Posted on: Sunday - Sep 14, 2014

Inside a nondescript building just off the main square in Lafeyette, exists an industry that is of a dying breed in the United States: a custom-made shirt facility. Measure Up began in Macon County in 1990 in a 10,000 square foot facility. Twenty-four years later, it occupies 30,000 square feet of space and employs 85 people.

Step inside the manufacturing facility and the first thing you will be struck by is the sound - dozens of whirring sewing machines creating custom-made shirts. Measure Up receives hundreds of daily orders from high-end retailers and custom clothiers all over the country. And every order is different, right down to the placement of the buttons and color thread used for a monogram.

“The special thing about Measure Up shirts is that we’re really detail oriented,” explains Melissa Wooten, the company’s CEO and CFO. “You can order the shirts any way you want to. They’re made exactly to your measurements, exactly to your liking or your style.”

And while there are a few machines that assist with creating and cutting out the patterns, everything else is hand sewn. The operation at Measure Up is truly custom-made.

“It is a skilled workforce,” explains Wooten, “When we hire people, we don’t necessarily look for someone who has sewing experience. We do look for people who are quality driven. They want to do things correctly. We look for people who are fast with their hands.”

As you walk around the facility, you can’t miss the bolts and bolts of beautiful cloth in every pattern and color imaginable that line floor to ceiling shelves toward the back of the main sewing room floor.

“We have fabrics that come in from mills from Italy to Turkey to Austria,” says Wooten, “We’re always merchandising, looking for new things, trying to watch what the market is looking for and trying to make sure we have what the customers want in our line.”

How long does it take to fully customize a shirt from scratch? Not as long as you might think, considering Measure Up employees churn out about 350 of these quality creations per day.

Wooten explains, “We quote 15 working days, but we average about 12 to 13 working days.”

The Measure Up facility is laid out so that every part of a shirt has its own section of the sewing room floor.

The folks cutting the fabric are in one area. Then those parts get sent off to the employees who specialize in making the collar and the cuffs. There’s a station for custom monogramming. And the list of specialized areas goes on and on until little by little, the shirts take shape and transform from pieces of fabric to an actual finished product. In keeping with Measure Up’s strict attention to detail, each completed shirt is fully inspected for any mistakes or flaws before being packaged and shipped off around the country from Lafayette.

“The Measure Up employees do realize that the customers who are ordering the custom shirts, they want to be comfortable and confident when they’re wearing our shirts,” explains Wooten. “In order to do that, it has to be correct, made well.”

Several Measure Up employees, like Shelby Woodard, have been with the company for decades.

“I do alterations,” explains Woodard, who just celebrated her 25-year anniversary with the company. “I repair the shirts when they come back. I just enjoy being with the people and I like what I do.”

Wooten recognizes the importance of the workforce at Measure Up. “I’m especially proud of the employees,” she says. “We have a lot of long-tenured employees that work with us and have great morale and a great work ethic, and I think that the state of Tennessee is actually known for that.”

Working with the state has allowed Measure Up to continue expanding, according to Wooten. They are in the process of hiring more workers and hope to increase their production from 350 shirts per day to 400 over the next several months.

“We’re kind of like a big family here at Measure Up,” says Wooten. “When things happen we pull together and when good things happen, we celebrate, so it’s nice to be able to keep that growing, too. It’s important to me personally to be able to keep the company here and be able to offer the people of our area a good place to work.”

In a world where custom clothing manufacturing facilities like Measure Up are few and far between, Wooten says she’s grateful the company continues to see such great success.

“To know you’ve given that person something that is going to give them a feeling of confidence in what they’re wearing, not only in comfort or fit, but also in style, to me, it’s a good feeling to know you’ve done well and given somebody a good service,” explains Wooten,

For more information on Measure Up, visit www.measureupco.com.

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