Kimberley Osborne-Milstein’s studio says a lot about her latest fashion endeavor, Textile Republic. The studio on the third floor of her suburban Cleveland home is bursting with colorful patterns, fabrics, belts, and ribbons.
With a degree in fashion merchandising and design from Ursuline College and experience as a model, Osborne-Milstein has more than 20 years in the industry. Eventually, “I wanted to be more upfront in the design element of fashion, so I started my own line,” she says.
Her goal was to create items with unique and worldly patterns. But what she found at trade shows seemed repetitive and boring. Her solution? To solicit pattern ideas from freelance designers and artists via the internet.
With business direction from her brother Brian Osborne and the digital design skills of Cleveland Institute of Art grad Kathleen Smith Waters, she launched Textile Republic about six months ago. The online business serves as a retail outlet for functional items like picture frames, belts, or luggage tags — all imprinted with unique patterns by the freelance designers who have answered the call.
Designers nationwide have been invited to submit their patterns — and hundreds have. The most striking creations are displayed on the website where the online community can vote for their favorites.
Designers who receive 100 “likes” on Facebook get their pattern printed onto the company's merchandise and receive a 7-percent royalty. Those who earn 400 “likes” can look forward to receiving a 10-percent royalty.
The founders hope the business will be the antithesis of the big-name design houses, where the individual artists can be “lost” inside the brand. In contrast, Textile Republic seeks to recognize its designers, giving them a chance to tell their story through their bios which are posted on the website.
Even after two years, Textile Republic continues to evolve. “We’re open to collaborating with more product developers, artists, surface print designers, and perhaps seamstresses,” said Osborne-Milstein.“I’d love to create patterned shirts.”
Besides online sales, Osborne-Milstein has placed her merchandise in several local boutiques. For instance, the company's colorful belts are available at Mulholland and Sachs in Woodmere's Eton Chagrin.
In the future, though, she hopes take a break from wholesale and expand her online product offering. Someday she would also love to open a store similar to Textile Republic, “I dream of opening a store like ‘Build-a-Bear’ except with graphics,” she says, referring to the mall stores that let kids — and grownups —instantly customize their own teddy bears.
For now though, fashionistas can shop and designers can submit ideas at Textilerepublic.com. — Jackie Bon