14 December, 2015
Can you tell us about the beginnings of Ikebana Clothing?
I’ve always been into very minimalist looking clothes. I never would have thought that I would actually start my own business. It wasn’t until I moved home and came across rent prices at home and business grants that I thought, ‘what a great opportunity’.
I kind of like the idea of breaking the mould of not being in London as a new designer or graduate. It’s an easy commute, so I can be in and out. But, I wanted to create something that was almost practical.
So the design was really the beginning and what led the business?
When I was at university I honed in on what I really wanted to do and what I liked. That was the catalyst. I knew exactly what I wanted to make and what my style was. From there, I built a brand.
I was reading a magazine and was reading about Ikebana, a Japanese floral craft. The way they described it in the magazine was minimal aesthetic with an obsessive attention to detail. When I was reading it, I was like, “That’s exactly how I would describe my work.” And what a great, unique name. So I stuck with that and ran with it. I developed a logo which represented the craft and my brand. It’s very minimalist and clean looking.
Did you work with any graphic designers?
I did everything by myself really. I quite like the idea of having a vision for a brand and doing it all myself. I like being in control of every aspect like the logo and the website. I want it all to be quite cohesive. So that’s how it all started really.
Before starting Ikebana you did an internships with fashion house Erdem. What are the challenges from working in an environment like that to starting your own studio and working completely on your own?
Mainly being on your own. The internships helped massively. Being an intern in Erdem, you observe so much. You see the way that everything works, you see all the different roles that people have. When you start up on your own, it’s completely scaled down so you can see over it all. There are still challenges such as, I don’t know how to do certain things; there are still certain things that I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to work out.
In a more technical way in terms of constructing the garments or in terms of the business model?
Both. For example, recently I got in touch with an exhibition for new designers and buyers to go to. I just enquired to ask about the price of the stalls and she emailed back with all these questions and I had no idea what they meant.
It’s one of those things; it’s just a massive learning curve. I’ll just have to figure things out when I get to it. But the experience I had at Erdem completely opened my eyes and there is so much stuff I realise I do now because of how it was done in Erdem. Everything from labelling my patterns and my pattern envelopes and the boxes and the process of everything, I have picked it all up from there.
But just being on your own is hard.
On the flipside, what the rewards?
You get to be in control of everything. You get to oversee everything. I know that the way things are packaged when I send out to a customer or the website, everything I know is how I want it to be. It’s really rewarding when you get a sale or you get good feedback, you know that it’s everything you’ve done and you’ve put into it. When you’ve been in the studio until 11 at night, it’s worth it.
Did you have every step of the process all planned before launch, for example, invoicing and shipping etc?
I spent quite a while setting up. I was learning as well. I was working on my collection and things, but also doing things like packaging and terms and conditions and things that you don’t think of and you have to research and go over it. You want it to be right before you launch. I spent a while working on that.
I always make sure I know exactly where I’m at before I ever put out to someone. I practiced wrapping stuff before I sent it out. I want to know that it’s a certain way. Everything from swing tags and labels… it’s quite a lot of stuff to prepare. And getting set up into your own studio as well, takes a little while.
What was the biggest surprise for you when you started?
Actually, building the brand and logo went really smoothly. It went really quickly, something that I expected to take ages.
Also making things takes a lot longer than you think. I planned that I’d be able to make so much stuff in a week and then other things happen. I’m on the phone to somebody for hours and I never get around to doing it.
Something I’m still struggling with is fabric sourcing. Getting the same stock in all the time, how much to buy and forward planning everything.
Is it made to order?
No, I make stock ready and when it sells, I make more. I don’t really like the idea of making to order, if I suddenly got 5 orders in one day… it’s not particularly nice for a customer to look at something and realise they have to wait 2 weeks for something. So I didn’t want to do that.
What is it that keeps you motivated and inspired, what kinds of things do you look at?
I always look at minimalist art. Anything that’s really simple and beautiful, like Agnes Martin. Also, women in general. When you see how women hold themselves when they wear something. I really like very individual women, very independent kind of women. Anna Cruz, the artist. Phoebe Philo. Anyone that’s got that character about them and holds themselves really nicely. That inspires me to make clothes that make people feel a certain way. I always try things on when I’m developing them, if I feel good just in the toile then I know to keep going with it.
I watch a lot of stuff on Nowness. Anything that’s different cultures as well. There is a really cute video of Simone Rocha and Hong Kong ladies. It’s really lovely. She talks about practicality in the older women in Hong Kong.
Would you want to collaborate with anyone in the future?
I would, but not yet. I want to establish myself first.
Obviously I collaborate with photographers. As a new brand, budgets are kind of low. I can afford my photographer who did a great job for me this season. But I’d love to get a whole team of MUA and stylists etc., because when someone comes in from the outside they see a whole new angle.
When my photographer came in, I had all these ideas about props and background stuff and they said, “No, you don’t need that. The clothes speak for themselves.” They see it in a completely different way. When you are on the inside the whole time, you get tunnel vision and can’t really see past it. So God yeah, I’d love to get a whole team in, photoshoot wise. Even get someone doing a lookbook and get someone on the website maybe.
But collaborating design-wise, definitely not for awhile. I need to establish myself first.
Are you planning your next collection?
Yes, I’m starting to now. I’m still getting a lot of things in place with this season. I’ve come down to see my manufacturer. There is still a lot of learning going on here with stock and how it’s going to work. I’m really focused on this season. But the cogs are ticking for spring/summer. I’ve got to start thinking about it now.
Do you have any preview of what we can expect?
I know I want to go a bit more fresh and introduce a little bit of colour. I love monochromes, greys, navys, whites but I kind of want to lighten the palette and add a tiny bit of colour, because it’s Spring/Summer. It’s in my mind.
Photography by Chris Neophytou & Grant Archer at Associated Luminosity, Model: Georgina Tordoff