Co-Founder of The Design Studio Hawarden
“It’s important to remember how many people there are in the world who have not yet discovered you and your talents”
Describe how your childhood and upbringing moulded you into the creative and the business mindset you have today?
Having a Mum as a fashion design lecturer, I was always surrounded by art and design since a baby! I would attend my mums fashion shows as a little girl and watch the most incredible pieces walk down the run-way, the whole process of seeing a live show made me really excited and inspired. Seeing my Mum work with a range of textiles and producing so many beautiful and unique items from crafts to wearable garments had a huge impact on me. My up-bringing definitely had the biggest influence on me and where i am today. This then went onto finding a passion for design throughout my education where I studied art and textiles which pushed me towards pursuing a degree in multi-media. I was really fortunate to be bought up in such an inspiring household where we were allowed to express our creativity. Design has always been a huge part of my upbringing and I love that I get to do it now as a full time job… the business element, it’s a learning curve! I don’t think you can really be taught ‘business’ as such, many of the skills i have experienced along the way. Saying that, for any business to excel, it’s about balance.
Finding balance as a team, what’s your favourite thing about working as a Mum and Daughter duo?
I love how it goes against the ideologies of what ‘fashion’ should be, if that makes sense! There was so no better feeling during my time in uni when students would say ‘wow, where’s that from?’ and I’d proudly respond; ‘My mum made it!’. We were once walking in Shoreditch and I was wearing a bomber and this lady ran up to me and said ‘I had to stop and ask where your jacket is from’ and I just pointed to mum and said ‘this lady!’ it was the best feeling ever because I think people just think fashion is for ‘young people’ - when it is not at all. The brand would not be anything, without her. Mum is a designer, a qualified fashion lecturer so she really is the cool part of the process. Luckily we were able to combine both our love of fashion and our skill sets to create TDS. Being a duo, we have had the honour of experiencing so many wonderful opportunities such as being guest speakers for The Clothes Show 2015, collaborating with Clarins and The Sunday Times. We have truly had many wonderful highs and it means so much more that we got to experience that together - as business partners, friends and mother and daughter.
Over the years, building TDS to the brand it is today, what’s been your most memorable moment?
There really has been so many! And most of them certainly happened when we were a lot smaller and ‘new’ - which says so much about todays obsession with the amount of followers / likes / engagement one should have to be an idea of ‘successful’..
I would definitely say being featured in Teen Vogue! Such a huge magazine, which really made our brand become global. Definitely the time Sophie Turner was first papped with Joe Jonas in London, she was wearing a TDS which started a lot of online hype about the brand! We have been part of many charity fashion shows and raised huge amounts for numerous charities, including MIND which is a organisation, very close to our hearts. One charity fashion show, Anna Wintour happened to be presenting and we actually sat front row opposite Anna whilst she watched TDS strut down the catwalk! That was definitely a high-light. Generally seeing and hearing our loyal fans and customers loving TDS, those are always the best memories.
What has social media taught you the most, since running your own fashion brand?
That you must stay true to yourself! And not become obsessed by the online world. It is so easy to compare and feel down about other people success - the main thing is to focus on you and what you are doing. Sure social media has many wonderful benefits but in terms of ‘fast fashion’ and social media, that’s when it gets hard because we are a society who want everything ‘instantly’ - as soon as a celeb wears something or as soon as a piece is shown on the catwalk, many fast fashion brands will take that and make it within days. That’s what is sad as it takes away the love and the work that goes into producing garments, ethically and sustainably. We were lucky to start our brand when we did, instagram was a much nicer, freer platform where as there is so much competition and anxiety to stand out and be seen!
Since you started TDS, have you faced any challenges since manufacturing in the uk?
Luckily we produce everything in house and our fabrics are dead-stock materials which we source locally, so we have had no issues as we do it all ourself which we much prefer, as it is in our control and we know it is ethical.
Starting a fashion brand can be seen as challenging with initial funding, what would your advice be to someone planning on starting their own brand?
I think lots of people assume fashion is all glamour .. it is A LOT of hard work and graft! And my advice would be only do it if you are willing to put the time, effort and love into it without thinking of the ‘aesthetic’ side of it - it comes down to the actual production.
Find someone who can sew - or even teach yourself, I have seen a lot of tiktoks of really young people learning to sew which is really admirable! You don’t necessarily need huge fundings behind you, we never did, but always trust the process and genuinely be inspired by what you are producing. It’s important to be the brand, so be as authentic as you can and people will always respect that and if they don’t - they aren’t your audience.
How have you found using social media with TDS? Is there a certain style of marketing on socials you feel works really well for the brand?
It really depends. Theres so much pressure on to deliver and stay current, create content and keep relative all whilst trying to look after your mental health and wellbeing that it can be a lot! Always be true. People really love to see the person behind the brand, which can be hard if you are super shy! But the process of the design and production people love to see. Having a voice and personality behind a brand is important too. Keep it as authentic and real as possible… long gone are the days of over-filtered images portraying something not that realistic or relatable.. So always keep authentic! I think that’s key.
What would your advice be to entrepreneurs wanting to start a fashion brand? What are some key tips you’ve learnt over the years that you wish you implemented earlier on?
When you have your own business and it’s your baby its very easy to dismiss other peoples opinions or advice. I have learnt that to be a very bad trait of mine! It’s important to listen to others opinions and have open, honest conversations about budgets, production, planning etc because as a creative - I tend to focus on that part of the business most and put aside many of the crucial elements. So balance is key.
Have your passion and creativity but also be willing to let people advise you. Try and not compare yourself .. focus on what you are doing, find your style, voice, vibe and people who you visualise wearing your brand, aim for those people. Don’t feel disheartened if someone doesn’t always love what you do - they aren’t for you, and it’s important to remember how many people there are in the world who have not yet discovered you and your talents, and that’s really exciting! So always try and keep optimistic and put the work in and you will see the magic happen.
How often do you release new designs? Do you work on a collection basis?
Every 1-2 weeks we try to release new designs! We used to work on a collection basis but due to everything being a one off or limited edition piece, we tend to drop more capsule, smaller collections every 1-2 weeks. In the world of COVID, we are working with the materials we have which has actually been amazing as we have managed to re-use so many fabrics with no waste involved. I guess it’s hard as most people are at home so we are focussing on really comfy, easy wear clothing which can keep you cosy on your daily walks!
Continuing limited edition pieces, how would you like to see the brand evolve over the next 5 years? Do you see TDS heading into a particular direction that you’d like to push further?
I’m really not sure its hard to say. There have been times when we could have been much larger and stocked in huge global stores, but for me, it comes down to enjoyment rather than meeting big business milestones! And at the moment, I still absolutely love how we work. I like how it is small and bespoke. There are already so many huge fashion houses and I love how we get to control everything from production to marketing and creative direction. I would love to work with more creatives. I would love to start a real team of inspiring women who could add a little something different to TDS? At the moment with everything being so uncertain we are really lucky we can connect with so many creatives online and work together, virtually, which seems to be the new norm! So for now, we will keep it that way.
Who would you like to see wear TDS that you haven’t yet had?
Oh such a tough one! Beyonce!? Definitely Rihanna .. she is so cool. Not just cool for her style but everything about her i just love. She has certainly stayed true to herself throughout her fame and stardom and despite it all, still remains very passionate about world topics and uses her platform in a really positive and influential way. This year has definitely questioned the ‘celebrity culture’ - who we genuinely feel inspired by and who is using their voice to do better. I think it’s really interesting to see the shifts in who is actually admirable as a celeb and who is just a massive narcissistic online poser .. haha! There are so MANY influential men and women i would love to see in TDS, including Harry Styles.. !
With all of your wonderfully unique designs, where do you find inspiration? And do you see yourself continuously using faux fur for your designs in the future?
All over! From places, people, seasons, thoughts and feelings! Our latest designs definitely come from a place of comfort. What I found myself wearing around the house during the pandemic, I wanted to feel comfy and not restricted in my clothing .. so we decided to focus on easy wear, easy care clothing. It's important to be aware of whats happening .. we did have ideas for more formal wear but at the moment, we called that off because theres no where to really go just yet! So we love to keep it cosy, comfy and cool! Our pieces are still all exclusive one offs or limited edition which people really admire and get excited for. Our sheer-shirts for summer are always much loved so we can’t wait to do more of those too.
And finally, what can we expect to see this 2021 from TDS?
No major plans! Taking each day as it comes and being present in the moment. I do have big ideas up my sleeve but I am also being very realistic about todays circumstances so I keep having to remind myself how fortunate and privileged it is to work from the safety of my home and studio, whilst doing what I love.
Lettie Pattinson is co-founder of TDS.
Check out their website: https://lovetds.com