There are those who think that a t-shirt is a t-shirt is a t-shirt. Anna Leos definitely has something to say about that.
“There are a lot of things you don’t realize go into the end garment,” Anna explains. “We’ve thought about every single thing; we’ve thought about the fabric, the color, the stitching, the buttons. There’s so much more to it.”
Anna’s really into the details. You can see it in her eyes and hear it in her voice when she’s on the subject. It’s her job, after all, to think about those things, and to help turn those thoughts into a shirt someone will someday be wearing. She graduated from Washington State University with a degree in Merchandising, and she can honestly say that she’s been using her degree ever since.
She started working at SanMar as an assistant buyer almost twelve years ago, and these days her official title is “Sourcing and Product Development Manager.” That’s a mouthful, and it might make you think of the technology field. Anna says that you wouldn’t be completely off-base in thinking that.
“It’s interesting because there’s a lot of similarities there. If you think about how you get from a concept to software or hardware, it goes through certain phases – develop, test and production. We do the same thing.”
So how does that work? At SanMar, it begins with a concept from a merchandiser, and putting together the right product at the right price with the right supplier.
“We take that concept and go out and find the fabric,” says Anna. ”We work with the vendor to develop that fabric. I’m not actually knitting or sewing, but we guide them so that they understand what we’re looking for.”
Developers also collaborate with multiple teams across SanMar to make that concept into a reality. Anna explains some of the process like this:
“We work with the Color team on color approvals, the QA team on testing and our Tech Design team on fit. Those are the development and testing phases, and then when we move to production, we work with the Planning team to execute purchase orders and track production.”
Even though her job isn’t customer-facing, one of the most important parts for her is understanding what the customer wants, and how she can help them meet the challenges they face.
“A lot of the decisions that we make, we’re making on behalf of our customers,” she explains. “PosiCharge® is a really good example of that – we made a change to our raw materials to help make it easier for our customers to print on.”
What happens “when the stars align,” according to Anna, is one of her favorite aspects of her work.
“Any time there’s an opportunity to push the envelope from a product perspective, those are great wins. When it comes together and it works and customers think it’s really strong, that’s exciting for us.”
The next time you find yourself thinking that a t-shirt is just a t-shirt, think of Anna, and maybe you’ll see it just a little differently.