We’re on the move! New London venues East & West in 2018

As 2017 slides to it’s close, Designer Courses is planning for a brighter New Year, and branching out with two new locations for 2018.

December marks the start of this fresh direction, with the first weekend at our new venue in the heart of Hoxton’s creative quarter, and a new programme of short courses to match.

The Archivist Gallery has a canalside location between Haggerston and Hoxton Overground stations

The Archivist Gallery has a canalside location between Haggerston and Hoxton Overground stations

We will be in residence at The Archivist for our regular weekend ‘masterclasses’, hosting a series of sociable Sunday taster sessions, and we have some new evening courses to talk about, too.

The Archivist’s Gallery  is a creative mixture of gallery, shop and space for events, with a bar/café right next door. Just three minutes from Haggerston Overground or a stroll down the canal path from Shoreditch Park, Kingsland Road or London Fields, in a bright canal-side location with a constant buzz of artistic traffic. We are looking forward to contributing our mellow craft vibe to this creative mix! Click here the full list of courses at The Archivist.  

From May 2018 we will also be running a series of short courses at The Artworkers Guild  in Queen Square, Bloomsbury.  This moves takes us back to our old stamping ground around Holborn and Russell Square. Designer Courses began life back in 2005 when founder Katherine Pogson was based at Cockpit Arts, Holborn.  Though her studio has moved on, she still retains many links with Cockpit Arts, through mentoring young design businesses connected to The Prince’s Trust, collaborating with creative colleagues and exhibiting at events such as the Winter Open studios and London Craft Week.

The programme at Queen Square will include glove-making, decorative and couture leather techniques including gilding and embroidery, alongside a Summer School and evening courses for Autumn/Winter.

Look out for the full schedule in our December newsletter, or email us for a sneak preview of dates!

The Five Stages of launching a fashion accessories brand…

Over the last few years I have worked with many people on the early stages of conceiving, developing and launching a fashion accessories brand. There is no right way to do this - but there are some common threads and some key decisions along the way which I thought I would share with you.

Boxer Bags by Paradise Row

Boxer Bags by Paradise Row

As our recent case study about exciting new fashion handbag brand Paradise Row makes clear, there are so many roles involved in launching a brand, it is good to know which bits you don’t want to do, and practice the art of delegating as soon as you can!

  1. Design: It all starts here. Whether you are a stylist, have a ‘concept’ or are a maker at heart, the first stage is always to really invest in your designs. Map them, develop them, take them further. Test them out. Not everyone is a natural three-dimensional pattern cutter, and not everyone can draw professionally - what matters is not where you fall on this spectrum, but recognising your strengths and weaknesses and finding strategies to effectively communicate your ideas.
  2. Market research: This never stops! Look, look and look again. Analyse, compare, ask cheeky questions. How do other people do it, how does the market break down? Who, really are your competitors? Are you sure? What are your outlets likely to be? The same goes for materials sourcing and costing (beware the ‘fantasy cashflow' forecast…) This part can be addictive and fun, as you gather more inside knowledge and your confidence grows.

  3. Business model: We all want to be stocked in Liberty, but what are the steps to get there? Actually - with niche marketing and online presence all-important these days - some people find that the wholesale route is not for them after all, a direct sales model fits their needs much better. Work out how you want to spend your time, and money, so that your creative and entrepreneurial needs are fulfilled over time. Do you love or hate Trade Fairs? How much time of your time do you want to spend in creative development? What is your idea of success? Mapping these things before you start can help you achieve longevity, once the initial, seductive ‘learning curve’ is over…
  4. Timing: Accessories brands have different rhythms depending on whether they are high fashion, ‘lifestyle’ or classic/iconic, but you must be in tune with the seasonal cycles in order to maximise sales.  Prototyping and sampling are not the same thing!  Once a design has been developed and tested - both ‘market’ tested and ‘stress’ tested - tweaked, adjusted, (hurled around the room…) you will need to co-ordinate samples, photoshoots, manufacture and delivery deadlines so that they dovetail in time for your launch. 
  5. Manufacture: Ah, yes! If only there were a simple way to describe this process, in the U.K at any rate. Preparation is key - be ready. A manufacturer wants a client who is in a position to supply repeat steady business. If you have done your homework, developed your ideas and your business plan in tandem, and are ready to hit the ground running, then…a whole other journey begins!

Whatever stage you are at, if you would like to chat through some ideas or get some specific technical help, do get in touch for a one-to-one consultation.