San Francisco, California
Industry: Corporate apparel
Products: Chef coats, aprons, and uniforms for restaurants and hotels
Karie La Mountain and SF's premium culinary apparel brand lead with timeless, functional work wear for top chefs and food personalities.
"Once a chef has worked with us, they're usually hooked," says Karie La Mountain, president of Cayson Designs.
Building a profitable business on word of mouth requires a standout product and great customer service — and Cayson Designs has always delivered both.
Celebrating 25-years of quality manufacturing, Cayson is an industry-leading culinary apparel brand, supplying handcrafted chef jackets, aprons and restaurant wear to the top chefs, restaurants and food and wine brands across the United States and abroad.
Proudly handcrafted in the USA, Cayson uses only the finest fabrics and raw materials to design and manufacture its range of jackets, aprons, pants, shirts, vests and hats at its San Francisco workshop and sewing factory.
Best known for its signature chef coats and custom aprons, Cayson has collaborated with top chefs, including Chris Cosentino, Michael Kramer, and Rachel Aronow, to launch stylish new lines.
"When you think of the most well-known hospitality names, it’s likely they’re dressed by Cayson -- think Saison, Momofuko, Single Thread, the Culinary Institute of America, and Apple headquarters in Silicon Valley," La Mountain says.
The company's bread and butter is its chef coats, which are known in the industry as chef whites. For those, La Mountain says, "Our most important fabrics are our 100 percent combed cotton, 100 percent cotton seersucker, and 65/35 percent poly/cotton blend" — all of which are proprietary fabrics made exclusively for Cayson Designs.
As popular culture embraces chef culture, La Mountain notices that, "More and more companies are making fun aprons. But there are still only a handful of vendors chefs can buy their whites from."
Cayson Designs is a smart choice. Over the decades, the company has perfected all aspects of its manufacturing process.
"We know what works, and we know what functionality chefs look for in their garments, aprons, and coats," says La Mountain.
In fact, Cayson Designs refines products based on feedback from chefs — and when a new product rolls out, Cayson Designs always asks its loyal clients to test it… in a real kitchen, of course.
While other vendors might skimp on measurements to end up with the right fabric width, Cayson Designs sticks to longstanding calculations. "We have our measurements, and we just don't compromise," La Mountain explains.
"We really listen to chefs," she reiterates. The result is a crisp, breathable, and functional line of affordable apparel.
Onshore, Cayson Designs owns three working spaces in San Francisco: an office, an adjacent cutting room, and a sewing factory — amounting to 10,000 square feet of space all together.
"Quality control is so easy for us, because we aren't getting a huge bundle of finished goods from overseas. If something isn't right, we can correct it immediately," says La Mountain.
Another big plus with domestic manufacturing is production time. With its current set-up, Cayson Designs can turn a product around as fast as five days. In addition to its lines of chef coats and aprons, the company also manufactures "uniform apparel," including server and bar jackets, pants, and hats.
Cayson Designs offers embroidering services in-house, too, on six- and eight-head Tajima embroidery machines. For clients in need of branded uniforms, embroidering is one avenue toward customization.
"We have a great custom apron program," La Mountain adds. You'll recognize a Cayson Designs coat by its signature, and insanely durable, "covered buttons," which are also manufactured in-house, on a special machine.
From its headquarters, Cayson Designs ships products to a broad national audience.
"We have a strong presence everywhere, but we have certain markets that particularly love our products," says La Mountain, noting that Cayson Designs has a huge presence in San Francisco, Napa Valley and the entire Bay Area as well as the Southeast and Midwest.
Cayson Designs works with a wide range of clients, from big hotel and restaurant groups to private chefs. "We don't have two-tiered wholesale and retail pricing," says La Mountain, adding, "We price at the lowest profitable margins because we want to give a fair price to all customers. We didn't want to have a jacket that's unattainable for a private chef."
Opportunities: With marketing efforts underway, La Mountain says, "There's a lot of room for growth right now." In fact she adds, "The opportunities for us are endless with our current set-up and capabilities."