Coming Up Paperclips…

I’ve been working on my Fashion Industry Essentials certificate through Parsons New School of Design in collaboration with Teen Vogue…

For one of my assignments associated with the certificate, I had to choose an inspiration photo (taken by me from a previous assignment) to develop as a design idea for a new accessory. The monkey wrench: make it out of unconventional materials.

I selected a photo of a faux flower daisy taken with the head flush against the floor, from the perspective of the bottom of the stem. Based on the shapes and orientation, I created earrings made from paperclips and a small plastic o-ring that I found in my desk drawer. I used the paperclips as the earring part as well as the bling on the bottom.


In learning about fashion production, I had to figure out the costs to make my earrings and whether or not they would be a viable product. According to my Mom, they will be a hit at $1.50. What Mom has ever been wrong?!

Here is what I came up with on the first go around…

Coming Up Paperclips Earrings #1

4 Jumbo Paper Clips ($0.0139/clip)

Office Depot online ($1.39/100)

Plastic ring ($0.05/ring)

Popco online

($5 for 1 batch of 100)

.083 hours (or 5 minutes) @ $9 $0.75
Total production cost $0.86
20% profit $0.17
Total cost plus profit $1.03
Estimated retail price $1.50

Part Deux of the assignment: I (theoretically) decide to sell my earrings. I need to find retailers to carry my earrings for sale, and I need to sell the earrings to them at a price that is half of my “manufacturer’s suggested retail price” to ensure we both make money and account for inevitable retail markdowns. In usual production style, things can always be done smarter, faster, cheaper. So…I needed to produce my earrings for $0.75 or less (including my profit margin).

Firstly, I decided to decrease the cost of materials by using a cheaper vendor (thank you, Amazon!) for the paperclips and utilizing bulk offerings with the same vendor for the plastic 0-rings. I was also able to decrease the amount of time to produce a pair of earrings through implementing a human-operated automatization process utilizing state of the art machinery (from 5 minutes to 3 minutes).

Here are my new numbers…

Coming Up Paperclips Earrings #2

4 Jumbo Paper Clips ($0.006/clip)

Amazon Online, in bulk ($6.13/1000)

Plastic ring ($0.0002/ring)

Popco Online, in bulk

($2.20/100 batches of 100)

.05 hours (3 minutes) @ $9 $0.45
Total production cost $0.47
20% profit $0.09
Total cost plus profit $0.56
Estimated retail price $1.50

According to my calculations, I am able to produce each pair (including 20% profit) at $0.56 (well under the $0.75 that I was shooting for!). This leaves an overall profit of $0.94 per pair of earrings; however, I did not match the exact brand of paperclip so the quality may be questionable. But that’s another story for another day…

After completing this assignment and crunching the numbers, it became apparent to me why mass produced items, especially in the fashion industry are cheaper with higher quantity (Think a top produced by H&M vs. a top made by Gucci). This also involves quality over quantity, but again, a rainy day topic.

This assignment also really fed into my obsession with process improvement…During grad school (for occupational therapy) I had the honor of being a fellow in the Jewish Healthcare Foundation Patient Safety Fellowship, a Lean/Six Sigma/Toyota Method program that educated grad students in healthcare fields to improve processes as related to patient safety and overall patient care in the healthcare setting. My Coming Up Paperclips earring production assignment was satisfying from this respect and helped me to see yet another avenue for exploration within the fashion world!

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