Mid-November 2019 I had this crazy idea to create and launch a resort collection and start on a new brand development venture. Where can I do this in a way that fits my current lifestyle, I thought to myself? Within seconds vivid images of Bali and its sunsets, beaches and rice fields hit my brain. Omg, I’m moving to Bali I squeaked to myself.
Now let us get this clear, I have had zero previous fashion brand development and brand building experience, and I have performed about 0% market research. I have, however, worked for years in the fashion industry consulting clients on their online marketing strategies which allowed me to approach this project with confidence. My intuition was screaming; I need to launch this brand and head Bali way to do so. I decided to book my one-way ticket to Bali enthusiastically humming to myself I’m going to start a brand on repeat. Even my mother questioned my sanity with words “but you didn’t study to be a fashion designer”! To which I responded, mother I’m an entrepreneur, I will figure it out.
Oh boy, did I have to figure it all out and fast? One of the main reasons for the first challenges I run into was not fully understanding the market and culture, where I decided to invest my manufacturing cash. Especially their work culture. One thing is for sure Indonesians don’t say NO much until the shit hits the fan and you are left with nothing but an option to leave or clean up the mess. And when I say clean up, you need to do so in a matter of days. The brand development process in Bali is straightforward and creative as long as you have the right contacts; I soon to come to realise.
How it all started
Let’s backtrack a little so that I can give you a full overview of my brand development and the collection launch journey.
Mid-January 2020, I moved to Berawa, Canggu and located my first manufacturer, which luckily ended up being 5 minutes up the road from my house. This particular manufacturer was familiar to me as I have heard about them through friends Instagram. They had a fancy concrete wall boutique and brand development consultancy adjacent, and I was so excited to have them help me with my brand development. We set up multiple meetings and talked about my ideas and concept, fabrics and designs. I was advised on how much samples would cost to make, and the time it would take to develop, we picked fabrics, and I was excited to start the process.
I counted my blessings and took their location as a sign from the universe that I was meant to work with them. I was told 4-6 weeks to develop my first sample, and I was allowed two modifications too. Determined to make my collection resort and feel good on women regardless of their body shape and size, I knew I had to have my fabrics soft and durable and good for the environment.
The manufacturer at the time also offered to build the entire brand concept, including my label and packaging; all I had to do supply my logo and pay their invoice. I thought to myself wow this is easy; all I have to do is whip out my credit card and attend meetings where I share my ideas and what I want them to achieve. After about eight weeks of my samples not being ready, I started to panic mildly. I hadn’t developed concept, logo, labels, packaging and no samples either. So I began to chase and after they finished my samples finally I realised the minimal amount of effort and love they put in them. The stitching was not the best, buttons and zipper of poor quality, and I had an anxiety attack which led me to change manufacturers.
The second manufacturer Indonesian lady who was lovely pretty much agreed to all that I was saying instantly offering solution to all of my problems. Once again, I felt grateful to have come across her. She was a recommendation through one of the Indonesian girls I met here in my first month being on the island. I was under the impression that I was in good hands until my campaign shoot day and my samples not showing up in time for the shoot.
The lady who owned the business which later I came to discover was merely a consultant outsourcing tailors and factories making clothes for about 11 clients with a sustainable approach in disguise. I was given the shoot date by her with a promise that everything is already done. I felt I should push the date back for one day, booked the villa, a photographer and six girls to model. We all agreed to meet at the shoot location at 8 am, to my shock, everyone was there apart from the clothes.
I felt betrayed and lied to even though I asked her to tell me the truth no matter what, which she gladly agreed to. Regardless of the promises, I received my samples late. Even though she told me she was ready to deliver all of the samples to my house the day before, she was still sewing them on the day. I trusted her, but they brought the entire blush collection after 3 pm, and we only had over 2 hours to shoot it all. Luckily I was so blessed with the amazing girls who were my models and keen to keep my vibe high and positive. Without them, I would’ve lost my spirit and failed my campaign shoot.
I chose to forgive the manufacturer after she promised no more delays, but to my shock eight weeks after my shoot and four weeks after launching my brand, I only had partial production done. To this day she never finished 50% off my production as she demanded I pay her before she delivers. Now call me stupid, but if someone screws you over on multiple occasions and asks you to hand you cash over before checking the product would be utterly dumb. So I decided to part ways. Leaving negative energy and lies behind and taking matters into my own hands. This came with threats and intimidation from the lady I was supposedly doing business with which of course left me shook. Then I realised the difference in doing business with Balinese and Indonesians, there is a big difference there, which is not very apparent at the beginning. Sadly, I had to learn the hard way.
Learning to trust myself
The whole thing happened around July time, and I realised I have no idea what and where these people where sourcing my production from. I finally realised that I could only trust my intuition, so I hopped on my scooter googled different fabric suppliers and started on a new adventure with myself in full control of the processes.
Allowing myself to listen to my intuition and the nuggets of wisdom within me led me to so many amazing people, and I have finally managed to set up the supply chain that gives me full peace of mind. I have learnt a lot about fabric, its production, where does it come from and most importantly, the way it affects our mother Earth. I have full trust in the people I work with now, and I know the difference between false promises and the truth.
With all this knowledge in mind, my brand only uses natural fabric predominately cotton at the moment. Still, due to its production process and the amount of water it requires, I’m also moving towards Tencel and Viscose as they are better for the planet. The natural fabrics I use in my brand are fully biodegradable and durable, they feel good on the skin too, and you will want to wear it over and over again. I source all the fabric myself here in Bali and have removed all third parties and made my supply chain very small.
Production and patterns are now handmade in house with a Balinese family that I work with across pattern making, cutting and sewing. I fit all of my samples on girls of different shapes in sizes here in Bali and still to this date I don’t work with models. We don’t have a fancy office and a studio, and we focus on the value and ethical approach to business on all sides. I’m focused on small production and no waste across the manufacturing and packaging. I don’t even use clothing tags in my packaging as they are thrown into the landfills as soon as the customer decides to keep the clothes.
My goal is to challenge how the fashion industry creates and focus on smaller production and clothes that are timeless and loved. All of the beautiful girls that took part in empowering me and helping me bring this brand to life, enjoy the clothes, and I see them wear them over and over. My main goal before I started this journey on a whim was to make a woman feel confident and sexy in my clothes so that she is excited to re-wear my pieces and help me contribute to slow fashion and cleaner ocean and landfills.
What did I learn
2020 is the year of awakening and the year where brands such as Victoria Secret filed for bankruptcy and giants such as Zara shaken to the core. I genuinely believe this is because their foundation is not based on value and service to beautiful women all around the world. Instead, they are focused on telling us how we should look and feel what we should eat and the mould we need to fit to be considered beautiful. 2020 is the year when we finally say fuck off and refuse to be anything but our authentic self.
I feel blessed for every single up and down on this journey as it came with such a tremendous amount of knowledge. I was able to adapt within days, and that skill to me is priceless.
I’m still in Bali and currently open to a few clients that are seeking brand development and production consultancy with a sustainable approach. I understand this market and western expectations which I found to be a cause of a lot of issues for many startup businesses that decide to embark on a manufacturing journey. I was one of them, and it helped to give me 360 overviews of how things are done. I have many suppliers in place, and I would be happy to help some of you are that are looking to bring your dream to life and share same values as me predominately around female empowerment, ethical production and cleaner environment.
I hope to inspire you to dive in and follow your intuition because now its the time for startups with creative ideas to rise and shine. Take all of your challenges as tests from the universe and persevere. You got this my loves, and as long as you are determined, you can reach for the stars.
Reach out to me via EMAIL, and let’s see if I can help you with your projects.