BA (Hons) Fashion Design and Development alumna Emma-Jayne Parkes, co-founder of Squid London, is currently a fashion mentor to aspiring fashion business minds on the BBC’s Pocket Money Pitch series alongside Myleene Klass.
After graduating in 2008, Emma and Viviane Jaeger, also of BA (Hons) Fashion Design and Development, founded their company after spotting a hole in the market. Squid London was formed after the pair wanted to develop rainwear that changed colour during showers or downpours. The brand has since gone on to win awards including the ERDF ‘Most innovative business in London’ Award, and the Lloyds Bank Creative Enterprise Winner.
Emma and Viviane are now respected business minds, and some LCF’s most celebrated alumni. Emma was recently invited by the BBC to mentor young kid in their latest TV series. Young entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to Myleene Klass, successful applicants are then mentored by several business guru’s, including Emma, while they develop their concepts or ideas further.
LCF News caught up with Emma after the first episode to discuss Squid London, what being a fashion mentor requires, and how important it is for a business to have a strategy.
Tell us what Squid London is, and why you decided to start the brand?
Squid is an award winning international colour changing rainwear brand for adults and children. All our products magically change colour in the rain! Our idea and inspiration was colourful interaction with the rain, inspired by the artist Jackson Pollock and his incredible colour explosions. We thought: ‘How cool would it be to walk down the street, it starts to rain and your clothes change colour?!”
Did you see a niche in the market?
We saw a gap in the market for and independent rainwear brand to create fun umbrella with great designs. Our market research showed us that due to the amount of rainfall not only in Britain, but in Europe and globally that umbrellas are a necessary product but also make a great gift and are the ideal blank canvas.
How important is planning and research, did you have a strategy from the start?
Research, particularly market research is key. You need to know that people in your target audience like your product and would buy it. Once you have this evidence, the planning stage is super important too – all the stages are, but they must be done in the correct order. Yes we had a strategy from the start. BUT it must be noted that strategies change and sometime you naturally divert onto a different course, which is totally fine, and very normal, if it is noted and the plan is changed to suit this diversion.
You a fashion mentor on the BBC’s Pocket Money Pitch series, what kind of advice did you give to the pitchers?
The children are aged between 8-14 and bursting with ideas and energy. The main area we tended to focus on with the children was their supply chain and costings. As this is key to deciding on where in the market your product or service falls, and also your targeted customer. We also discussed marketing; many of them had completed quite thorough marketing, which is the key to the success of any business. If your product/service is not needed, is not solving some sort of problem perceived or otherwise it will be hard to sell.
Did you have a fashion mentor while starting up or studying?
We’ve had many mentors. Mentors are important. We call it business therapy!
They help by asking leading questions making you think about what direction you are heading and asking you how you plan to get there, what changes or additions you think you need to make. This could be to your products, staff, marketing or branding. It’s healthy to take a step away and look at your business from the outside, you see more.
What are the most important business goals for designers and fashion business students?
Breaking even! There is only so long you can bankroll your business by working another job. Ideally you turn a profit but in the first couple of year it is quite unlikely due to the high reinvestment in stock that is needed
The whole ethos of Squid is colour and happiness. How important is to have fun and stay happy in fashion?
Having fun and staying happy is an ethos for life not just the fashion industry. It is super important because as most of us know noting is a smooth path there are always hiccups and if they are approached with the wrong attitude it usually makes it worse. So staying happy and trying to include fun in ones daily life is the key.
Where would you like to see yourself and Squid London in five years time?
We see Squid as an international colour changing rainwear brand. It is innovative, we understand our customer and our brand manages to speak all languages. People for all over the world resonate with it! On the collection front we are working on some fun new designs and also have new products that we will insert into the range when the timing is right both for our customers and us.
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