Sebastiaan Pieter is a menswear designer and NewGen recipient. He graduated from London College of Fashion in 2012.
Does your business have a mission statement, the reason that this business exists?
I don’t actually have one – I find with fashion businesses making a mission statement is quite tricky and can be restrictive. Businesses usually concentrate on what they are offering to the market that is unique, whereas with a purely fashion brand it tends to be a unique creative vision and that’s hard to put down. It depends on whether people are interested in your vision. There is flexibility within the fashion industry; you try to do something different every season so you are constantly playing creatively. Over the last few seasons I’ve developed themes that have narrowed down what my label is about.
How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?
How to run a business is not something you get from a design BA and it wasn’t the focus of my Bespoke Tailoring degree at London College of Fashion, UAL. I interned a lot with different types of companies, not just with other fashion designers but with editorial and creative teams at magazines and in PR and fashion sales, which gave me more all round perspective on the industry and understanding how a fashion designer is perceived from different angles. This gave me the confidence to start my own business but in the end there are so many other things you haven’t thought of, there are skills that to some extent are learned on the spot.
When you have important decisions to make what kind of people in your network can you turn to?
My dad is very supportive of me having my own business and I talk a lot with him about the business. I just got NewGen funding and mentorship from the British Fashion Council and they are very supportive of their designers and offer advice so I check in with them. There are some courses at UAL’s Centre for Fashion Enterprise and DISC (UAL’s Designer Manufacture Innovation Support Centre) that offer more information about business. I do reach out to friends or people I know in the industry that can relate to whatever question I have. Sometimes its really good to get loads of people involved and sometimes it’s not good to get anyone involved!
What’s the biggest highlight of your career to date? Why was it a highlight?
There were certain things I always wanted to accomplish and one was being featured in The New York Times’ T Magazine. It was a highlight because of the audience that newspaper has, which goes far beyond a fashion publication.
What are your main business expenses?
The sampling of new collection, acutally making the clothes is very costly, then we also do a presentation which is also expensive. Going to Paris with the collection is quite expensive, to do the sales, then there is printing, and studio costs. I don’t have any staff at the moment, I have interns and people assisting me but nobody is full time.
What practical business advice would you give someone who wants to set up their own business?
Experience other parts of the industry, especially the sales side. This is really important for a fashion designer. Get as much advice as you can and people to help on your business. Take a bit of time to really think about what your business is going to be about, and this doesn’t come naturally in the fashion industry. If you think about businesses that are really innovative in the fashion industry they’re usually run by people who studied business – they come up with a totally new concept, whereas designers tend to start with their vision. It would be really interesting if a fashion designer thought of another way to start a fashion business.