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.
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!
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!
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!