Inside Look: Material Cutting

As you may know, here at Alpine Parrot I am in the midst of finishing the first round of prototype pants and getting them into the hands of our amazing team of fit testers. And in the midst of this exciting process, I wanted to take a moment to celebrate some of the other people who are making this all possible. 

Enter Kim and Larry, who operate Kirin Cutting Services, a material cutting factory in San Francisco, CA.  Kirin Cutting Services is the ONLY fabric cutting company of its kind in San Francisco, and that’s just a small part of what makes them so special. They’ve been in operation for 33 years in the Mission neighborhood of SF, surviving the changes of time, and it gave me the opportunity to drop off the material for the pants in person—something I certainly could not have done if I had worked with a factory overseas. Not only does doing this locally mean we get to cut out the emissions that would be caused by shipping the materials back and forth, but it also gave me an inside look at their operation, and how it worked. Kim agreed to speak to the Alpine Parrot team, to share more insight on how material cutting works and what they do!

 

Automated fabric spreading machine

 

Thanks to modern technology, much of the material cutting Kim and Larry do today is done by machines in their warehouse. Templates are created for all the pieces needed to complete a given project (pants, in my case!), with pieces for each size included. Those templates are then uploaded to the machines' computer, which then get to work.

 

Computer controls for automated fabric cutting machine

 

One of the machines spreads the fabric, while the other cuts each pattern precisely. This means we are able to be efficient and waste less fabric during production, both cutting costs AND helping the environment. Win, win. The machines let them know when each size has been completed, listing out each part. And, in the case of Alpine Parrot, there were a LOT of pieces. 

 

Cut pieces for size 18

 

Kim specifically noted that Alpine Parrot has many different components that make up each pant. This is due, in part, to some of the detail in each pant. The chevron pattern on the knees add extra components, as well as all of the specially designed pockets. I have also incorporated an embedded belt into the waistband of each pant to assist the wearer in achieving the best fit possible, which requires a few specifically cut parts. The waistband is curved to better flatter the shape of a woman with hips more than a traditional straight waistband, and reduce any gap when one bends over. The downside? Typically curved waistbands result in more fabric waste due to how the components are cut. To better utilize the material, I designed the waistband to be cut into multiple pieces, allowing us to reduce waste while still achieving the ideal fit, but making the precision and tracking of the machine even more important. 

 

Bundles for each size: 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24

 

Thanks to the work of the incredible team at Kirin Cutting Services, I am happy to say that not only were the materials for the first batch of Alpine Parrot pants cut quickly and efficiently, but after being sewn together, are now being distributed to our team of fit testers. Teams like this are a huge part of making the Alpine Parrot dream come true, and I can’t thank them enough for taking the time to share their process with us. Stay tuned for even more production and fit testing updates, coming soon!

 

Stack of completed pant prototypes