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Clothier Design Source knew it must step up to the plate

Posted April 23, 2020


By Devin Steele (


When the PPE shortage quickly arose during the pandemic, Clothier Design Source (CDS), a St. Paul-Minn.-based resource that offers expertise in apparel design, soft goods engineering, product development and manufacturing to enable private label brands to grow, knew it wanted to step up to the plate, according to company President Mindy Martell.


“We have a wonderful team that just got on the phone asking government agencies what they needed,” she said. “We did research on the fabric and took a chance and just ordered bulk fabrics with no orders. We rapidly prototyped more than 10 styles of masks and offered all of them up – and quickly secured contracts. Then, because we have the raw materials, we were able to take orders more quickly, so we booked three months of production almost instantly. The training on making these products is pretty minimal for assembly.”


Thus far, Clothier Design Source – a strong advocate for bringing apparel production back to the U.S., Martell said – is making cloth face masks, nonwoven masks and hoods. The company has a web of partners involved from raw material suppliers, to sub-contract sewers to networkers, Martell said.


“It's been amazing to see, really, the whole nation band together to make this happen as quickly as possible,” she said.


She added that the company is unclear the end user of its products, but most of its PPE is going directly to the Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) to distribute to those who need these products.


The company has remained fully staffed on the manufacturing side during this period, she added. CDS, which typically runs five shifts per week, is currently running 10, she noted.


“Most employees are proud to be helping, excited to have a job and laser focused at the task at hand,” Martell said.


Clothier Design Source’s biggest gap is having a pool of trained sewing operators, followed by raw materials procurement and the “bidding war” between companies offering these products, which might be driving up prices, she said.


The company’s goal is to make at least 1 million pieces before the crisis is over, Martell said.


“I feel very proud and exhilarated to be making a dent in the PPE need,” she said. “I also am relentlessly trying to increase capacity and make more. The appetite is insatiable and we are determined to help in the biggest possible way. There is no sitting back and just making the orders we have.”

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