IN CONVERSATION WITH TOM LOVELACE OF HAWTHORN
WHAT FASHION START-UPS NEED TO CONSIDER WITHIN CLOTHING MANUFACTURING
We recently crossed paths with Tom Lovelace, the Creative Director of Hawthorn - one of the UK’s leading clothing manufacturers. They work with a mixture of start-up and established brands, helping those who are new to the industry understand how best to progress on their journey, whilst helping bigger and more established brands bring out their new collections. They manufacture items ranging from simple T-shirts to high end tailoring and everything in-between. So, we couldn’t resist picking his brains further on how modern day menswear brands are getting started.
What is the most important thing to consider when you’re starting a business?
“There is so much to consider, but without a doubt the most important one is that you should take your original time frame estimate and not just double it, you should quadruple it. The same goes for the amount of money you budget for starting your business. Contrary to what you believe at the start, business is very much a trial and error process, you learn as you go and you will learn from your mistakes. This takes time and usually money, but if you have a great concept and you persist, you'll always succeed.”
What one piece of advice would you give to fashion start-ups?
“Again, there are many things we could tell you about starting a fashion brand, but one which we see repeatedly is brands using budget photography methods. We have seen brands purchase items from us and put no effort at all into the photography. Some are even using their smartphone to take pictures of items hung up in their bedroom. Look at your idols, and think “what would they do?” You can near guarantee it wouldn't be taking a dimly lit photo of a creased T-shirt. Instead, find yourself a great photographer and pay for professional images that really show your brand in its best light. Images are the main part of your brand and the first impression, so don't scrimp on photography. The same goes with models. Just because you have a good-looking friend, they'll be no match for a good model who knows how to work the camera and makes the task of conveying your brand so much easier. The costs won't break the bank if you shop around.”
How can you tell quality?
“Quality is something which can be hard to quantify; one person's quality may differ to another. However, generally you look at the two main components of any item, the fabrics or raw materials and the construction. With fabrics, there are various grades available which is part of the reason why you can buy a 100% cotton T-shirt for £5 or £50. They're made of the same raw material, but the higher priced item will use a higher grade, which is created with treatments for things like softness. With regards to construction, handcrafted is always great. Some manufacturers use cheap stock items which they just print with a logo. It's surprising that producing custom items can actually be cheaper in some cases, but it's true.”
What's the biggest mistake you see start-up brands making?
“Not displaying themselves in the best light and trying to scrimp on really important things. Not just photography like I've already spoke about, but their website and social media too. Using a cheap website builder may seem like an attractive option at first but there are some great freelance developers out there who will build you a custom website which makes you really stand out from the crowd. Another mistake, related to not displaying themselves in the best light would be starting off with only a handful of products and even worse, pricing those products too high. If you have three T-shirts as a range and they're priced high, you're unlikely to convert a customer who is looking for good choice and options."