Have you ever considered starting your own clothing brand? Editor Natasha chats with Tom Lovelace, Co Founder and Chief Creative Officer at Hawthorn, a clothing manufacturer based in the City of London on his insights and advice on getting started in the fashion industry.
Hawthorn is a UK based clothing manufacturer who specialises in garment production for start up brands. Hawthorn currently produces for over 180 different clothing brands who range in size, and they have a great spread of expertise covering the fashion industry and business in general.
Tom, tell us why decided to start your own clothing manufacturer?
Hawthorn was actually started as a result of our own struggles when starting a clothing brand, in the fact that we found it impossible to find a manufacturer who could produce both the quality and the quantity which we required as a small business. We had some bad experiences with other manufacturers both in the UK and overseas and eventually decided that if we wanted a job done properly we should do it ourselves. This lead us on to starting up our own small manufacturing facility in Turkey, and the business has since expanded in to producing for other brands rather than ourselves. There came a point when the business of producing for others overtook our own brand and it was then that we concentrated on it full time.
Who is your average customer?
Because of our ability to produce the lowest minimum order quantities in the world for fully custom clothing, we naturally work with a lot of start up brands. We are positioned such that we can provide the manufacturing solution employed by large brands, but we can give this to those who don’t require huge quantities, thus allowing them to start their journey in the fashion industry with larger ranges than they would be able to with another manufacturer.
You say you work with a lot of start ups. What advice would you give to someone new to the industry?
There is so much to think about when starting a clothing brand, that it can sometimes be tempting to cut corners. Whether that be in your visual identity, or the products themselves, it’s important to ensure you’re unique, but still commercially viable You’re starting a business, after all. If you’re too unique you won’t be targeting a large enough audience to turn a profit, but if you’re the same as everyone else then nobody will be interested. For that reason, most brands take inspiration from others, but you need to make sure that you strike a good balance and that you only take inspiration rather than plagiarise the designs of others. Taking something that already works and making it better is a business technique used by many, and this is no different in the fashion industry.
Describe the common mistakes made by new brands?
Unfortunately we see some all too common mistakes which brand owners make daily. The most seen is that although some brands have a great concept, the execution of them can sometimes be a little amateur, and this is something that consumers don’t tolerate. If a brand seems to be amateur, be it through the presentation of the the website or socials, or the photography is clearly not professional, a consumer is very quick to dismiss. Captivating your audience is so important that the importance of investing in high quality photography cannot be reinforced enough. Our best advice is to take inspiration from your idols in the fashion industry. When conducting your business, think to yourself “would my idol do this?” If you take inspiration in the respect of professionally presenting your brand in the same way that your idols do, you’ll be giving yourself a great start.
Are there any challenges the industry faces which new brands should be aware of?
There is an old saying that “if it were easy, everyone would do it”, and this is something that applies to starting a clothing brand for sure. The fashion industry is one which has a lot of competition naturally, since it’s such a dynamic one to start a business in. Brand owners can combine their passion with their livelihood in most cases, however it is because of this that there is a lot of competition. A lot of brands will fall by the wayside through poor execution, unfortunately, but every day there are breakthrough brands who do it the right way and really dedicate their life to what they’re doing. If you have the right attitude, starting a clothing brand is a fantastic way of making a living from your passion.