Everyone wants to look their best with minimal effort, which makes clothing and clothing care ripe for innovation. Local Charlotte inventor, David Frankel, was frustrated that the collars of his shirts were always drooping, and he knew there had to be a way to keep his collar looking crisp and fresh all day long. His frustration led him to create the Perky Collar support system to stop droopy collars. He chose Enventys to help him work out the details of the product and I was on the team that helped bring it to life. After more than a year of work, the Perky Collar is now on the market.
David Frankel is a first time inventor, but an experienced entrepreneur. He is the father of six children, and his first business out of college was a family portrait photo studio. He is a soccer enthusiast and the founder of The 3V3 Soccer Academy with 6 locations in the greater Charlotte area. His lightning bolt moment came one morning while getting dressed up for a meeting. He was going to wear a collared shirt under a blazer. He noticed that without the structure of the tie under the collar that it kept sliding under the blazer and it looked sloppy. David ran into his daughter’s room and borrowed one of her stiff plastic headbands. He tucked it under his collar and it kept his collar crisp for the entire day. He knew he had the makings of a great product, and before the week was out he had made contact with Enventys to help develop the product.
The headband was a good start, but he knew it would be tough to sell headbands to style conscious men. In March of 2014, David brought a box of his daughter’s headbands, and met the design team. The idea for the product was simple, but the subtleties of the shape and fit would make or break it in the marketplace.
The first step in the design process was ideation. Since the concept was relatively simple, the team tried to think of ways to add or enhance the value of the product. One of the ideas was to make it adjustable, and the design team sketched concepts with sliders and locking mechanisms so that it would fit many neck sizes. The other big question was the shape of the band. The product had to be completely hidden under the collar, and we came up with ideas with thin arms to reduce the visible footprint of the product. We also played with removing material from strategic areas to cut down on the plastic volume whiles maintaining stiffness.
The next step was to take the ideas from the ideation and make concept models of the most promising designs. Since many of the concepts were a single piece of plastic, it was fast to make many different iterations of the product. We made some simple flat pattern models in our SolidWorks CAD software and cut them from white styrene plastic on our Epilog Laser cutter. Then we used a heat gun to form the flat patterns around a steel tube to get the curved shape of the product. We tested different shapes, thicknesses, adjustment methods, and curve diameters. About 20 different models were made. We found that most of the cutout shapes were too flimsy to keep the collar crisp and the best configuration was a full width band that tapered to a rounded point towards the ends of the arms. Material of .060” was about as thick as it could be before making the collar look chunky and 5” diameter was the best balance of support and a clean look.
David agreed with most of our recommendations. He liked the simpler one piece version and the 5” diameter too. He thought that .060” thick was a little too stiff, but the .040” was too thin, so we agreed to split the difference and make it .050” thick. He was also keen to try some different colors and materials. We made him some additional prototypes in polycarbonate, Kydex and mirrored styrene. David ended up liking the transparent version of the product the best, and I encouraged him to choose polycarbonate due to its impact resistance.
In February of 2015, the Perky Collar patent filing was completed, and we were finishing up the final design. I created the CAD model of the product with its final shape and David’s new logo. One last 3D printed model was created on an SLA machine to verify the CAD and the look of the product. David was able to use the print to start generating buzz for the product while I worked on getting the product sourced.
David wanted to keep the production of the Perky Collars in the U.S. if possible. I engaged a few groups domestically and abroad. We found that the part price from the U.S. vendors was competitive, but the tooling costs were more than double. The product has to be injection molded as a flat pattern first and then heated and bent into its final shape. In the end we decided to make a 5000 unit run with a trusted vendor in China. In May we received the first samples off of the tooling, called the T1 samples. They were good, but the tool needed additional polishing and there was some staining issues at the injection site. The T2 sample arrived a few weeks later and they were great. We told the factory to do a little more polishing of the tool and the order was placed. In late July, 5,000 Perky Collars were in the U.S.
Despite having product, David still did not have packaging figured out. He tried to design it on his own while we were sourcing the product. He struggled to get it to look the way he wanted, so the Enventys design team helped finish it. David was open to sweeping changes to the packaging, as well as the logo. Rae McNeil and Alex Werbickas redesigned the logo, sourced a high-class box, developed an instructional infographic, and made a before and after comparison photo for the packaging. The boxes were made in New Jersey and the labels and other graphics were printed locally in Charlotte. The result is a classy package that will live in high-end retail and make a great gift, too.
Success seems to be on the horizon for David Frankel and the Perky Collar. He has been relentlessly selling the product to dry cleaners and local clothing stores in Charlotte to get the word out, and has already sold about 500 Perky Collars. He has also sparked interest from buyers from some high end department stores, and is working on securing purchase orders for 2015 and 2016.
The development of the Perky Collar is proof that even the seemingly simple products require time and attention to detail to be successful. It is a single part product with no design dependencies, yet it still required many prototypes and iterations to find the design parameters to make it work and look great.
More info about David and the Perky Collar can be found at www.perkycollar.com.
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