The launch and the week in London are now over. I had a fabulous party at the launch on Thursday night and a great response over the week and sold a lot of coats. As well as the sales, there were lots of people who came in, whether invited or just passing by, who loved the tweeds, loved the cut of the coats and made me feel like it had all been worth the risk and the hard work.
I woke early to beautiful sunshine and checked my mail before setting off for London. I picked up a message from a very dear old friend, Babu, from Milan, who was expressed such support that it moved me to tears. Italians have a very direct way of appreciating you. I think it was that she could see how much hard and sometimes lonely work it had been. It was true and it touched a nerve. So, after the tears over Organic Muesli I got myself on the road for my big day.
I had arranged for another old friend, Sarah, to help me set up the show. Sarah had been a successful curator in a prior life. Of all my friends she has the deepest and felt aesthetic sense of anyone I know. She appeared with a huge vase of exquisite flowers and helped me arrange the coats and pictures. I framed my photos from the shoot and also framed information -- mirroring the website experience with the use of typeface. I had exhausted all my creative energy and Sarah immediately worked out how best to lay everything out beautifully.
Suddenly it was 5.30 and the show was starting at 6. I got back just in time (having donned a new Margaret Howell dress for the occasion). People were arriving early, including the star of the evening, Aeneas Mackay from The Isle of Mull Weavers. It was really special as it put the whole thing into perspective as this was all about the cloth.
Aeneas was genuinely delighted to see his cloth made up into lovely coats. He charmed everyone by talking about the farm and the process of setting up the weaving business.
The weather was amazing so we could have drinks outside and inside people could try on coats all evening.. mainly the Ladies but in fact, a few blokes couldn't resist trying on Beckett in size 16 in Organic Moorit Herringbone.
I had lots of old friends and family turn up, which was great -- including an impromptu reunion of friends I'd worked with at The British Council in Ecuador 12 years ago. They all live in different parts of the world and by coincidence were in town for my show.
After the euphoria of the launch, I kept shop at Jayne's beautiful Hepsibah Gallery until Weds 10th. Jayne used to be a top milliner and I had rented a hat off her a few years ago. She's turned her Hat Shop into an Art Gallery and she rents it on a weekly basis. It's in Brackenbury Road, near Ravenscourt Park & Shepherd's Bush, not far from Hammersmith. A beautiful neighbourhood and Jayne knows everyone, including my close friend, Rue, and that's how I got to have my show there. Jayne was a great ambassador and had obviously spread the word.
I had packed my favourite tweed skirts and books expecting a quiet week. There were quiet moments but there was also a good steady flow of interesting people who seemed to love the coats. I made a number of sales. Lots of people just liked to see the coats and talk about tweed: obviously not everyone's going to be in the market for a £500 coat.. it's something you need to think about and rightly so. However, I felt I'd got the right price and the right quality of cut and style.
I learnt a few lessons -- firstly about dealing with customers. My experience has been in corporations where you have to sell concepts and present business cases. This was different; it was more personal to me as it was my product but also to the customer as it's about what you wear. Also, I loved the fact that people just wanted to talk about tweed. I loved it that many people had a story to tell about their aunt, grandmother, or uncle who had tweed jackets or coats that had been passed down the family. Or, they'd been to the Highlands and had experienced the magic of the Hebrides.
Some styles sold really well. Elizabeth I, Elizabeth II and du Maurier Short are my strongest sellers. I found the Organic tweeds sold better, despite the fact that they cost at least £100 more per garment. I also realise that not doing size 8 was a mistake. So, I'm going to make up a few smaller ones in size 8. Also, my sizing is a little generous so if you are in between a 10 and a 12 then you should go for 10. There was little response to the larger sizes (16 -18). It's early days but I need to understand more about those sizes and what styles will really work for them.
The Hepsibah Gallery is very good for West Londoners but a hike for North & Central. However, I felt it worked really well for me. I'd like to think about going back for another week at some time. I don't know if after Christmas is just too late -- if there'll be an appetite for the coats. I gather lots of people were asking about the coats after the event so it would be worth keeping a relationship with the gallery and the location. There is, of course, the wonderful and unique Jayne to go back to.