We talked to Richard Gregory of Prototype about the fashion industry and the impact of COVID-19.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Richard Gregory: All good here in Bali! We’ve stayed more or less fully operational, with some adjustments, of course. We’re happy to be able to take care of our staff and families during this difficult time when so many have lost their jobs.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Prototype.
Richard Gregory: My wife and I came to Bali 7 years ago with the dream of starting a lingerie label. We had discovered how difficult or impossible it really was to start a label from the US and manufacture overseas, so we decided to swim upstream and learn the industry from the inside. In doing so, we realized that there were 1000s of small businesses just like us that needed the same services we did. One thing led to another, and here we are, 7 years later, serving hundreds of small businesses and startups.
How does Prototype innovate?
Richard Gregory: We have taken a completely novel approach to the fashion industry. Traditionally, garment manufacturing is all about volume. Big orders = cheap prices. That’s how we’re trained to think. But where does that leave the little guy? Without access to decent manufacturing, that’s where! So we’ve turned this traditional dynamic on its head. We achieve our economy of scale by aggregating the needs of many small clients in order to have access to the same resources that large clients have access to. We do the same with small manufacturers as well, providing opportunities for both sides to be competitive in the global marketplace.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Richard Gregory: Truthfully, the pandemic was scary at first, then inconvenient, but it’s been great overall for our business. There are more people than ever before exploring alternative ways to make money online and looking for unique products to sell. We’ve been hiring and growing through the entire pandemic. I feel a little guilty when I say it out loud, but it’s been an incredible blessing to be able to take care of all of our people and their families during the entire time.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Richard Gregory: Yes, for sure, there were some tough choices. The first choice was whether or not to panic and run back to the safety of the US. We have young kids, and we didn’t want to take unnecessary risks. As it’s turned out, running back to the US would have been the worst decision, as we can see. The other tough choice was whether or not to keep our staff working during the pandemic. We are in frequent contact with each other, and if one of us were sick, it could definitely spread. We had a meeting in the beginning, and everyone wanted to keep running. We made a pact with each other that we would “close the circle.” We’d limit our exposure to everyone else, but we would consider each other as family and trust each other to take care of each other’s safety. We created more space for each worker, more ventilation, masks, sanitizer everywhere, and we just kept going. Nobody has been sick, thankfully, and we feel we made the right choices.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Prototype in the future?
Richard Gregory: One thing is certain: paranoia is not helpful. I think living in Indonesia has been helpful for some perspective on things like this. Here in Indonesia, people have had to deal with things that the 1st world just can’t imagine. They still have people dying of easily preventable diseases, for example. So, while they do take it seriously, for them, it’s just another challenge in a long series of challenges. We deal with it as best we can, following the best practices that are available, but at the end of the day… life is fragile. You can’t fight against the universe. You just do the best you can, and you pray for a good outcome. Anything beyond that is just simply out of our control. Finding peace with that fact is the key to coping with any big challenge in life.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Richard Gregory: Our competition, primarily, is Alibaba. While they’re one of the biggest players on the web in general, they’re also failing totally to reach the market that we’re reaching. They’re also almost solely focused on China, while we are specifically focusing anywhere BUT China. Our workflow is so complicated that it would be difficult for any competitor to recapture our territory. So, we see a bright future for Prototype! O
Your final thoughts?
Richard Gregory: If you’re a fashion designer, entrepreneur, or influencer needing assistance with developing a new product, Prototype makes it easier than ever before to get your project over the finish line. It’s a competitive market, for sure, so you need to be sure that you have quality, unique products that can outshine your competition. We offer white-label, private label, AND fully custom services, so we can meet the needs of just about anyone.