Candice Wu talks to makers and designers at the Make It British Live event
Who are you, and what does your company do?
I’m Adam from Kalopsia Collective, in Edinburgh. We make primarily accessory bags and womenswear. We work mostly from a collection of standardized shirts that can be customised and adapted to the client’s needs, so it takes a lot out of the product development time and a lot of that confusion, especially for small clients or people who are adding to existing ranges. We do a lot of work with people who have one or two big signature pieces, and then we fill the rest of their range out with them to make the whole process a lot easier because it’s a nightmare half of the time. On the stand with us, we have BeFab BeCreative, who are our distributive printer who are based just up the road, so together, we can offer our products and printer fabrics as well. So, again, just making that whole conversation with manufacturers easier and more positive for designers and for the manufacturers.
When did the company start, and what was the inspiration?
We’ve existed as an organization since about 2012. We became a business in 2013. Essentially, we were trying to get products printed and then made, and we couldn’t find anywhere to do that. So, the more we looked the more we realized that there was a need for this, and I’m going to figure out a way to do it in a positive way that everyone makes enough money, everything gets sold and into the market. We decided, since no one has done it, then we’ll be the people to do that. It was that simple really, and then, it’s just been basically 5 years playing with the model and working out what we can do to make it all work out nicer. You know, it’s one of those things where a lot of people in the industry have that thing where its just a lot of frustrating conversations a lot of the time, a lot of stop/start, a lot of waste, and no one really wants that. It’s just how we get past that somehow has always been a challenge, so hopefully, fingers crossed, we have one of the solutions for that, at least in some ways.
You had mentioned that you collaborated with BeFab. What is the process and collaborative process like?
So BeFab has print facilities to do that. It’s all digital with all natural fibres, great linens and silks, and things like that, so many of our clients work with them. And, they can literally just walk into our office, that’s kind of how close we are. So, again, it keeps it kind of nice and close together and done in a quite positive way, and we have a nice link to them. As a client, you’re not having to get fabric printed and then get it back to you and then check it and send it off to them. So, BeFab, they often have a sample of their client’s print. They have that set up with the client, and they just check the print up against that, which are the same. It gets sent straight to us. It gets made up and then sent on, so you get to deal with only just one point of contact in that whole process. As a client, you receive finished products, which is much better especially with the apparel and the new side of what we’re doing. Originally, it was just the bags, and that’s been really interesting – how you can take something so complicated and kind of simplify that process. It’s been really successful so far, and we’re just looking at how we can improve that. The range we have at the moment has faux zips or fastenings and things like that, again, just to make the conversation easier. But, the question now is how do we do that with a more complicated design, which is interesting because there a few things planned for later that will have that and a few accessories as well. Some pretty cool little details that, hopefully, will work! We’ve got the base understanding of how we can do this now, so now we can start to do things that are a bit more complicated. Exciting.
How did you and your partner get into fashion?
It’s a bit of a weird journey for me. I met Nina, who’s my business partner, in University, and Nina’s a trained tailor. So, she had the technical knowledge, and I was a printmaker. So, really, its almost like I’m one of our clients, in a sense, one of our original clients, and we’ve kind of grown much bigger now. But, it was a really interesting thing. Nina had the skills to make the stuff, and I kind of knew what people had wanted. Together, we could kind of figure out how do you articulate what you know into a service that someone like me would understand. We often find that a lot of independent printmakers and fashion designers don’t always have that technical knowledge, so those conversations are very difficult because the manufacturers are saying one thing and what the designers are saying and thinking are different. It’s how you bridge that gap in a way and take away the frustration and miscommunication, like having to resample things just because what’s being conveyed isn’t being produced. That’s kind of how we got into it. It’s like they’re speaking about the same thing in two languages. We find that that’s always the big tension point between manufacturers and designers. Anything we can do to make that easier makes everyone happy because no one wants to spend those days and weeks of going back and forwards. It’s really a matter of just talking. Even having base products, we found, has helped. We thought it might alienate some of the bigger companies that are used to having complete bespoke stuff made for them, but it’s actually the opposite. It gives us something to talk about. If they’re looking for makeup bags, we have an example of one. Even if they say, “No, it’s not like that,” its giving them somewhere to start. And having that foundation kind of makes it again much easier. It’s an interesting one and we’re very pleased with how it works. Its great, and it’s exciting.
Who are you, and what do you do?
We are a London based factory called Neobotanic Ltd, and we are introducing our factory and some pieces of different collections that we have produced in the past. This is mainly in order to show potential customers what work we do and what finishings we can do because we mainly deal with high end manufacturing, and so it’s really useful to show the quality of the materials involved in the production.
What are some brands or shows that you’ve worked with?
We work with London based companies who have taken part in London Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week. We produce samples for the catwalk shows, and later on, after they have done their sales, we go ahead and do some small production orders, sometimes big production orders, depends how successful the sales. Some of the clients, we’re very proud of. We actually met them at this show 3 years ago, so today, we’re looking forward to meeting more brands, more exciting brands.
Is this something that you started on your own?
Yes, I started this around 9 years ago. Basically, as soon as I moved to London, I started as a pattern cutter, and slowly, step-by-step we’ve just grown to a small production studio and then now we are like a small factory. Employed a team of 10 seamstresses. Bigger scale, a much bigger scale now.
Was the process hard?
It was lots of time, like usually 24 hours a day and lots of skills, but my job is also as a professional designer. I can do patterns, and all those skills help in production. So, when I work with highend brands, I know what they would expect and what the product is supposed to be because, as a designer, I know what I would like to have as a final result. So sometimes if there are issues with patterns throughout the making process, I can easily get involved and make decisions and fix those issues because my knowledge helps with that. I find it much harder if you don’t know the actual making process at all. I’m basically self-taught. I’ve learned everything basically through just making it.
What was your motivation to get into fashion?
I graduated as a fashion designer from my country. I’m from Russia. My education is fashion and art, so I’m a painter, and at the same time, my second profession is as a fashion designer. I only used to design the dresses. I knew nothing about the manufacturing process, so once I moved to London, I learned how to actually do the production process. Nothing to do with designing anymore because our designers have their own team. They have their own big studios and designers who design the concept. But, its not less interesting for me than design. It’s very exciting anyways.
Where do you see Neobotanic in the future?
I would like to still keep small. I wouldn’t like a 300 people factory. Still keep it small to concentrate on the quality, and I still want to keep working with small, limited
edition n orders. I find it more interesting. I would probably want to expand, at some point, a bigger audience of clients. I would like to try to work with Victoria Beckham, some other exciting companies. I haven’t had a chance to work yet, but I’m looking forward to it. Just as many more names as possible, and as a brand, I also used to have my own line called Neobotanic Fashion. That’s basically where the factory company name coming from, so originally, it was Neobotanic Fashion because I used to have a brand. I’m actually wearing one of my old garments. It’s based on the fruits and vegetables prints. Styling and recording the fruits, and this is like an apple seed. It was quite an organic idea for the brand, so I was dealing with digitally printed silks and wool. Everything is 100% natural. For example, these pieces are from my 5 years ago collection. They’re quite organic, and I used to have bags made of coconut. It was a really nice concept. It’s just the business is tough. It’s hard to sell, and I’m still hoping in the future that I manage to get back on track. And, it’s going to be my second.
DAMIEN, GILL DESIGNS STUDIO
How did the company start?
My grandad started it in the late 50s, and he used to buy seconds or damaged goods from some of the stores and whatever. And he got my grandma to fix them, and he would go on a train, go to a market, set up a market, and it grew from there.
What was your grandfather’s inspiration behind doing this?
His inspiration was making money and being successful and starting an empire. He had a degree from India, and he came. He almost was in the Olympics because he was an athlete as well. He had a degree in the 30s, in the 1930s, and then he came here and gave up everything to follow a dream to better everything for his family. He started in Scotland sharing a house and then the midlands, and he started setting up shops. He started doing markets with 1 suitcase and then 2 suitcases. Then, it was like a van, a factory, and then, it was a 40,000 sq ft. purpose-built factory. He started buying other things and investing in new businesses, and he just smashed it, basically. Took a risk. He was a doer.
Why did you and your brother decide to continue the family business?
To keep it going, and also, we are born and bred business men. It’s in the blood.
What is the process like?
We can work from sketches, and we can almost work from anything. We even offer a service where you’ll sit down with our designer for a dedicated amount of time, like 4 hours or something, and you can literally develop whatever you want. And, it’ll go from there.