How One Austin Designer Fashioned a Business Through Collaboration

by Susan Johnston on March 8, 2011
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In anticipation of South by Southwest, we caught up with Megan Summerville of Austin’s Sew Sister Lingerie. Summerville received a $30,000 “Love a Local Business” grant from Intuit last summer, enabling her to team up with several local designers and open Austin’s first fashion co-op. “Designer vignettes” are displayed in each room of the nearly 2,000-square foot Victorian building.

Read on to see how Summerville collaborates with local designers, what she’s planning for SXSW, and more.

ISBB: How is the business climate in Austin?

Summerville: It’s starting to pick up. Thankfully, Austin is really in tune with trying to get the word out about buying local and supporting their local artists and local vendors. A lot of it is social media and networking events.

What’s your approach to business?

I believe it’s all of our philosophies to continue to show everyone this awesome this amazing, creative hub. Yes, you can make it on your own but it’s so much easier to pool those creative energies together to life everybody up. Being at the top by yourself is pretty lonely. Truly, none of this dream would have been actualized without the folks at Intuit. I am constantly floored at what those dollars were able to do for my business and to do for the other designers.

How did you use the grant money?

I was able to utilize the money for outfitting the shop. A portion of the grant went to displays and hangers and furniture, also to advertising, PR, and month-to-month expenses. We’re using the money to subsidize rent costs while we get things going. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the grant!

How did you choose collaborators for the fashion co-op? Was it hard to meld everyone’s vision into one?

That was a far easier transition than I had anticipated. We would make horrible reality television because we get along so well! I met a lot of them through a local networking group here called Fashionably Connected. They have a resource on their website that lists local designers in Austin. Some of the designers were approached that way or during one of their free networking meetings. Two years ago, I won Texas’ Next Top Designer competition, I met a ton of designers at that awards event, and I approached a couple of designers because I thought they were incredibly talented.

Are you doing anything special in conjunction with SXSW?

My boutique is actually half a block away from the convention center where the interactive and music portion are emanating from. We have a really beautiful, tropical-looking courtyard that we’re renting out. Chevy has booked a good chunk of our courtyard. The boutique will be open so people can come in, see what local designers are doing. We as a house are offering a 10 percent discount to all badge and wristband holders.

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