Saturday, 22 October 2016

The Plan...

I know I have yet to post the Spring/Summer 2017 report but I'm working on it. I was going to wait until after I had finished the report to post this life update but I just couldn't hold it in anymore!!!

As you will be aware, if you read my blog or have me on social media, in August I quit my job. Although I have always been quite a spontaneous(borderline flighty) person I would never have considered leaving one job without having a replacement, my need for financial security is something I generally seem to prioritise above my actual happiness. With a 3 month notice period and several job applications still being processed I had assumed that by the end of my notice I would have been offered one of the jobs and would not have to go with my back up 3 months is up and now I am, quite literally, thanking God for my back up plan as I still have no job.....but I have come to the conclusion that it's okay to not have a complete plan...

I am the kind of person who finds it very hard to ignore my gut instincts, call it intuition, call it divine intervention, call it what you what, when I feel something strongly I find it hard to ignore it and that is exactly why I had to quit. I have been aware for several years that I want to work for myself and set up my own business, maybe one day own a shop and sell my own creations....but "the timing hasn't been right"or "I don't have enough savings" or "I don't know where to make a start" It has very much been a pipe dream that I have found excuses not to get started.....a non committal vision of the future I guess. I have often caught myself saying things like "if I had my own business I'd do this'' and "if it was up to me I'd design/sell this" and "everything would be different if i was a freelancer/more in charge of my life" so I'm calling my own bluff..... I don't think it's ever going to be the right time to try and start up your own business and I don't think you ever feel like you have enough finances to get going, but I would rather try it out now when I have little to risk(no savings/relationship/family obligations)than spend the rest of my life wondering 'what if'. Although I know very little about the economy I have a niggling feeling that Brexit might turn out to be a positive thing for small businesses, so I'm gonna give it a go and  if it goes wrong fewer people will notice because they will be preoccupied with our impending global recession.

I pride myself in being very honest in my blogging and in that spirit I will quite openly tell you all that I am petrified!!!This new plan(which I will tell you bout in a moment) scares me more than moving to Germany or Brussels ever did. I have responded to this fear by being in complete denial about moving...but now I only have 10 days to pack up, arrange a relocation and get my brain to process whats happening. I think one of the things I'm finding most difficult to cope with is the sacrifice I'm making of leaving my lovely apartment in the centre of Brussels in the middle of Europe to move back in with my parents in a single bedroom in Heysham, a tiny village in the North West of England which very few people know exist. I am so SO fortunate to even have this as an option and I can't thank my parents enough for letting me move back in, but when I'm assessing things I find it quite difficult to see the positive side. The last time I lived at home I had just left university, couldn't find a design job, was working night shifts in a textiles factory and as a result was suffering from I'm giving up a financially secure design position abroad to go back home WHAT MADNESS IS THIS!

Brussels to Heysham- a move I never thought I would be making!

On the plus side I had a successful interview a few months ago for a freelance job at a Print design studio in London and I think I have also found myself a nice, fairly inexpensive, little studio at the Storey institute in Lancaster ( a beautiful old Victorian building which was built in 1898. I have also been putting out feelers for a part time bar job in my hometown so, hopefully, I will be able to work on my freelance designs in my new studio while doing shifts in a bar to make some extra cash.

Lancaster, studio space, art studio, freelance designer, print designer, lancaster artists
The Storey Institute, Lancaster- where my new studio is located. Here are photos taken from their website of the building, gallery spaces and studio space.

So that's where I'm at with the move but this post was meant to be for me sharing my  new plan with you. It's a bit of a whacky one which involves two parts....

Part one- in January I will be going to Ghana for a 6 weeks volunteering program working with local women to set up ethical fashion businesses.

The volunteering project will be split with me spending 4 weeks doing textile design and 2 weeks doing jewellery making. For the textiles section I will be helping to design new batik stamps, creating new dye colour combinations and introducing local designers to new textile design techniques and for the jewellery making part of the projects I will be learning how to make glass beads, developing new bead design options and designing new jewellery products. I am SO excited!

global mamas, volunteer project, textiles volunteer, jewellery making, fairtrade products, fairtrade business, ethical fashion, ghana
Global mamas current range of stock available at: . These are some of the products I want to stock in the 2nd part of my plan(scroll down for more info).

What I love about this opportunity is that it is beneficial for both sides, I will gain as much knowledge from this as I am passing on. One thing i have really struggled with when working in commercial fashion is the absence of creativity and the lack of connection we have to the clothes we are producing. So often I have been told by a buyer/manager to copy a bought sample as closely as I can legally get away with, NB to any buyers that might read this blog post- this is a surefire way to crush the soul of a graphic/print designer. Everything is mass produced. everything is copied. there is no creativity. biblical quotes are rarely used alongside fashion but I feel like in Ecclesiastes(1 vs 9) Solomon perfectly summarises commercial fashion;

"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."

Oh the truth in that!Mechanical printing methods, new technology and quality control checks, although amazingly beneficial have removed human error from the design process and along with it we have lost all of the accidental quirks and happy mistakes that make unique items. Instead we have uniformity, creativity's adversary. I'm really hoping that Ghana will give me the opportunity to connect with the creative process again and remind me why I chose to work in fashion and textiles.

So that is the first plan.....which ties into the second even crazier part of my plan....

Part 2

LDV convoy, minibus conversion, camper conversion
My new van, yet to be bought but this is the make I'm going for!

I will be buying one of these LDV convoy minibuses(hopefully for under £1000) and converting it into a mobile hand....pause for dramatic effect. The thought process behind this idea was pretty simple- I want a store...I can't afford a can I have a cheap store without having to choose one location to base it in and without paying rent.....AHA- a store in a van! It will be like a food truck for clothes, accessories and artwork. It will need to have:

- A high roof so that people can comfortably stand inside, including people taller than me(which is the majority of people)
- A studio area for me to do work in
- A concealed sleeping compartment for me to sleep in when driving to places
- A changing room area for when I stock clothing
- A strong battery/power system so that I'm not dependant on a hook up, perhaps solr powered?
- It also needs to be light enough for people to feel comfortable inside, I don't want it to feel like a van.

The 'fashion truck' idea is actually something that has become increasingly popular in the US recently with over 500 mobile boutiques in 50 states. So why not bring it over to the UK, maybe there's a reason people don't do it in the UK but I'm going to try it and find out the difficult way.

Fashion truck, shop conversion, mobile shop, clothes truck, van conversion, conversion project, pop up shop
Existing mobile fashion boutiques in the US. The bottom right photo is more the type of decor I want to go for.

I know it sounds a little bit mental but I have this idea that I can fill my mobile boutique with a range of products combining my own designs with products I source in Ghana(scroll up) and sell them to the public as a fairtrade/independent design company. Hopefully while I am in Ghana I can make some business partnerships with the local women and work with them to create products that I can sell in my van. In this dream scenario I will drive my van to local craft fairs/art fairs and festivals and sell my wares.... a little bit like a gypsy tradeswoman.

product range, fairtrade products, business plan, printed clothing, printed homeware, business start up, creative startup
These are the type of products I want to sell, some are more high end so would be more expensive and more for online customers. Product list: Silk scarves, printed clutch bags, simple printed garments, painted/printed anoraks, patterned phone cases, framed illustrations, printed notebooks and stationary, fairtrade jewellery, handmade rag rugs, hand knitted chunky blankets, embroidered cushions sourced overseas, painted homeware, printed cushions. I have yet to find anywhere to manufacture all of these things so if you are a manufacturer reading this please contact me.

At the moment this plan seems fairly doable, I think this is mainly because I have been spending my time watching a helluvalot of 'George Clarke's amazing spaces', 'Grand designs', and 'Tiny house movement' videos and they just make van conversions look so easy. I have, of course, been avoiding thinking about the actual conversion side of things but have the interior of my van completely planned out....I thought I'd share a little personal moodboard I made so that you can see I'm actually being serious about this...nothing says serious like a photographic moodboard right ;)

decor ideas, shabby chic, whitewashed, white wood, white bedroom, scandinavian bedroom, clean white
My Brussels apartment is beautiful and wooden and whitewashed and I want to use this as the decor inspiration for my mobile boutique. I want it to have a clean but comfortable aesthetic, with old whitewashed wood and a cosy, homely feel. All of these images have been sourced on pinterest.
van conversion, store decor, decor ideas, scaffolding shelves, ladder hanger
This moodboard gives a bit more detail into my decor ideas all photos are once again sourced on pinterest. I want to use old wooden pallets to clad the van interior and use antique mirrors to get a shabby chic aesthetic. I will use white washed driftwood and old wooden ladders to hang products from and will paint parts of these with bright patterns(bottom right) to separate different collections. The homeware and framed illustrations will be displayed on shelves made from old scaffolding boards which I will get from my dad- I quite like the idea of having something in my van to link back to my parents because they've been so supportive of my crazy plan!

To demonstrate my committment to this project I have started a business plan sketchbook, obviously I know that no-one presents a business plan in a sketchbook, this is more for me to iron out my thoughts and decide how to get started but here are a few snapshots from it of my ideas and brand development etc...

My oh-so-professional business plan sketchbook. I thought it would be a good idea to keep track of my business planning and brand development.
So all I need now is an LDV convoy minibus...a small business loan/grant....some magical power tools......a large amount of free wooden pallets and a few tins of white paint hahaha. On a more serious note if anyone knows of a small brand/sole trader that has done something similar please let me know because I need all of the advice I can get. Similarly if anyone has any advice on how to go about getting small business loans without using a bank please comment with your details! I am considering trying to set up a crowdfund to see if anyone wants to donate to this venture, whether it be for the van or the Ghana trip so help/advice on this would also be great!Also if you are  manufacturer reading this and supply any of the products on my moodboards please don't hesitate to contact me!

Now you're all up to date on my plan for the next year or so it would be nice to know what you all think or if you have any advice. Obviously if you think its an awful idea that is doomed to fail I'd rather you didn't tell me haha! Ciao for now(I promise to have the Spring/Summer 2017 runway report up in the next week!!!) x

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