When you tell people you work as a fashion designer, they often seem to assume that you spend your days sitting in a glamorous art studio, sketching and flipping through fabric swatches. Oh, if only that were the case! I remember some very disgruntled placement students at one brand I worked for. It didn’t take them long to realise that most of their day would be spent entering garment specifications onto a computer and attaching CADed drawings to boards, a process they had to repeat each time a meeting was held and the specifications inevitably changed!
In my experience as a womenswear and childrenswear designer for the past 16 years, only 5 to 10% of your time is spent doing things that could genuinely be called 'creative'. The industry moves so fast that there is rarely time to think, be inspired or evolve your work – you just have to get it down on paper and sent to a factory to be made as quickly as possible.
So when, earlier this year, I decided to step away from the corporate world and have a go at launching my own kids’ brand, I had a few objectives in mind. The first was to build a business that would allow me to work flexible hours to fit around family life. That feels a long way off at the moment as I grasp every second of naptime and burn the midnight oil trying to get my business off the ground. But the goal is there and it’s what I'm working towards. Another aim was to re-connect with my creative roots. For as long as I can remember, I have been making and creating things. I got my first sewing machine when I was 14 years old and used it to make toys and clothes. It was then that I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer when I was all growned-dup!
Once I'd nailed the concept for the Muklet brand, I set about designing the range. As it evolved I realised I could pull together all the things I loved about clothing, accessories and even vintage. I was able to tap into the wealth of experience I've gained in the fashion industry. And I could choose who I work with. I’m passionate about supporting British suppliers and manufacturers so when it came to selecting the fabric for my cushions it had to be British Melton wool from Moons.
Before I could start to build the collection, I had dust off my sewing machine, which had last made an appearance the previous Christmas when I decided to make homemade decorations for all 22 members of my family! I quickly re-discovered the joy of taking an idea from the initial concept to the finished piece, of being involved in the entire process and of feeling proud that I had created something someone else would enjoy.
I’ve also been on a mission to source retro American vintage pieces to complement the clothes and accessories in the range. I had the best day at Ardingly Vintage Fair some weeks ago. I went in with a budget and an aesthetic in mind but found inspiration in some unexpected treasures and then had fun planning out how I would use or upcycle them.
I confess I was a little hesitant about joining Etsy at first. There are some amazingly talented artisans in the London Local team making their beautiful wares from scratch and I wasn’t sure that I had the same credentials. But I’ve come to realise that there are many different levels of makers and designer makers. What connects us is our love of creation, whether it’s a hand-thrown pot, or in my case, a customised Varsity baseball jacket.
Starting this adventure has spurned my creativity in other ways too. I was asked for a giveaway present to be handed to the first 50 people through the doors of a Christmas fair I’m attending. So I made these:
I’ve also had to think creatively about how I display my wares at markets:
Create interesting ways to promote myself on social media:
Deciding how to style and photograph my products:
And it goes on and on! Although I’m as yet to make it to an Etsy meet-up (the joy of being a busy mom with a husband home too late for me to escape on time!) I have managed to meet quite a few of the Etsy clan at various markets and other small business gatherings. I love it when after months of chats on social media you finally get to meet someone face to face – and it's always such a friendly face!
I think the best thing about re-connecting with my creative self is that my kids get to see me being truly happy and creative. They love sitting in my office pod watching me work (ok, most of the time they cause complete chaos, but at least they’re having fun!). And it inspires them to want to make what Mommy is making. Who knows, you may even see a 'mini Muklet' shop opening on Etsy sometime soon ... watch this space!