On Wednesday 2nd May, The Fashion Network hosted the final talk of it’s Future Generation series with the Making It On Your Own event held at Thomas Restaurant on Thomas Street, Manchester.
The event was primarily designed to offer advice for those looking to start their own business, go freelance or to build their business. The panel included freelance stylist Martine Alexander, MD of concept store Black White Denim Jo Davies and fashion designer Hannah Beaumont.
The panellists began by summarising their backgrounds; inspired by her love of shopping, Martine Alexander left her career as an IT Project Manager in 2005 to undergo an intensive styling course in Milton Keynes to become a qualified stylist. After initially starting out as a private stylist, she now styles for both private clients and celebrities and most recently styled for the National Soap Awards.
Jo Davies spent twenty years working for big companies with huge clients but it was after having her son that she decided not to return to work and instead to pursue her dreams of opening a concept store. Like Martine, it was a love of shopping that gave her the idea for the career change. The eighteenth month old premium store, located in Wilmslow, is called Black White Denim and is designed to offer the key essential pieces of a woman’s wardrobe that will last forever, which Jo acknowledged was particularly relevant in today’s struggling economy.
Hannah Beaumont graduated from Leeds University with a degree in fashion and textile marketing and after working for a time as an Assistant Buyer at Monsoon, decided to launch her own ethical and organic fashion label called Beaumont Organic. The contacts with the factories that she had made through working for Monsoon helped her to start her own label in 2008; though it initially began as eight t-shirts, the company now sells dresses, knitwear, tees and skirts to UK, Sweden and Japan.
When asked how they began starting up their own business, Jo noted that she created her business plan through the help of knowledgeable friends, whilst Hannah was lucky enough to have a family loan. They advised that there are schemes and organisations out there that can help individuals with their entrepreneurial ventures, such as the Princes Trust, and most of these can be found by browsing the internet.
All panellists noted the difficulties and sacrifices involved with starting your own business, which included long working hours, overhead costs, travel costs, employee/assistant costs and loans, amongst others. It was buying too much stock that was argued to be one of the biggest errors made by many start-up fashion companies.
The talk ended with some positive advice for those thinking of following in their footsteps. Jo advised to get a thorough grip with numbers, use common sense, to always be friendly and to cut buying budgets by 1/3. Hannah advised potential fashion designers to start with a small, tight collection and use smaller factories who will not put the pressure on for large orders. Martine praised Twitter as a form to network and build relationships as well as your brand, arguing that fashion styling is more about who you know than what you know. She seemed to sum up best when she advised that ‘fear is good!’