Introducing Gray Soft Shell: Simple but not easy...
Ever since the release of the Soft Shell, folks have been asking if other colors would become available. Since the material is custom produced in large quantities, I couldn’t jump right in with all sorts of different colors so I chose to add a classy gray to the line:
Gray/Orange was actually in the lineup of the very first Tyvek print run I ever did. The swirls coming through in the material were unexpected, but it resonated with customers and it became the best selling wallet. When black was added to the line, it took over the #1 spot, but gray has always been popular and has remained in production ever since.
Color Matching the Gray Soft Shell
The manufacturer had a swatch book of hundreds of colors to choose from, but none of them seemed quite right. When I sent them a photo of a North Face jacket I liked the color of, it turned out they manufactured that material for them! Being a large corporation, they had a color specially created. So I asked… “Can I make a custom color?” To my surprise, I could! It would just take some time to get lab samples or “dips” made and I needed to learn how to express the color I was going for.
I said I had a Pantone number for the color so they said, “Great! send it over!” But when I shared the Pantone number I use for printing it made no sense to them. Surely Pantone is universal, right? Well, yes and no. It turns out Pantone has a whole other system for textiles! Luckily, with a little searching a found a Pantone color converter calculator to make the translation.
Aside from the North Face jacket, there was also another Nike Roger Federer tennis jacket I have whose color was even closer to what I was going for. I sent that to the manufacturer and they matched it to the closest Pantone fabric swatch book.
Once these target colors were chosen, actual sample material needed to be test dipped. These exact colors have never been made with the crash-tested material so a final sample is required for sign-off before going into full manufacturing. Usually a single lab dip is done and then either approved or not, but I went ahead and had two done at once just to reduce the turnaround time… and in the end, the tennis jacket color was the winner.
Once the material came back, I had several samples made with different thread colors. Some of the others were nice as well, but I ended up choosing the Gray/Orange as a logical extension of the Tyvek model as well as because of how well the colors went together. It’s got just enough of a color splash to make you look twice yet maintains a classic style.
When making a product, there’s always some detail that seems like a small thing yet becomes more difficult than you think. For this one it was matching the gray fabric color with a gray thread. "Gray thread?” you ask… “I thought the thread was orange?” Yes, but the stitching around the ID window is the same color as the material. For black, that was easy. But with the first samples, the gray thread around the ID window was just a little light. Most people would probably never notice this. but I wanted it to match so I sent a sample to my thread manufacturer to see what they can do. It’s nice to work with US vendors who can take quality up to the next level! They sent me back a thread sample that was AWESOME. I had more wallet samples sewn and they looked great. Time to place the thread order...
Well, the thread producer literally makes tens of thousands of colors so I assumed they matched my material to one of their stock threads. But the sample I received was actually THEIR lab dip of a color-matched thread! No problem. I decided to place an order knowing that may need to order a bit more. For that little window size, 2 industrial size cones would probably last a year or two… so I asked if I could order 4. Minimum order for a custom color? 35! I had to sleep on it but called them back the next day to place the order. After I gave the lady my credit card details I said, “I guess I have a lifetime supply of thread.” To which she replied, “Yeah, more than a lifetime!”
Our first small batch has just hit the shipping house so I’m making them available now. Once they sell out, we’ll go into pre-order until the next ones arrive.
Thanks for your support!