The weekly blog posts are definitely turning into bi-monthly posts these days but we've just been so unbelievably busy with everything that needs to be done! As you know, we've planned our official launch for March next year, but due to the corona virus pandemic, we, like so many other companies have turned our attention to face masks. Never thought in a million years, this would be our first product launch, but after already experiencing quite a few that don't have the recommended 3 layers, feel scratchy, don't wash well or are just unattractive, we've become really motivated to come out with our own version!


Last week we approved our fabric samples and I can't wait to share what we've come up with! We're so happy with them! We've managed to source a stunning, 100% sustainable, cotton, satin in two stunning colours, with a gorgeous ribbon tie. The ribbon is also woven from filaments that have come from broken down plastic bottles, so we couldn't be prouder of our final product! We're on track to have these available 2 weeks from today, in a ribbon colour of your choosing! Once available for purchase, we'll post these to our Instagram feed so if you would like updated on when you can browse them, follow our Instagram here!


When we first discussed offering face masks, I think we thought it would be something quick and easy to do. A day maximum. What we actually found was that in order to make face masks fit everyone and therefore everyone's individual facial contours, we ended up with about 100 prototypes (I exaggerate slightly of course but there's quite a lot!). In the end, we're offering 2 different shapes. I think there's been quite a few different shapes on the market and people are really starting to develop their preferences so we're offering 2 different types for you, with adjustable straps!


Also, we wanted to make sure that we launched a responsible product. "Stay safe but make it fashion" is definitely the creative direction here, but we really felt it was important to launch something that genuinely offered protection to the people wearing them. In order to ensure we were adding the correct features, we've read loads of articles about how closely woven the fabrics need to be, layer number, fabric type, breathability measures and how these masks should be responsibly put on and taken off again - which of course all affected our designs. For a second we really wanted to offer some dramatic ribbons, and then it occurred to us that those ribbons would just be floating around the wearer, ready to pick up the virus any moment...


What we have now, is a 100% sustainably made and sourced, face mask, in two different shapes, in two different colours, with a selection of ribbon tie colours to chose from. We've just now waiting on our fabric order!!


If anyone is interested in pre-ordering these, contact us here, as we'd be delighted to privately share some images of what will be available in the next couple of weeks! We know some people have really struggled to find some, so if you fall into that category, drop us an email and we'd be more than happy to get one to you a bit sooner than the 2 week official launch date!


Thank you so much for reading and remember to stay safe!


Catherine


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A re brand? Again??? Yes. I love to re brand my company at least every 6 months.... No obviously I'm joking (or at least trying to laugh through the tears) but this will be the last time! Regrettably there was a huge issue in using the name 'HERSIDE' which was absolutely devastating to discover. Kind of a tricky one to explain but it was really important to us that we no longer operated using this name. We went from browsing Pinterest for chic, aesthetically pleasing packaging inspo to frantically running around the house, having to cancel every domain, email address account, bank account and insurance policy under the now - wrong business name. AND now come up with an entirely new one. To say I've had better weeks would be putting it mildly.


However! In the past two weeks since I last posted to the blog, I've learnt some huge business lessons through all of this. One of the most important ones being - do not (under any circumstances) operate your business based on an expectation you have of how something will go. It will not go that way. Plan for the worst but hope for the best (but sadly the worst is more likely to happen). However, now that I've finally gotten around to writing this blog post, and I'm evaluating it all... I really do believe we've come out the other end a lot stronger. Being faced with the kind of news that just makes you go "why am I doing this again??" and then taking up the challenge of rebranding the company in a single day, really showed me how much I really want this business to succeed. And ever since our re brand, me and the team (yup we're a team of 3 now!) have really pushed ourselves to be the best we can be and I'm so proud of everything we've achieved in such a short space of time.


So what are we called now? We're called 'MODEL CTIZN'. And I really really love the new name. I won't lie and say I didn't have a full on funeral in my head over 'HERSIDE' but I feel the new name is actually more us. Through all the business decisions that have been made so far, I really feel like this brand is shaping up to be exactly what the name entails. It's been so rewarding for me to make decisions based on ethics and morals instead of with the soul purpose of profit maximisation. And while we certainly hope to make one or two sales come March, it won't feel like a true achievement unless it was done the right way.


However, when I got asked what I'd do when we inevitably get it wrong one day and don't live up to 'MODEL CTIZN' (or model company) standards, I actually fell in love with the name even more. While I can 100% see the mockery media headlines (although hopefully we don't do anything quite that bad), there's a lot of humour and irony to play around with, through the branding imagery. And I think I like aspect more. Because while we all try our best, our company included, sometimes we get it wrong and that's just part of the gig of being human (or a brand new company). Fashion and humour go amazingly well together so I can't wait to start building up our branding mood boards now! I think there's just so much exciting potential with this new name!


First point of business with this re brand is the logo. Objectively speaking the most fun part and yet the part that you later realise makes you want to rip your hair out, completely. So much to say through one single, little icon... which of course will be on every single thing the customer sees and touches. It has to be fresh, simple but very authentic. How this turns out is still very much uncertain but hopefully we reach a point in the next few weeks (potentially months) where we feel like we really nailed it.


All I can say about this, is thank goodness for the critical path we developed because we left time for things like this to go wrong. There was a really strong temptation for me to plan everything for a December launch, and had the name disaster happened in that scenario, I honestly can't say how I would have reacted. There just wouldn't have been the time to get it executed how we really wanted and it wouldn't have been the launch we intended.


From today onwards, you'll be able to see our new website, as well as our new social media handles. Profile pictures are still making their way over slowly but those changes will follow later. Thank you to everyone that's been supporting us through our journey thus far. It's been a crazy couple of weeks but we're making huge leaps in progress these days and Emma's collection is looking stronger and stronger as the days go by! Soon, her collection will be available for pre order prior to our main launch. More information will made available about that soon!


In the meantime follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook as all of our pre order information will be made available there first!


Catherine


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Welcome back! This week's blog post is all about how we're designing our first collection! This post was supposed to go live last Sunday, however it's been an incredibly busy period getting everything in place before we begin our design process, so I decided I would take a week off from blogging to focus on that. Having now completed our merchandising plans, mood boards, critical paths and trend boards, I feel clearer about our design direction and in a better place to write this article. I'll be sharing everything from finding our designer, to our inspiration ideas to how we're managing our budget and time over the next few months - which was so important to map out before we began designing.


FINDING THE RIGHT DESIGNER


Around a year ago, I began thinking about how I would physically go about making the types of clothes I, myself wanted to buy, but couldn't find anywhere on the high street. As a fashion management graduate (student at the time) I had developed skills in organising a collection as far as buying appeal was concerned but I am not at all equipped to design, pattern cut and sew a garment - certainly not to a professional standard anyway! I quickly realised I would need to find someone with these skills to develop the vision in my head. A few days later I discovered an article showcasing the work of 'Emma Grieshaber' who at the time had just won first prize for the annual Weaver Incorporation Award. After looking through Emma's work I was absolutely blown away with her designs and knew I wanted to work with Emma. I decided to try and get in touch and after making contact and speaking on the phone for several hours, Emma agreed to team up with me, in producing 'HERSIDES' first ever collection! Since then Emma has graduated University and begins designing tomorrow!


HERSIDE X DESIGNERS


Since deciding to start my own company, I've spent a long time figuring out what I want my company to stand for as far as values are concerned. It's really important to me that any statements I make about the company vision, goals or purpose, really ring true for both customers and anyone who does business with us. So when I started to think about why I'm starting this company, and what issues in the fashion industry I'm trying to address, the collective subject of unpaid internships, exploitation and discrimination were passionate interests of mine and so building a business that addressed these problems felt important. The fashion industry has always had a bad rep when it comes to numerous social issues and yet despite documentaries and journalists exposing the industry for its faults, there has been a disgraceful lack of change, leading to intense feelings of disillusion for me. One of many issues I experienced was the realisation that without serious financial backing, young, talented and passionate designers are unable to launch their own labels and instead, end up designing under pre-existing fashion houses. While experience like this can be invaluable for an aspiring fashion designer, I believe there are too few opportunities for British talent to get the support and backing it deserves. In response to this, I want 'HERSIDE' to work with design graduates, pay them for their time (in cash not 'exposure') and credit their work on both our website and the garment labelling. However, since deciding that 'HERSIDE' will be designed by credited fashion design graduates, the balance of their own design DNA and the DNA of 'HERSIDE' has had to be carefully balanced. The gap in the market for youthful but sophisticated, design led fashion is still a gap I'm passionate about addressing however there is no point in crediting designers like Emma, if she has had to work within such tight design boundaries that her design personality doesn't come through. However, giving full creative license to our designers means that over time, 'HERSIDE' will completely lose any consistency and leave customers feeling confused about our aesthetic. Figuring out this fine line, has probably been the single biggest challenge to date. But having eventually finished the design brief, I am confident Emma will produce a collection that perfectly combines her own personality as well as that of 'HERSIDE's.


INSPIRATION


So I wasn't sure whether or not to share our design reference point, because most companies will keep this kind of information private until the collection is ready to launch, but as a company that wants to share some insight into what goes on behind the scenes, both me and Emma, the designer, have agreed to share our vision for the collection, for those who want to follow the entire journey of 'HERSIDE'. So around a few weeks back, discussions were taking place around how our first collection should look, when we should launch and most importantly the starting point for which to generate design concepts from. As a fashion design graduate, Emma has developed strong skills when it comes to taking inspiration from the world around her and the year of 2020 is certainly not a year people will forget. Covid-19 in particular, has completely interrupted our lives and as a nation we find that society's most under appreciated jobs are the ones we turn to in a crisis. For both of us, there are no greater heroes than our British NHS workers and when deciding on our starting point for inspiration, Emma has decided to to turn her attention to our key workers! I couldn't be happier with her decision and I can't wait to assist her in the organisation, production and promotion of what will be a truly special collection!


THE PLANNING


Deciding on the design balance between my brand DNA and Emma's DNA (or any other designer that comes after her) has been a tough to organise but that has been far from the only thing we've had to plan out. When creating the design brief it became quite evident that I had to be 100% sure of when the collection would drop, so that the designs and fabric choices were correct. I started to build up a critical path for the launch and that really helped me be realistic about when this collection would be ready. A critical path for anyone who hasn't heard that term before means a calendar plan of everything that has to be done, before the next thing can be done. It's incredibly important that the deadlines are met otherwise a domino effect occurs where everything else is pushed back. When deciding how many weeks to designate for a single task like 'receive fabric samples' there are so many factors in that alone to think about. Time to research fabrics, time to write emails to desirable mills and wait for a response, time to put in orders for samples, led times for samples, time to analyse samples, more time again to write further emails regarding any further questions... and then placing the final order. And it's so important to map out a realistic and achievable time frame to ensure the collection doesn't launch past its best point in the year.


Once everything was plotted on the calendar, and I decided March was the best time to launch, we then had to consider what trends are predicted for that season. As a brand that want's to rebel against the traditional and exhausted 'trends' we need to know what these are - just so we can avoid innocently working along the same creative path. There is a balance of understanding and reacting to how society will feel at that time but not literally lifting from other designers' take on what that means for fashion.


To say balancing everything from brand DNA's, to trends, to seasons, to fabric choices to inspiration has been overwhelming, would be an understatement but now that we have figured out how all these things blend together, we can begin navigating it all. Come mid March, I'm so excited to see how the final collection comes together!


MANAGING BUDGET


For this collection to reflect good design as well as quality and sustainable ideals, it's crucial to make sure we do not run out of budget before we launch. I've tried to figure out as many ways as possible to extend payment terms will mills, manufacturers, suppliers etc, but as a new company that hasn't yet build up a reputation yet, we present a risk. As such, we've been advised that we will not be offered better terms of payment than up front, before production even takes place. Not being able to sell the garments first and pay for the materials later, really eats into our budget and therefore we've had to get creative with how we manage the business's cash flow.


Looking a other business models from other industries, has presented us with some ideas regarding gig economy and how we might be able to apply this to 'HERSIDE'. Recently the fashion industry has been rightfully forced to re-consider it's ethics behind the scenes in response to movements like the 'Who Made my Clothes' campaign. This is a movement I really believe in the importance of and so I've decided I want to source local, talented seamstresses to sew up our garments as and when an order comes through. This help push back company spending until after the point of purchase, and allow for more of the budget, to be spent on sustainable fabrics. Therefore not only will Emma's name be sewn into the label but the person who's sewn it together will also be included so the wearing knows exactly who made their clothes! However, the quality control system that 'HERSIDE' will need to put in place will be extensive but I'm more than ready to take on the challenge if it means we can invest back into our British economy and align ourselves with positive movements like this!


COLLECTION IN FULL


Taking everything into account, 'HERSIDE' has now decided how our collection will look! We have decided on a 6 piece collection, consisting of 3 tops, 2 bottoms and a jacket / blazer item. This may be subject to change depending on how we work through the collection and what unexpected expenses com our way but we believe within these 6 pieces, we have a lot of room to create many different looks. Our colour palette is predicted to be along the lines of whites, nudes, creams, and other typical 'clean' colours but again we are still to see how our mood board develops and what direction Emma decides to take the collection in. We plan to have our entry level price point as low as £19 to try and make sustainable fashion as accessible as possible and we just hope that our estimated sums were accurate enough that we won't have to increase that entry level price, come the time of launch.


I hope that was interesting for anyone who wants to know more about how we're going about building the company. The truth is we won't know if we've made any of the right decisions until the day of our first sale but documenting each and every step will hopefully mean that one day we can look back on the challenges we've overcome or... (hopefully not) pin point what went wrong.


Next weeks' post will be all creating about our beautiful packaging! Specifically we'll discuss how to source reputable, ethical suppliers, how to design it, what information to put on the packaging and how long deliveries take. If you're interested in having this post emailed straight to your email inbox, subscribe to the blog!


Thank you so much for reading and for all the support I've received so far!


Catherine


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