London College of Fashion BA (Hons) Bespoke Tailoring alumni Samuel Dougal was recently dubbed a small business hero by the Guardian after the designer and tailor created designs for international stars like Madonna and Beyonce. The young entrepreneur gained experience after graduating in 2010 with industry giants Alexander McQueen and Philip Tracey before deciding to grow his own business. We caught up with Samuel ahead of Small Business Saturday to find out the how he set up his independent business, his time at LCF and his celebrity clients.
Why did you choose to study this at LCF?
At the time of applying this was a brand new course, and the only one of it’s kind – I was always interested in tailoring and when I saw it was an option I made it my only one, and was fortunately accepted!
You have your own business now but have also worked with some big fashion labels like Alexander McQueen – what are the biggest differences between working for a brand and working on your own?
Aside from obviously being one of the biggest fashion houses in the world, the largest difference between the two is budget. Running a small business you have to be extremely careful not to make bad decisions, as these can be costly. The other big difference is the amount of people you work with – when working for a big brand you’re surrounded with so much support and skills from a variety of people all the time. Currently, I have about 5 people working with me that I’ve chosen, but sometimes you need more. Then there is the designs – at McQueen, for me, it’s second to none!
Why did you decide to set up your own business? What were your biggest challenges?
I’d been working for about 4 years in couture, and slowly started getting my own celebrity clients that I assumed would be one-offs, and they became more frequent, and it got to the point that I thought it would be stupid not to let it become my full time job, so that’s what I did, and it’s gone from strength to strength.
What is your favourite bit about your job?
Having the creative freedom to be able to pursue and idea and really focus on it, or being able to stop with something that’s not inspiring you. That to me is what being creative is about – you can’t force it. And sometimes, when you’re working on other peoples ideas, you’re not ALWAYS into it. You can’t help that sadly.
What is it like working with celebrity clients – who have you enjoyed working most with and why?
Working with celebrities is exciting; especially when there is a lot of hype around the individual, as you know your work will be seen. It’s extremely fast paced though so can be quite scary and stressful. I really enjoyed working with Alison Goldfrapp on her 2013 ‘Tales Of Us’ tour, she had such a vision, and it was a very organic relationship for almost a year.
What top 3 tips would you give to students who want to start up their own fashion business?
Be completely fearless and passionate.
Believe in yourself and your idea 100%
Build a good team.
What did you enjoy most about your course at LCF?
I loved learning about the traditional craft of Bespoke Tailoring from industry professionals.
What are you working on at the moment?
Currently I am working on my debut ready-to-wear collection that will be presented in February during aw 16/17. It’s a new thing for me building a collection and presents it’s own challenges and considerations. Hugely exciting experience though.
What is your plan for the future?
Future plans will be a huge focus on ready-to-wear, to be stocked in stores across Europe. The dream is to eventually open a boutique that clients can visit, but also a place that the ready to wear can be sold.