible and to encourage more people to continue on this path says Prange.
(2543 B Lebanon Pike, 629-246-0885; prangeapparel.com)