Sunday, 31 January 2010

Hiccups and Haberdasheries

How can you be prepared for the unexpected...?

There are only so many scenarios you can prepare for with things going wrong. Backing up your options is of course key and that came fully into play this weekend when things went a little bit Pete Tong in the CHARLOTTE TAYLOR camp.

Unfortunately I was let down by one of my team (basically promising things and not delivering, putting me slightly behind an already stretched schedule). Although I was initially annoyed, the overriding emotion is that of disappointment. I think because I am still so early on in the development of the business, everything feels so incredibly personal.

Of course it is not personal and have now told myself to get over it and get on with it.

Fortunately I was with my pop at this time who over analyzes things to the ridiculous extreme, it made the whole event feel very unimportant.

We had a giggle anyway as we made our way into town. He to the phone shop on strict orders from the 'boss' (mum), for the 4th time that week to fix her hands free kit and I to my saving grace (thank the lord it's here) shop, Hellersleas. The haberdashery.

Although their stock mainly consists of last years' Bestival themed fabric selection (50% off) and next years themed fabric (prime spot in the window), they have quite a few essential sewing bits and bobs to bail me out when orders don't arrive etc...

So i'm guessing the lesson in my weekend has been. Always be prepared. Suppliers, manufacturers and colleagues can let you down. No one is as in to the CHARLOTTE TAYLOR brand at this moment in time as I am. Understand that Charlotte and always have a back-up plan.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Teapots and Cakestands: an island adventure

As the planet prepares to be taken over by Alice in Wonderland I host my own warped tea party on the and pets welcome

I began this morning running, driving, being blown over by island gusts and eventually made it back to the sewing machine about 11am with a new helper, Emma in tow. Crazy, fun times. Emma is hopefully going to be working with me once a week or so and have suggested she write a piece for the blog everytime she does, being a Fashion Journalism student and watch this space.

This afternoon I was greeted by 2 of my very excitable, tail wagging, charity shop loving friends fully loaded with Isle of Wight porcelain memorabilia...aka 2nd hand granny tea sets. These are intended to be used at the exhibition so that tea is on hand at all times for those who want..

The studio later on turned into a hair salon as my pal came over to cut our hair. Lovely.
At CHARLOTTE TAYLOR you get hair cuts. No pay cheque. Haircuts.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

One stop sweat shop

Stamp licking, cold calling, home-made soup, 10 cups of tea and The XX

I may not pay the minimum wage likening myself to the foreign sweat shops...HOWEVER unlike many establishments CHARLOTTE TAYLOR helpers get:
-Fresh home-made chicken and barley soup (courtesy of pop) Yum with a capital Y.
-Limitless tea (new fave is green tea with pear...Divine)
-Warm, cozy working environment with eclectic selection of music (sometimes..)
-Sweets and chocolate (bribery = great)
-Animal magic (a cat and dog who both think they are human and seem to actually talk...maybe this is just me)

Invitations GO

Time to get all the invitations assembled and sent out. With a little help from my friends we:
-Compile the final list of buyers and press to invite
-Double check contacts are correct through the internet and calling shops/ magazines etc
-Design invite (I have a printed and an emailed version)
-Prepare package to send, including extras etc
-Stamp and post

As a large part of my invites are hand written I have spent a serious amount of time amongst heaps of paper with pen in hand. I am not one to write to people signing my own name but getting someone else to actually write it... At this stage I think the more personal the better.

Hence I have what feels like tennis elbow as a result and am also seeing double...good job i'm not sewing this evening then...

A MASSIVE thank-you to everyone who has helped me. I LOVE you.

BTW I did not make my friend sit on the floor, she is quote "a floor person"...Good. That's settled then..

Monday, 25 January 2010


I take a break away from the sewing machine to watch a close mate get naked on stage

Did I return to the island and said sewing machine refreshed? NO
Was the evening a pleasant, comfortable one? NO
Did I have to pay a friend to accompany me to see over 100 naked women gyrate for 2 hours 40 minutes ? YES
Was my 12 hour trip to the smoke to see a previously body conscious mate swinging her birthday suit clad booty to the sound of the Clash, high kicks and all completely worth it. ABSOLUTELY

There's nothing like a good cup of tea, a large bag of pic-and-mix and a synchronized naked bottom shaking routine to eradicate the worries of launching ones own business, even if it is just for an evening.

Friday night saw me making my way last minute up to London to see my girlfriends. Having been stuck on the island for way to long and used up most of my conversation on my parents I decided to get civilized, put on some clothes that weren't tracksuit bottoms and hit the theatre.

"Trilogy" at the Barbican to be precise.

A show centered around Feminist issues and body dissatisfaction it wasn't your average Friday night out with the gals, but not one I shall forget lightly either and one that put a bit of perspective into my everyday life. (Don't fret I will NOT be joining in the naked revolution. Clothes = ON....Brrrrrrr where's my Penguin hot water bottle...?)

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Question Time....

Who am I...?

A few fellow bloggers ask me some questions about what i'm up to, my aspirations, life etc. If you're interested (i'm sure you're not) then click on the links below...


Sugar and Spice and all things nice

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Just in case you needed any more persuading...

My Muse


Move over Amanda Harlech, there's a new gal in town...

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

OAP Yoga and Stair Diving

An average Monday in the fair Isle

So I start the day off badly. Rushing out of my room, dog at my heels hyperventilating with excitement as we're going for our early morning 'walkies' I take the wooden stairs down to the main landing with unprecedented speed. Error. As my sock clad feet were taken from under me I thought mid-air, "Damn it. How can I sew with broken arms and legs?". Fortunately the hypochondriac in me was out in full force and although the landing was unpleasant, hitting head, shoulders and buttocks simultaneously I survived. Phew. Only to be greeted at the stair base by an even more excited dog, who thinking we were now playing a game took full advantage of my situation (tangled in a heap on the floor) and planted a huge sloppy lick bang on the lips...ergh. Typical man.


Anyway. Our walk was chaos free (apart from me walking like John Wayne - same thing must have happened when I was a bab; I look like i'm about to draw my pistols from their holsters in this photo) and we made it back in one piece just in time to collect my parents from the ferry.

They were arriving back form their annual South Africa trip and their respective tans would have forced me to turn around and walk away if I wasn't so god damn happy to see them... 3 weeks on your own with only the dog to talk to is a long's time to start rebuilding the 'normal' genes.

Mum: "Don't forget darling that we are all going to yoga at the sailing club tonight, 6pm start so make sure you're ready"

Money could not buy this. Picture the scene:
Bembridge Sailing club (the epitome of high class society on the Island). 7 OAP's and me.
- Mum = The human equivalent of Elastigirl from the Incredibles. She organized the evening and provides an exemplary standard of flexibility and poise at all times. Git. She turns up with perfectly rolled yoga mat in tow and matching ensemble.
- Dad = 73 yrs old. 6ft3. Overweight. Stiff as a board. Gardening tracksuit bottoms and Tescos' tee. Towel instead of Yoga mat. He proceeds to grunt and groan for the duration, losing balance or crying out in pain on a regular basis.
- Their mates - arriving with a mixture of picnic rugs, festival mats and jumpers. One actually had an 80's shell suit on. Amazing.

We start with breathing exercises and it's clear from the off-set that one of the participants is not happy. She stands in protest as she says she's here for the Yoga not the 'Mumbo Jumbo nonsense'. She doesn't want to do the nodding (neck stretching), or pretty much anything else....mum called it distracting. I called it rude.

In between the shell-suits, picnic rugs, "for god's sakes'", grunts, groans and collapses on the floor the Taylor family found the evening a huge success. Mum showed us all again how unbelievable she is for her age, virtually doing the splits. Dad gave his joints a well needed oil and I managed to take an hour away form the sewing machine and really relax. So important and so worth it.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

What is the key to Pr...?

GETTING A HOOK - What is interesting about your brand and what you are doing?

1. How to write and send a press release

- Make sure the first paragraph grabs you straight away
- What makes you unique
- Key details (Price, stockist, materials)
- Concise and to the point, cut out the fluff, give them the facts and the journalist will add the spice.
- Send it in the body of an email, so easy to read.
- Send any images in the body of an email
- Keep the email under 2MG

2. How to target journalists and publications relevant to your target customer

- Focus on what the publication is showing or likely to show
- How can you relate your brand to it? e.g Alice in Wonderland is coming out soon, publications are gearing up to do stories around the film. Can your clothes be incorporated in this story?
- Create lists of publications and journalists
- Target journalists who are at a relative position in the company as you are. i.e as they grow within the publication they will take you with them.
- If you have a big story try to get exclusivity from your number one publication.
- Know what your lead- times. Monthly magazines = 3 month lead-time. Weekly newspaper = 1 month. e. Vogue are currently working on their April issue.

3. Appointing PR agencies

- Make sure you have your business in line first (so you have the funds etc to pay)
- Do your research about the agencies (What have they done in the fashion business? Do they deal with brand similar to yours?)
- Meet with the PR agent. You need to get on with them as they will effectively be another member of your team.
- A lot of people with approach you for free PR in order to break into the Fashion industry / sector. Do not discount these but be weary as they might not have the contacts you need. Expect everything from them as you would from an agent who you paid, they are doing it for a reason.
- Most PR agencies work on a monthly retainer. (What you pay them/ month. £200 - £1000/ month) Make sure you know what's included when you sign (i.e monthly report, are couriers, expenses, press days included? )

4. Celebrity endorsement

- As soon as something is worn by a celebrity email it around attaching quotes and images

5. Advice on sample send-outs

- When sending out clothing for photo shoots make sure you know who you are sending it to. There are people who try to con you to get free clothes etc. If you are un-sure ask for a commissioning letter, which should be on headed paper and thoroughly check the details.
- Label each item of clothing with contact and all the details.
- Take a photograph of it before it leaves to keep tabs on its condition. If it comes back damaged you can invoice them for it but be weary as to keep important journalists on side.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Vauxhall Fashion Scout - The one that got away

Reinforcements take my place at salon number 3 as I remain stranded on the island in a fortress of snow

Down to no lack of effort Wednesday morning resulted in a very frustrated Charlotte being stuck on a very cold Island when she should have been in London at Vauxhall Fashion Scouts' Pr Salon.

This resulted in an SOS to my brother and my best mate who dropped their plans and headed straight to the venue. Little legends. I am assured that they were suitably inappropriately dressed (brother in a full city boy suit and mate in a bright red and seriously shabby fleece that she sometimes sleeps in...smooth) to the extent that the place was completely packed apart from the seat situated next to my brother....

The speakers were:

Jessica is the Fashion Features Editor for and is responsible for the writing and breaking daily news stories, designer interviews and Vogue Loves pages. She covers and features the shows during Fashion Week and is always on the look out for new designers.

Nell is an Account Manger for creative Public Relations agency, Blow PR. Blow represents emerging talents Aminaka Wilmont, Bora Aksu, Spikjers en Spijkers, Gemma Slack, Komakino, Manjit Deu and many more. Blow PR is also publishes the Off-Schedule Guide during London Fashion Week.

The main topics covered were:

- How to write a press release
- How to target journalists and publications relevant to your target customer
- Hints and tips for grabbing attention
- How to sell your brand image
- Generating the right PR for your brand
- Appointing PR agencies
- Celebrity endorsement
- Advice on sample send-outs
- Publication lead-times

I will elaborate tomorrow on each topic. Too much info to absorb in one sitting!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Master plan master class

A million lists and plans could not prepare me for carnage of the next month

I will soon be turning into my own inspiration if I carry on collecting grey hairs at this rate...(and maybe walking around with stuffed birds on my head too...actually I do that already)

Today epitomizes the everyday multi-tasking that goes into setting up a business. Here is my list for today and yesterday. This expands into daily, weekly and monthly lists and plans and still I feel confused...

- Chase up printed fabric (Done - It arrives tomorrow. Excited!)
- Chase up extra zips (Done - They arrive tomorrow)
- Register Trademark (Done)
- Email VFS with contracts and questions about the exhibition (Done)
- Advertise for work experience on blog (Done - and thank-you very much to all those who emailed me. I will get back to you shortly. Promise)
- Invitations to the show. Design and get quotes from printers. (Quotes Done, design almost)
- Design and order clothes labels (Done. They take 7-10 days for samples then a further 7-10 days for completion. I am paying £145 for 500 labels)
- Sort out photo shoot for look book. Organise a team, concept and time-scale. (Half way there)

Most of this was done yesterday as I was due to go up to London today to pick up some fabric that could not get delivered because of the snow and also to attend a VFS Salon on PR.

Unfortunately after 3hours at Portsmouth Harbour Train station this morning waiting for a train I turned back and called up my close friends to dish out some serious delegation.

My bro and best mate happily stepped in and attended the Salon for me. They have recorded the whole thing so I will be able to share their notes with you too. BIG thanks to those guys. I owe ya.

So back on the Island I round up some buddies (first people I have seen in 10 days...I chew their ears off with mundane chat) to drive me in a van to collect an overlocker which I am renting for 5 weeks for £50. Jeez they're heavy but jeez they're great.

I finish up the day writing a couple of emails and then back in the studio to finish sewing a garment.

Phew. Is it bed time yet...?

Monday, 11 January 2010

Roll-Up, Roll-Up

To those out there who have a good sense of humor, love Penguins, Grannies and tea and fancy helping me out over the next month or so...?

OK so this is what I'm looking for:

18th - 24th Jan

Fashion Sales and / or Pr assistant
- Experience in one or the other would be preferable
- If you can use photoshop and / or illustrator that would be great too.

1st - 18th Feb

General Fashion Design/ Marketing/ Sales/ Pr Assistants
- This could be for the whole time, a week, 2 days....

Photoshoot (Weekend of the 13th and 14th February)
- Model
- Make-up artist
- Hair

Vauxhall Fashion Scout Exhibition (20th Feb - 23rd Feb)
- General assistants
- Models for Sales campaign

All work is un-paid but expenses will be covered and food and fun provided for free!
Please bear in mind that all positions are based on the Isle of Wight apart from the Photoshoot and Exhibition, which are in London. Accommodation will be provided on the Island but not in London.

Please email me at if you are interested.

Look forward to hearing from you! xx

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Pick of the best

Some of the best Granny pics and Penguin links that have been sent in to me...LOVE


A great article from fellow Granny lovers

Random pictures sent on from readers

Edinburgh Zoo LIVE Penguin cam = GENIUS

Friday, 8 January 2010

Topshop believes....

Another great article on the Topshop blog

Thank-you so much for the support Topshop!
LOVE xxx

Fancy Fashion Foot Forward

Confirmation from Vauxhall Fashion Scout

I have officially been selected to show my collection through their exhibition in London Fashion Week! your friends!!!

Image from:

The exhibition runs from 20th-23rd February 2010 and will be set in the grand surroundings of the Freemasons' Hall.

To take part in the exhibition it costs each label £1200 + vat

The fee for the exhibition includes:
-Venue costs
-Individual space of 4 sq metres
-1 x 6 foot rail, 1 x 3-4 foot rail
-1 x plinth
-1 x stool
-Vinyl signage of designer/ label name
-Lighting system
-Sales manager and staff
-Event co-ordination and management
-Listing in Vauxhall Fashion Scout brochure
-Marketing and promotion to leading buyers and media

So all very exciting and VERY real. It's a huge reality check for me at this point. The stage i'm in at the moment is the easy part; stage two is actually selling the collection and that's no walk in the park. People have told me not to be disappointed if I don't sell in the first season (most labels don't apparently). Scary. However with my designing flair and Mr Mentorvator Brian on board we have a killer combo.
London Fashion Week LOOK OUT!

If you would like to come to the exhibition then please email me at:
Please state where you're from and whether you would like to organise a private meeting to discuss the collection in more detail.
I will put further information on here nearer the time.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Many hands make light work...

A couple of great girls lend a helping hand in building the Empire

Philipa and Hattie both came over from Bournemouth Art College for two days just before Christmas to help me out. Awesome.

Philipa specializes in Fashion Design and helped me with sampling and fabric sourcing. Philipa was very grounded with a great work ethic. I asked her to write a paragraph about her experience with me (underneath).

"Well it's not the average work experience placement' we joked as we sat in the living room watching some telly with Itsy the cat perched on my lap! It was an enjoyable couple of days in Charlotte's cozy studio, with chocolate eclairs on hand to keep us going! We worked on a couple of sample garments, cutting and sewing, and I also did a bit of fabric swatch sourcing on the internet. Names of nice, helpful fabric retailers noted! It was really good to have a peek inside the beginnings of Charlotte Taylor Ltd. I'm really excited by the ideas and quirky inspirations for the collection, I can't wait to see it in all its glory in just a number of weeks' time!"

Hattie specializes more in graphics and helped me more with marketing ideas - printed matter, research etc. She was great, very proactive and keen.

Hattie said that she "Loved seeing all these things i had been reading about on your blog in the flesh. It was a great experience for me and I learnt so much so thanks for your patience and answering all my questions; giving me an insight into yourself and the industry. Your studio is lovely and was such a pleasure spending the couple of days there along with your impressive collection of Tea and generous amount of sweets!"

MASSIVE thank-you to you guys. You were both great!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

It's the final countdown....

As the new year raises its head, London fashion week draws ever nearer and I turn into a house bound hermit, who even the dog thinks is a little weird...

So it's roughly 6 1/2 weeks until LFW and the launch of my first collection. Not long to go. It looks like I will be showing with Vauxhall Fashion Scout through an exhibition as opposed to a show (which is still great so thanks for all the support!). This has yet to be confirmed though so I will let you know the details when I do.

To-Do list for final countdown

- I am of course mainly focusing on finishing the collection at the moment and 3 items per week is my goal.
- Remain sane and keep organised...

- Sales strategy. How to get sales once the collection is finished.
- Pr strategy. How to get the maximum amount of Pr surrounding the build up to the launch, during it and after.
- Business aspects - Registering Trademarks, terms and conditions, forms for sales campaign, costings of garments, lead-time calculations etc
- Marketing strategy.
- Chasing up the last of the trimmings and contrast fabrics.

- Keep fit and make sure I get outdoors everyday.

Tonight it snowed on the Isle of Wight.
It NEVER snows here.
I am RIDICULOUSLY excited...weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Monday, 4 January 2010

Audience Participation

An Ode to Anna - who has voluntarily papped grannies and showered me with penguin memorabilia over the last few months...a true friend and an unwavering supporter.

18/12/09 - Sent via text "Just been doing some granny stalking for you..."

28/12/09 - Hand delivered birthday card...all together now...ahhhhhhhhh

28/12/09 - Hand delivered birthday presents. Penguin hot water bottle for chilly nights on the island and Penguin book for night time reading.

31/12/09 - Hand delivered post card of disheveled granny.

01/01/10 - Meet Anna (I think she might squirt me with her pepper spray for this..) on her first day at school in our fetching uniform (minus boater)...I absolutely ADORE this photo and the girl in it. I think she had just about grown into the jumper and blazer by the time we left school 7 years later.

There has been an overwhelming response to the story behind the collection. Penguins and Grannies seem to hold a special place in many peoples' hearts. So if you see a Granny or a Penguin, take a snap and email me, I would love to see! xx

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Pink Diamante encrusted mice and 3D Glasses

Christmas - how my ambitions in setting up my own label have affected my view and realization of yuletide festivities..

Most Christmas's for our family are spent in Cape Town with relatives. However due to the imminent launch of the label this was never going to be a possibility. The carnage was therefore brought to the Isle of Wight so little old me could work in between gatherings, a decision which I feel my brother may struggle to forgive. If only he wore girl clothes then I could bribe hang on a mo...?

Present appreciation society
As setting up a business costs an arm and a leg all present requests to Santa this year primarily revolved around anything that could be used within the label to cut my costs. Computer aids, drawing equipment, fabric etc... My favorite was a pink diamante encrusted mouse for my computer (photographed here with my 3D glasses from Avatar....awesome, if only to watch 200 people sat in the dark in sunglasses). It changes colour from pink to blue and is probably one of the most grotesque yet wonderful things I have ever seen.

I have more recently begun finding myself looking at products with a new perspective. What sells, who is the buyer, are they cornering a niche market and if so how...?
Marc Jacobs I feel is the perfect example of a designer who is making his product accessible to a huge percentage of the market, primarily through spin off lines and products. From Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton to Marc by Marc by Marc by Marc by Marc by Marc etc..
Spin off products is definitely something I want to get into and am constantly thinking of new ideas. Christmas is a great time to look out for quirky new products hitting our shelves.

I find ideas from all over the place. I have begun to develop a bit of a thing for spooky figurine type things. The one above is a favorite who belonged to my Grandpa. His eyes and mouth move, it's so weird and a little scary but I love him. I consider him my modern day Gargoyle when i'm alone in the house.

This has also progressed onto a "thang" for robots. This started when one Valentines day I couldn't figure out what to get my current boyfriend, who was a teacher at the time. I'm not really a fan of the day and have always refused to buy Chocolates etc so popped into the local shop and decided that a pencil sharpener in the shape of a robot would be!?! I even cut out a little photo of myself and stuck it on said robot to add to the romance...good one. The relationship surprisingly didn't last but my love of robots did.

I also love Cosplay (photo above) - an activity in which competitors dress as their favourite anime or manga characters and enact favourite scenes.

Check out these little Salt and Pepper robots too. Amazing.

All I can say is that if I can bring another individual as much joy from my products as I get from my Pink Diamante encrusted mouse every time I look at it I will be a happy girl.