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Meet Xochil Herrera Scheer of The Chicago Pattern Maker

Today we’d like to introduce you to Xochil Herrera Scheer.

Xochil, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I have always been inspired by fashion and had an interest in sewing and art. My grandmother taught me how to make doll clothes when I was 7 years old, and I was sewing my own outfits from patterns at age 9. I loved making my dresses for school dances and experimented with taking clothes apart and customizing them.

I didn’t realize that having a career in fashion was a possibility until later on in high school when I had the opportunity to take classes in sewing and pattern making at my local community college while still in high school. It gave me the chance to make custom designed patterns and learn the importance of fitting different types of garments on various body types – I was by far the youngest, and my class was mainly older and retired women – and we got to choose our own projects.

I then moved here for college from my hometown of Madison WI and attended The Illinois Institute of Art Chicago to pursue my degree in fashion design. I had family in Chicago and always visited as a child. I always felt inspired by the city and I was so excited to move here. My first job out of school was for an Old Town boutique where I made custom handbags and restyled garments – think vintage pieces, bridesmaid dresses, furs, etc.

It allowed me to use my skills in pattern making, creative design, and problem-solving, using limited materials to re-imagine the clothes and make them modern and cool. When the economy tanked in 2009, I found myself looking for new opportunities, and decided rather than take a job I wasn’t passionate about, I would instead start my own business as a pattern maker, something I love very much and had already started to dabble in, doing side projects for clients when I was still employed.

In this time I also did contract and part-time work as a pattern maker for another boutique, Turley Road, and tailoring for styling clients through The Image Studios. I grew my skill set in technical design and pattern making and built my clientele for product development services.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Certainly not, but I love it so much, that I power through it and keep going! I started a business at a time when many were closing, and it took time to find my niche. At first, it’s about saying yes to any and all opportunities that come your way, figuring how-how to price services fairly for both myself and my clients, and learning how to schedule my time.

I used to take meetings on any day of the week, work regularly on weekends, etc. But now I am more selective about my time, and recognizing the need for “studio days” where I stay home and just work, and “meeting days” where I might have 3 or 4 meetings back to back, but that allows me to be more productive during the week.

Since becoming a mom, I’m also more mindful of how I spend my time and have made adjustments to my scheduling, in order to have more balance between work and family life.In the last few years, I have also worked hard on re-launching my website, branding and taking the marketing side of my business more seriously.

I had always focused so much on client work, that I neglected my site for a long time, so I’m proud of how that came together. I value collaboration with clients during their design process, and it was great to collaborate with my friends on styling, photography, web design, graphic design, and social media.

It’s important to have a balance here as well, though my client work still definitely comes before my personal projects. After all, they are the backbone of my business, and I’m grateful for all the wonderful clients I get to work with!

The Chicago Pattern Maker – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I work with smaller brands and start-ups through their product development. Clients bring me their clothing or accessory designs, I work with them to source and select appropriate fabrics and materials, then I create the patterns and sew prototypes. I also develop their tech packs, which are basically sewing instructions and technical specifications, which then prepares them for production.

I primarily work with stretch knit fabrics – including casual apparel and performance activewear – as well as contemporary apparel such as dresses, pants, and denim. I enjoy collaborating and working one on one with designers, helping them to translate their vision and ideas for the target market and price point they are serving.

I love working as a freelancer and being able to take on a fewer number of clients, vs. an agency environment, and work on projects that I am passionate about and with people I enjoy working with. I am able to be selective, and because of that, I do my best work. I really care about the individual people I work with and helping them to create beautiful, well made, market-ready products.

I’m really passionate about the #slowfashion movement, helping clients to produce their items in the US and even right here in Chicago. I do my best to align my clients with great resources for sourcing materials and factories that will serve them well.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
My proudest moments are when my clients are happy. It’s such an amazing feeling to know I helped someone launch their product idea or business, and see them have success! Receiving thank you cards is honestly the best feeling in the world.

I am happy that I’ve gotten to work with many great people, speak to school groups ranging from grade school, high school and college, give presentations to new and emerging designers, and be a part of a growing and thriving fashion community in Chicago. It’s been a wonderful journey and I’m really happy to be a part of this moment in history.

I’ve had the opportunity to travel, go to trade shows, visit many different factories, and be a part of the entrepreneurial path for the brands I work with, making great friendships along the way too.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Christopher Macsurak, Kirsten Miccoli

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