Change is afoot. It has been looming for some time. My initial strategy was to sell direct and now I find myself after less than 18 months in business, showing at London Fashion Week.
The benefit of hindsight, analysis, a leap of faith and a few fortuitous and unfortuitous events have led me to change my approach. At the same time I was really getting noticed and picked up by people but not being in the right shops was preventing me from getting to customers. If you are in the right place people feel comfortable buying your product. Then, in the middle of one of my periods of uncertainty I had a visit from an interesting person called Mica Lamb. Mica was starting up a fashion sales agency specialising in the high-end sustainable sector and she wanted to work with me. She understood what I wanted to achieve and likewise I got her approach and so gradually I made the decision to look at wholesale. In the meantime, Mica launched her business, Agent For Change.
When I started out I was too unknown to launch myself as a wholesale business. I hosted events, attended fairs and shows and did a lot of marketing to my network and the blogosphere. I also believed I could circumnavigate shops with their markup. It was a great experience working directly with customers, understanding their needs, desires and concerns. I knew it wasn't going to be the only way. I was competing against highly established brands and also the physical reality of not being in the places the people expect to buy: a shop. It's more of a conceptual leap to buy something from an art gallery, a private house, a craft show (however upmarket). I have come to respect what a long-term commitment stores make to develop relationships and reputations with their customers, how location and environment are key and how customers are trusting their judgement.
So working with Mica we have decided to focus on London Fashion Week and build up shows and ranges over time. Also I'm on an export programme with the UK Trade & Investment department. I've worked out how many garments I can fund through production and have secured a certain amount of fabric from the weavers.
In November I sent the application in for Estethica, the sustainable part of London Fashion Week. Then, just before Christmas I found out that, despite tough competition, I have been selected to exhibit. A little overwhelmed but excited...
It means of course that my retail prices will rise. A tough decision but a necessary one. For this type of craftsmanship it has to be sustainably priced.