How did you come to make the fashion you make?
"I could never afford or find the clothes that I really wanted to wear, so I decided to make my own. I wanted to wear something different. Then people started to comment on what I was wearing, asking me where I got it . . . and then ask me to make them one.
I have always been interested in clothes, in historical and 'traditional' fashion and costumes. Also I was always interested in why particular styles and shapes were worn at certain periods of time - the social/ cultural influences on what we wear. Then the more I began to sew and create my own pieces, the more I became interested in the actual construction of the garments and couture techniques.
Were you formally trained in fashion?
No I studies anthropology at UCLA.
Most of my training/learning about fashion has come from my own passion, research and experience. Although what I do does not compare to the big business of the fashion world, I still have had to learn the fundamentals of fashion design, construction, marketing and branding.
Once I have an idea of what I want to make, I draw a flat sketch of it so that I can see how it could be made - placement of seams, darts, pleats etc. Then I create a rough pattern and toile. I like to know how the inside of the garment looks as well as the outside. I have to be sure it is comfortable and can be adjusted to other sizing's and then I source fabrics. Sometimes the fabric dictates the design and sometimes lovely designs are left unmade as I cannot find the fabric I want.
For me, sourcing fabrics is one of the most difficult parts of the process. Not only limited by the lack of fabric suppliers here in Scotland, I am also limited by the cost of fabrics. Because I am only buying small quantities of fabrics- most of my pieces are one offs or limited editions - I am unable to buy wholesale.
Does selling on Etsy work for you or do you sell your work in other ways?
Etsy is hard work!! You are one of the many hundreds of thousands of shops on there so it takes a lot of time to get noticed. You have to be patient and if you can, have other outlets to get your work out there, however a kind mention on the front page of Etsy can bring many sales from a customer base all around the world. Through Etsy, I have sold to the US, Australia, Greece, Finland, Denmark, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Poland, Switzerland . . . and many times to repeat customers.
Up until recently I just used Etsy to sell my work. I do have my own website but lack of time and money to promote the site has meant that it is not finished. I have avoided having my work in shops because of the large mark up that I believed would make my clothes far too expensive. However after selling a few pieces in a shop in Edinburgh over the summer with the price tag reflecting the shops 100% mark up, I have decided to give this a go. Also coincidentally, I have recently been contacted by two architects who have opened up their own shops- one in London and one in Bergamo . . . I have already shipped my second order to Italy!
What is your main inspiration?
A desire to create something different, to express an idea, a look, a feeling.
Do you employ anyone?
No. I do everything from the pattern drafting, to the cutting, sewing, ironing, photography, emailing, packaging, posting, promoting, blogging . . .
What do you find are the drawbacks of being self employed?
It is difficult to switch off - especially since I work from home.
What are the positives of being self employed?
If you like to work really hard and care about what you are doing, then the positives are too many to mention.
What are your ambitions for the future?
Right now, I don't know how to answer this as I am enjoying what I do right now, and my 'to do' list for this week is keeping me pretty much focused on just getting through this week. However seeing some of my clothes hanging in the windows of some more stylish boutiques in beautiful places around the world is quite ambitious!
. . . and anything you think would be relevant to a budding fashion designer?
The fashion industry is huge - know your subject. If I could have answered the phones or made the coffee in a big fashion house just to get a glimpse of what goes on - I would have! Fashion design is only one part of a much bigger and equally creative and inspiring process.
Many thanks Lois for taking the time to answer these questions. I hope your business goes from strength to strength and continues to bring you and your clients much joy.