The Rapidian

ProperFit Clothing Company aims to make its mark on Grand Rapids fashion

Two Grand Rapids entrepreneurs have teamed up to create ProperFit Clothing Company in hopes of strengthening the fashion scene in Grand Rapids.

ProperFit Clothing Company

Handmade clothing

Price range: $20-$80

Customization upon request

Visit the ProperFit website

Shop on the Etsy store

 

ProperFit Clothing Company

446 Grandville Ave. SW

Grand Rapids, MI 49534

 

Phone: (616) 970-1271 or (616) 240-8688

 

ProperFit Clothing Company's philosophy, and the name of the company itself, is based on customization. From the way clothing is made to the way customers place their orders, ProperFit hopes to offer a unique experience. Created by local designers Andrew Parauka and Ann Whitman, ProperFit Clothing Company focuses on producing handmade clothing for men and women.

"It's almost like an art form. But it's hard to think of that because there's so many companies that mass produce stuff. The art is actually in the fabric itself... it's also incorporated in the construction of it. It's like you're wearing art," says Parauka.

After attending college for fashion design and merchandising for a couple of years, Parauka and Whitman created their own clothing company after experience making sweatshirts and leggings.

Both Parauka and Whitman are involved in the design and production process of ProperFit's pieces. For inspiration, they look at fabric and prints. A print or specific detail on a piece of fabric may inspire Parauka, while the color of the fabric may inspire Whitman. Previous pieces they have made often provide inspiration as well.

"It's almost like our own designs inspire us to make different designs," says Whitman.

ProperFit's goal is to make more than just a regular piece of clothing. When customers place an order, they can ask for pieces to be altered or customized to fit their size or style. 

"We might not have it, but we can make it," says Whitman.

For ProperFit, it's important to have a more personal interaction with its customers.

"It's definitely a different way for people to shop online. Everything got so instant - buy it [online and] you know its on the way. As opposed to emailing [the company] and talking about what you want," says Parauka.

ProperFit's first pieces were created in Parauka's garage with just one sewing machine a year ago. Shortly after, the pair moved their workspace to a studio in the old Israel's building at 446 Grandville Avenue SW. After moving to the new space, Parauka and Whitman began making clothes for their Etsy store, experimenting with designs and investing in new equipment. While many lessons have been learned in the past year, there is one during the production process that stands out for the designers.

"You need to be really patient with sewing machines," says Whitman. "You really need to know which type of needle to use with which fabric and what tension to use. You just really need to learn your sewing machines and that is the hardest process so far."

As the fabrics they use change, so must the sewing needles in order for the sewing process to go smoothly, say the designers. Parauka and Whitman now use 12 sewing machines, with others waiting for repair around their shop and homes.

The company is currently working on getting more funding and expanding by partnering with other businesses in Grand Rapids. Besides the hours spent on designing and producing their clothes, Parauka and Whitman hold full-time jobs as well.

"If we didn't work other jobs, [ProperFit] would make enough to do what we do. But to get machines [and] pretty much progress the company, we're working other jobs too. Its just constant work pretty much every day," says Parauka. "Eventually we won't have to work other jobs and that will be the best feeling... that we can actually work and do something we love."

The young entrepreneurs find motivation by staying focused on their goal.

"We both just want to make clothes, innovate, design and bring new trends in - and recycle old trends even," says Parauka.

ProperFit's first pieces were baby clothes sold at Mom & Baby Again in Zeeland. The clothing company was then approached by the owner of Bella Donna Boutique and asked to sell some of their items for men and women in the store.

Parauka and Whitman designed the t-shirts worn by staff and volunteers of Thrive, a refugee support program, during Festival of the Arts. Some of their pieces were also featured in a fashion show held at Dwelling Place.

One avenue the clothing company will soon try for the first time is having a booth at a festival. On Saturday, August 9, Proper Fit will have a booth at the Coopersville Del Shannon Car Show.

"It'll be a learning experience. [We're] more excited than nervous," says Whitman.

ProperFit hopes to continue expanding and establishing its customization philosophy in Grand Rapids.

"This is a quality product, rather than this is just some cookie cutter, generic made, stamped out and that's what it is," says Parauka. "It has a story behind it. It was made in Grand Rapids."

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