Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Subject: Stuffed Animals

Just because it's Christmas and everyone loves a good office party story....

I was forwarded this message this morning from a distressed boss to her workforce:

The venue from Friday night (who have been VERY understanding considering the mess and devastation we caused) have emailed me this morning to say 3 of their stuffed animals have disappeared.

If you know anything about these please let me know – if you took one RETURN it to me immediately or if you moved one and can help us find them please say.

If we do not return / help them locate the items, they will charge us for replacements.

Thanks for your help.


Apparently no one could help...

According to reliable sources the stuffed animals have actually been on a their holidays...

We have also been informed that the said stuffed ferrets are now on their way 1st Class (couriered in box) back home (to weird event venue that keeps stuffed animals...?!?!) along with framed printouts of the above photos from their holidays (time spent on culprits desk whilst culprit time wastes as a Snappy Snaps for Ferrets wannabe).

Arrrrrr...happy endings at Christmas.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Gangsters Paradise

Haberdashery visits in the 'hood'

So i'm up in London town again to get the final bits and bobs for the collection. This included a trip to the depths of the city to a haberdashery and lets just say I was glad to be wearing my Michelin style puffer on this occasion. As the sun sets I SOS a pal to give me exact directions to the shop, i'm flapping a bit having never been a fan of the youth gang culture that appears to be rife in this particular area, but eventually find the desired location. Phew.
Knock Knock.
"Ello darlin, come on up, 1st floor"
What a nice man. I instantly hit it off with "N" and it's banter central. As I have said before, most wholesalers are not over the moon about dealing with small companies, "N" however seems to be the exception. I have lucked out.
I pick my zips, fusing, press studs etc, some I take away with me, some get ordered. Done.

The meeting ends on an unusual note, one however I will remember.
"N" is very complementary, saying I seem like a lovely girl and that I must come from good stock. "Do I have a boyfriend...(No)...Do I want one...(hmmm)." He apparently knows of a rather fine young gentleman who he wants to introduce me to. A gentleman who has apparently been described as a mix between Leonardo Dicaprio and Tom Cruise. Not bad. He has a photo and proceeds to tell me that this gentleman is extra special because he is actually his son. Bless. My hopes however sink a little... with a dad this proud this kid could look like a hobbit and he would be blind to it.
Never the less I leave with the same amount of contacts in my phone as when I entered. Can't win them all.
Hood on, look mean Charlotte, now walk.

I always have my Ninja move after all, don't know how helpful it would be...? Probably more than my friends though...she should stay well clear of the 'hood' that's fo sho.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Do I have a problem...?

My weird obsession with Grannies...

So back in July I began my research. Friends would call up, asking what I was up to and where I was...."Oh. i'm Granny hunting today. I've just found some great ones on the pier, i'm really excited!"
My exclamation of joy at having found said grannies usually followed with an awkward pause then "Oh Charlotte, not again".
Why is it that I find Grannies so very inspiring? To the extent that I hop in my little car (regularly) to search the lovely Isle in hope of capturing that "special" moment...?

Maybe it's their inhibitions..? I love the way that old pieces from the past are combined with modern day versions. Things are quite often the wrong size or they just simply don't match and I love it. It fascinates me.

Trashy grannies has been a third of the fuel in my AW'10 inspiration fire this season. It will always however be backed up by the elderly population on a whole. The two clippings above and below are two of my favorites and found in the same paper on the same day. You can imagine my excitement..

It is an obsession I am trying to come to terms with and am considering help. I must say I do feel a little bit of an odd ball when I am hiding behind lamp posts, camera ready to try and get the optimum shot without being caught.
The Isle of Wight Paparazzi I guess...
Shush now.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Haberdash me up baby

Ordering in the final bits and bobs

So I have the majority of my fabrics, I unfortunately was not home to hug the delivery man but I am assured that my pop did a grand job.

The final preparations are ordering the extras. These include:
- Press Studs and buttons
- Zips
- Fusing/Interfacing
- Shoulder pads
- Thread
- Lining

Press Studs
I am using http://www.jagdberg-shop.de
They have a massive selection at a really good price and not huge minimums. Its about £20 for 100.

Zips and the rest
Lovely Mr Zip man put me in touch with two London wholesalers.
- London Trimmings
26/28 Cambridge Heath Rd, E1 5QH
- Europa Trimmings
13/15 Lever Street, EC1V 3QV

They are not mad keen on dealing with small companies but have been great to me so far. You can order via email if you know what you want or just pop into the shop Monday to Friday and pick out what you want. They are haberdasheries so sell all of the above. I will most probably get the majority of the list above at one of these as i'm not a fan of ordering on-line for such things. Bit too risky.


I have ordered some great, not expensive lining from Biddle Sawyer Silks in Manchester.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Vauxhall Fashion Scout Salon

The Salon part Deux

It's round two at Vauxhall Fashion Scout, a sales orientated evening with:

Eastern Block is a seasonal sales showroom dedicated to working with design labels on the up.

Mark has a huge amount of experience in selling designer fashion online

Unfortunately Dylan can't make it so Mark has our undivided attention for the eve. We are also entertained by a power cut affecting the whole block, leaving candles and Brians iPhone for guidance. It feels very Christmasy and there's a happy hum of merry voices chattering away in the darkness.

Mark starts off by giving us the low-down on what he does (he is the creative director of on-line fashion store www.coggles.com) and what they're about (womens and mens fashion, not couture, not high street. They also have an increasing budget for taking on young designers, about 45%).
The main topics that are then discussed are:
Q. How to make a product work online?
A. Get bloggers to discuss your product on their sites (many retailers pay bloggers to promote their product), also link your web pages/ blogs etc to your e-commerce site.
n.b Customers are spending more on-line now-a-days. Sites like ASOS have helped break the mold, rubbishing speculation about late deliveries, bad quality etc, reassuring customers in their potential purchases.
Q. How do we as young designers get retailers attention and get them to buy our product?
A. Be innovative. Don't just send an email and a swanky look-book, it'll go straight to the bottom of the pile. Personalize your application and be persistent.

Mark then goes on to answer questions from the floor. To sum up here is what he said:
- Don't run before you can walk. Try to sell to a few select retailers and build relationships with them
- Advise retailers of your RRP. It doesn't look great on you if they're all trying to undercut each other.
- Give your collection a theme, a story.

Mark finished by saying no matter what, if he didn't like a designer/ brand he would not work for them. So the last bit of advice was, be a charmer (at this point the whole room smiled and charged for Mark, with that 45% budget they're no surprise that each and every person was handing Mark business cards, look-books etc. Poor man should have been petrified but astonishingly, like Brian he was totally cool. I need to bottle that 'cool', I'd be a millionaire.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Vauxhall Fashion Scout...Judgement Day

It's 6.15am, my alarm bell starts a ringing...INCOMING. I bolt upright with the realization of what lays ahead in the Charlotte Taylor world today. It's the day I hand in my bid to show at Vauxhall Fashion Scout, AKA judgement day.

In a hop, skip and a jump i'm up in London town heaving my bag through streets and tube stations to VFS headquarters. I arrive at 11am, locate the office and knock.
"Come in".
Bag is unpacked, clothes placed on the rail and I get chatting to one of the directors, John. We talk about the label, Pr options, whether living on the Isle of Wight is a help or a hindrance etc... I flap around a bit when asked direct questions, my memory seems to vanish and I wonder if he asks me my name will I remember it...? The situation isn't helped by choice of attire. An over sized Michelin style puffer that is causing a slow but sure suffocation. My body temperature gage is creeping up to the "caution, dangerously hot, might explode indicator" with every question asked. Not smooth Taylor.

I ask questions about how many i'm up against (about 40) and when ill find out if i'm in or not (wouldn't say) and then pack up my bits and bobs, say my goodbyes and leave.

Coming out of the building I feel slightly flustered but happy. I have done all I possibly could have and it's now in their hands. I stop in the street, say a little prayer, do a big cheesy grin, then hop off down the road off to my next meeting.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

"So where abouts in Vauxhall is this 'Scout' thing anyway...?

"Actually Dad it's not called that because...oh never mind"

A manic five days of no sleep, food or human contact has culminated in:
- 5 x Garment bags: Containing my AW '08 collection, beautifully ironed and de-fluffed (thanks Stephanie!)
- 1 x AW '08 Portfolio
- 1 x Business, Marketing and Pr folder
- 1 x Sales folder
- 1 x AW '10 Concept and Design Folder

So i'm on the first ferry, then train up to London town, tubing it straight to VFS (not in Vauxhall BTW) to drop off the goods. We have been told to drop off between 10am and 6pm tomorrow and collect between the same times on Friday. We are not allowed to be present during judgement day (Thursday) so hopefully my pre-prepared package will speak volumes and do the talking for me.

Fingers, toes, legs and arms crossed!

Also I wanted to say thanks to everyone who emailed with their support for my little campaign, it meant so much and lets hope it works!

I am off to the Vauxhall Fashion Scout Salon round 2 tomorrow evening so will have some more juicy advice shortly so watch this space.

Right bed time...im looking forward to some more spreadsheet dreams...

Sunday, 6 December 2009

"Geek Chic"

No i'm afraid I haven't turned into Alexa Cheung...this weekend I have mostly been doing.... spreadsheets TADA!!

In eager anticipation for round two of VFS I have been geeking it up on the Isle this weekend, taking snippets of time out to calm down my irate father and his huffing and puffing during the X Factor semi-finals (Daniel going out tonight nearly sent him over the edge). Oh what a glamourous life I lead.

My preparations have included:
- Spreadsheets on everything imaginable
- Perfecting the business plan/ strategies
- Prepping my previous collection for the panel
- Compiling press books, marketing folders
The list goes on but I don't want to give it all away before I actually present. It is a competition after all!

Sometimes I need to put on my "COOL" glasses to remind myself that possibly one day I could be...oh come on you know you want some.

I am also going to introduce you to a few members of the team of people who are helping me build this multi-million pound empire!


Brenda is my main seamstress. On her CV she describes one of her skills:
"Working under pressure whilst maintaining a high degree of accuracy along with a sense of humour"
This for me describes her perfectly, apart from including how supportive she is towards me and my little venture. I feel really lucky to have found her as although I have not known her long, I know she's got my back.


Stephanie is the first intern to join the company. She is an aspiring pattern cutter and a hard worker and has been an integral part of the team so far.

There are more guys and gals that I will introduce along the way but that's it for now folks.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

You gotta fight..for your right

Dear readers I write today asking for your help...

I have been selected to go through to the next stage of Vauxhall Fashion Scout (Yay!) and I come to you to ask for a little help in getting the "Charlotte Taylor" label selected to show with this prestigious organization in February 2010.

I want to go fully prepared to stage two and would like to be able to demonstrate the remarkable interest and support I had received from you guys over the past few months.

The show of course is yet to be confirmed, but if you could write an email (charlotte@charlottetaylorltd.com) requesting to attend the potential event; therefore showing your interest in the brand, it would enable me to prove to the panel of judges that this label is in demand and people really want to see it out there strutting its stuff down the VFS catwalk!

Depending on the outcome I will of course try my hardest to make sure that everyone who emails is able to attend.

It would only take a minute of your time and would really help the label to progress to the next stage.

If you know of any other people who might be interested in attending please also pass on the link.

I thank you for your continued support in advance.

Your faithful designing Isle of Wight gal,

Charlotte x

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Anyone for a game of Sardines...?

Time to have a reshuffle as the 'Charlotte Taylor' team expands...

Jason Caine spoke at the last Vauxhall Fashion Scout Salon on interns and the integral part they play in any fashion business, especially a small up and coming one. Having interned myself I understand the mutual gain that both sides get from the arrangement. It is a tricky topic though and comes under fierce criticism when the issue of 'do we pay them, do we not?' is approached.

At the moment I have one intern who works with me two days a week. I pay her expenses and give her lunch which I feel is adequate considering she is (hopefully) learning from me. For sure as an intern you get the good jobs and the bad ones, but I guess this is all part of the learning curve.

From a business' perspective Jason could not emphasize enough the importance of delegation. I have found that setting up a clothes label is about 10% designing, the rest is organizing, marketing, Pr, sales, budget...the list goes on and it is vital to pass on some of the load.

Hence I am taking on helpers to lighten my work load, so I can concentrate on what i'm here for, designing the collection. (If any readers are interested in an internship then please email me and bear in mind that the studio is based on the Isle of Wight!)

I also have a friend who works in fashion pr who is in between jobs and coming to help me out for the whole of January. (You know who you are and I LOVE YOU!)

So to make room for the new team a reshuffle was in order.

All my vintage archive which once lived on the landing (as seen in previous photos) has been rudely wheeled into the bathroom to make way for desk space for my new fabulous team.

Because I am working on a budget my work space is tiny and I have to make the most of it whilst keeping it fresh and inspiring at the same time. Having worked in an office with no windows staring into a computer screen all day I am a big believer in making them as friendly, fun and habitable as possible (the windowless office got a miniature golf course made with fake grass samples, adorned with figurines holding paper clip golf clubs to add some flavour...)

I also play Westlife when it's raining and have already started on the Christmas tunage. No trendy fashion house I have ever worked in before has let me play Westlife. This is what is great about working for yourself. I can play whatever I want, whenever I want so there.

Drapers believe....

My first printed bit of Pr hits the shelves....

Although small, (It took my London flatmate James a seriously long time to find it (we don't get Drapers on the island)...maybe it had something to do with the article sharing a page with a bikini model James???) it is perfectly formed as far as i'm concerned and it's a start and a good one considering I haven't even shown the collection yet. Thankyou Drapers.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

A day in the life of...

Just because I seem to be flying around today, bouncing off walls and falling down stairs I thought i'd share with you a typical mad day

Whilst munching my breakfast I write myself a to do list. I LOVE lists. They're great as long as you don't lose them.

I check my emails.
- This morning I woke up to one of the most complimentary emails I am yet to receive about my blog. It was from a fellow designer (much more established than I) commenting on how useful he thought the blog would be to other designers and also helping me out with a few further links/ recommendations. I was overwhelmed at his kind words and thoughtful advice.
He mentioned to me this blog: http://www.businessoffashion.com/category/basics
and also a book called:
'The Fashion Designer's Survival Guide' (http://www.amazon.com/Fashion-Designer-Survival-Guide-Insiders/dp/0793198992).
So a massive thankyou from all of us!
- I also send off a few emails arranging meetings in London next week when I am up, forwarding to Brian to see if he can also attend.

I start making calls to:
- My accountant to arrange him sending me a parcel with all my company info in it.
- One of my fabric suppliers in Germany to pay for some goods. I find out I have to go into the bank to do this and it's a pain and costs me £15. The cheek!
- The fabric printing company to confirm my order and delivery date.
- Another fabric company to confirm the order and arrange payment.

I head into town
- To the bank
- I drop by Tescos (The Isle of Wight mecca... this place is enormous and it's filled by half the Island population at any one given time) to pick up some stationary for the studio. I feel like a woman on a organizing mission today and i'm gonna roll with it.

Organization GO

I try to keep on top of the business side of things, doing something everyday. Today I bought new files, including box files for fabrics and plastic tubs for patterns, fabrics etc.
Every time I find a contact in any field I log it and file it. Obvious I know but I find it helps me keep on top of things. I usually plan my day with:
Am - Emails then 'admin'
Lunch - Eat, crossword with Dad and emails
Pm - Designing and pattern cutting etc
Eve - Designing and blog

- Lunch
- Checked my emails
- Called a couple of interns who are coming to help me to arrange dates etc.

- I get in the studio designing. I'm excited and buzzing ready to go.
- Finish off the pattern for a skirt
- Work on the pattern for a waistcoat/ jacket which I pretty much finish and love love love!!

- Do some research on custom woven labels to go in the clothes. I have got 3 companies to send me samples in the post which should arrive within a couple of days.

- Dinner
- Assemble a desk (harder than you think)

- Sit down with the dog and write my blog.

- Put up a curtain
- Have a bath
- Go to bed

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Guten Morgen, avez vous un...?

Fabric ordering...testing out my non-existent German and French skills in a very dodgy Lancashire accent.

So after facing my indecisive demons head-on I finally decided on my fabric selection...happy sigh. But how much do I need, how long will they take to arrive, do I need a VAT number....argh questions?!?!?! Fortunately the answers are out there folks and my sponge head is ripe and ready for information overload. So here goes.

1. Plan.
On the recommendation of my fashion production pals I made this chart. The point of it is to gage how much fabric you are going to need. It was a great way for me to organize my thought process and map the collection in my mind.

2. Ordering fabrics.
So when I went to Paris to Premiere Vision I ordered samples from tons of fabric companies. Some of them sent them through, some didn't (Small designers are not a priority apparently). From these I select my choices and ring up to find out the scope. The questions that need to be asked are:
a) Do they do orders for small amounts?
Yes - What is the surcharge for ordering small amounts?
- If it is a stock item, will they always have more available? (As you will need to reorder for production).
- How long is delivery for sample orders?
- How long is delivery for production orders? (These vary).
- How do they want payment and when? (Most want it before shipment of your order I have found).
- Order fabric, usually via email. Follow them up religiously by phone and email. Ordering such small amounts seems to coincide with severe memory loss on their behalf, strange that?
Also they will sometimes ask for a VAT number (I don't have one as I am not yet VAT registered. You can do this but not usually done till you start earning over a certain amount).
No - Do they have anything else in stock that is similar? (i.e rolls that are left over from previous seasons).

3. Pay.
Has so far been via bank transfer or card payment over the phone.
n.b When paying directly into foreign accounts it can prove tricky. You have to go into a bank as they won't allow you to do it over the phone or online. They then charge you for the privilege. I paid £15 for the slowest transaction (about 4 working days). It was £40 for the fastest. It varies from bank to bank and I asked the bank staff what alternatives there are?
- You can set up a direct debit type account with the company. They will need to send you forms to fill in and sign etc (can be quite a lengthy process coming from abroad).
- Try different establishments, banks etc to see who has the best rates. I have been advised that the Post Office and Western Union are good ones.
- There MUST be other options so if you know of any please share and write below. It seems rather archaic for the noughties non....?

4. Make notes on prices, delivery times etc
- You will need to do this so you can work out the lead time on garments and when you need to get everything ordered by to make deadlines and to work out prices for the retailers you sell to.

n.b You will need to do this with everything from the cost of the label to the trimmings and zips etc..

5. Hug the Fed Ex man when he delivers.