When I launched First Peak in the spring of 2022, I had no experience in manufacturing. I came from a tech and teaching background, and I was prepared to learn quickly and stumble often. I carried around a stack of notebooks to every partner meeting, jotting down phrases verbatim that I’d need to Google later to learn what they meant.
With such a steep learning curve, First Peak’s design process has certainly gone through a few iterations. As with any business, success is largely contingent on the people and partners you surround yourself with – and I’ve been lucky to identify some incredible partners, who have kindly welcomed me into their own networks.
If you’re curious to keep tabs on the newest products currently in development, check out our Coming Soon page. This will reveal what’s in the works, and will announce relevant pre-orders.
At a high level
The process I detail below is certainly not a final draft, but one that captures a few key tenants to how I aim to create the world’s best adventurewear for babies and toddlers. To start, the process happens locally, in my Bay Area community, thus lowering our environmental impact and allowing us to support other local businesses and artisans. The process is also research intensive, fueled by direct insights shared by customers. Our products are only as good as the real needs they solve. And finally, as much as possible, women are at the helm of our production. Nearly all our key partners are fellow women- and mom-owned businesses, and I’m deeply proud of the network we’re building.
Step 1: Ideate and Interview
The whole process begins by talking to customers. I listen for what’s not working in the current baby-and-toddler market, aiming to find themes and common gaps that First Peak can solve. I ask questions about how families travel, adventure, and explore together, what they bring, and what they wish they brought. Along the way, I document, store notes, and identify patterns to start putting some shape to loose ideas.
An example of a recent research theme: so many of our customers are looking for better toddler pants. They’re tired of fake drawstrings and flimsy fabrics that give way after just a couple wears.
Photo taken at a customer interview and testing session
Step 2: Research and Explore
So much of First Peak’s unique value-add comes from our fabrics. I aim to source innovative, performant, eco-friendly textiles that stand up to mess and mayhem better than anything else out there. This is the step where I wear my scientist hat – I truly try to learn how these fabrics and fabric technologies work, and I dig into the research and white-papers to understand efficacy and safety.
Some fabrics I’ve loved of late: Seawool and Modal have both blown me away in their ability to resist odor and bacteria, dry-quickly, and withstand wear.
Fabric swatches from a research session at an LA fabric mill
Step 3: Design and Sample
Pulling together my insights from steps 1 and 2, I dive into pattern design. I partner with a local designer to “Frankenstein” together elements of different styles I like in the market – a certain type of cuff, the placement of a snap or button – while also suggesting net-new details and features based on my research. Those patterns then become our first sewn samples, actual wearable garments in our custom design and chosen fabrics.
True small-business life: our first samples are always tested first by my own son, and then a few family friends. We hiked up Twin Peaks in our newest overalls samples just last week! I also test out dyeing the products (we most often do our initial sew in white) and washing them to assess shrinkage and durability.
My toddler testing out our sample overalls on a local hike
Step 4: Produce at Scale
Of course, many iterations come out of the design and sampling process. But once we’ve nailed down the key details, we’re ready for production! I work with local cut-and-sew houses in San Francisco, which enables me to stay closely involved and ensure the final product matches our design.
The scale we’re working with: my orders are typically small, ranging from 100 to 150 pieces for each new style. This both helps me to manage cash flow, and allows me to see how customers respond to the new product in the market. With every new style I’ve released, I’ve made design tweaks between each subsequent restock.
Step 5: Finish and Launch
Finally, once everything is cut and sewn, it’s time for the finishing touches. Nearly all our products are garment dyed, meaning we dye them after they’re sewn, allowing us to create custom colors and offer an extra soft hand-feel. We also embroider a few products like our All-Season Sweatshirts, and we pick our final thread colors based on how dyeing comes out. Otherwise, we make sure every detail is in place and that each garment is pressed and professional to launch to our customers.
Stay in the loop with our latest releases by following us @firstpeakbaby on Instagram, joining our email list, or taking a look at our Coming Soon page.