With London Fashion Week only around the corner, LCF News speaks to BA (Hons) Fashion Textiles: Print alumna Emily Carter, who will be showing her specially made luxury silk scarves and pocket squares at this season’s event.
London-based designer Emily graduated in 2014, having gained industry experience at companies such as Harrods and Liberty, before launching her brand to an international audience, including New York, Tokyo and Paris.
LCF News speaks to Emily to find out her business model and life after graduation.
Can you tell us a little bit about your brand, when it started?
I specialise in luxury silk accessories in the form of scarves and pocket squares, and hand illustrate the designs myself. They are all manufactured by hand in England and represent a luxury piece of exclusive British design. The brand is now sold globally and has shown at Premiere Classe, Paris, for two consecutive seasons, and is proudly showing at London Fashion Week this month.
I began the brand at university – I actually designed my first scarf, The Fox Scarf, in 2013 for a London College of Fashion competition – this design remains my best seller. Following the popularity of this first design, I decided to use my portfolio term during my final year to build a brand, specialising in luxury silk accessories. I had developed my illustration style in my spare time alongside my degree. I used my portfolio of drawings to create the prints. After graduating, I launched the brand and it was immediately popular with customers and stores – it then flourished into a global business.
What makes it the brand stand out?
What makes the designs unique is the hand drawn element, mixed with the vibrant geometric colours and the story found hidden within each design. The products are all manufactured in England, and the designs focus on timeless and classical features, made to last a lifetime.
What challenges have you come across since creating your brand, and how have you overcome them?
I think it’s important to see challenges and mistakes as positives, as without them, your brand can’t move forward or develop. I went through a phase of being worried about making mistakes – but being cautious actually stunted the growth of the business for some time, and I realised you must be fearless and go for it, regardless of whether it’s wrong – you haven’t got anything to lose. If you make a mistake, fix it, learn from it, and obviously, don’t do it again. One of the main challenges I faced was quality – this is so important to get right from the beginning. It was laborious (and expensive) to find the right manufactures, but I’d suggest putting in the time to get it right. Don’t compromise on quality, and don’t start distributing or selling until your product matches up to your competitors – it can damage your brand reputation if you get this wrong.
It is sometimes difficult to keep yourself motivated when you don’t have an end goal, or a set deadline to work towards, so I’ve also worked for other companies such as Harrods to keep myself driven, which has also financially supported the the business. It is a challenge balancing both, but I always think its best to keep yourself as busy and active as possible in order to keep the momentum going, it’s easy to slip into laziness if you have an endless amount of time on your hands. Working for yourself isn’t always easy and you can’t expect it to be, so I recommend also befriending designers/entrepreneurs who are doing something similar to you – get networking, it’s remarkable how much you can learn from others. Also, read, watch and visit things that inspire you, don’t ever stop learning.
Who have you collaborated with in the past, and possible in the future?
I haven’t done any collaborations as of yet, but if I was to collaborate I’d love to work with Alexander McQueen or Liberty London. I’d also really like to collaborate with a wallpaper or furnishings company to create wall-size versions of my designs.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I’d ideally like the business to be self-sufficient and known worldwide. I would like it to be a lifestyle brand, incorporating both menswear, womenswear and homewear. I would definitely like to have my own shop and fill it with wonderful colours, wallpapers and prints – I’d like half of it to be my store and the other half an open space gallery for new designers and artists. That’s the dream anyway. I do have an entrepreneurial mindset, so I would like to develop a few other businesses in the future as well, I’m not sure what yet, but I’m sure I’ll find a gap in the market somewhere.
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