Starting a Fashion Brand From Scratch.

Starting a Fashion Brand From Scratch.

How did a life changing encounter in Venice Beach lead me to start a fashion line? 

How did a life changing encounter in Venice Beach lead us to start a fashion line? This is my journey so far. 

Lets cast back to 2019, a time that felt so different to our current reality and back then, I was a Printmaking student about to graduate!  I have family in LA and wanted to see the other side of the pond. Realising my Type A personality could lead me to a life of unhappiness, I tried to not plan my LA stint and let things 'happen' . LA that summer of 2019 was a dream. I spent a lot of time Venice Beach,  where I lived for a period with people trying to make it to the entertainment industry.  When a bunk-mate in my hostel in San Francisco told me about the perfect shared rental in Venice Beach, I was curious and I took a risk and went despite not knowing what I would find. And Venice Beach was near the sea, which I love. What is the worst that could happen? 

Venice Beach is a divisive place, and being there for a fixed period was challenging at times however my roommates in Venice Beach were fantastic and it was a very emotionally nourishing. My roommates were all pursuing their dreams in the entertainment industry;  like the one who was going through countless auditions to be a famous rappers dancer, one was an up and coming presenter covering the BET awards. But the most important were an actress and her daughter who changed my life.

 I have wanted to pursue my dream of opening a fashion brand since I was 12. But i did not think it was possible for a 26 year old to show at fashion week. If you don’t know I am disabled and was told not to bother by my teacher because art colleges wouldn't cater to me. So I gave up and for years I felt so lost. But those 'lost years' my ideas grew from generic designs, to ones inspired from the sea, my one comfort. I didn't think I could pursue design. But a little bit of hope still stayed.  But I still sketched. I still dreamed. And when I would see designers in stores I would still remain wistful.  Did I know the actress and her mother,  saw my sketches and said that if I didn’t bother, they would email me incessantly. 

I came back to Wales post LA that Christmas, I was working for the NHS within weeks.  When my job was too challenging for my health, my Mum told me she hated seeing me so lost, and I needed to try my fashion design dream. Not only this, she had found a material, fish leather, a byproduct of fish skins but it was hyper sensory and sustainable; the perfect material to use.

I made the goal of having a prototype of a sustainable handbag in 2020.

It takes more time than you think (and a lot of research)

The next few months I starting brain storming following the news of the new virus, that was taking over the world. Living in between London and Wales.  On the 23rd of March, when coronovirus was raging,  lock down was finally announced. My family were were in the NHS as key workers. I had insomnia, the stress gave me heart issues. I also lost family along the way and got Covid. The time was unpleasant. However, it was vital for learning as I had arrogantly assumed, as soon as I had made that prototype people would be lining up for our bags.

Sourcing materials under lock down is near impossible it was so hard.  But we found a Scottish leather company who shipped to us and a fish leather supplier and I got to work and I had all these new skills to learn.

Website developer, PR expert, stylist, photographer, artisan, social media manager, accountant. These are just some of the roles you have to learn once you start a fashion house. 

In the thick some of the darkest times that June, I actually got scouted for my dream; London Fashion Week. I had to learn to be a photographer that summer as I couldn’t hire one due to lock down. I used my mothers old camera to shoot the concept pics. The Princes Trust gave me a grant and when Mum who a key worker, came home to 12 dozens of macarons in the living room and 10 kilos of glace cherries to make a picnic in our garden as coronavirus prevented us from shooting in a studio in a location. In between shots my adorable dachshund Kenneth was trying to pilfer food. I had to learn Photoshop and spent 20 hours on one image because a paw was in one pic, or a cherry was out of place. 

My exhausted Mum saving lives was so patient bless her, watching Lost (our coronavirus TV staple) while rotting cherries sat in the living room. I sent those pictures of me next to my prototype to a few higher ups in the industry using my Linkedin Premium free trial, I had no idea anyone would reply. I got a reply from Paul Alger from UKFT who gave me the Rosetta Stone to London Fashion Week and how to get there and helped me meet my gorgeous agent and auntie Angela Quaintrell. 

Lock down was awful, but I had no money, I was in crisis with my anxiety, and I knew that I had to come something out of this. I had no choice.

Launching at Fashion Week

When we launched at Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2022, I was really unprepared. That summer me and my wonderful interns had been doing plenty of photography. Other interns helped prep a website and press pieces. And after 18 months of quite frankly, dark thoughts, isolation, and not knowing if anyone would like our product I was terrified.

The first few months of debut was hard and full of ups and downs, my first day of Paris Fashion Week, the BBC contacted me, and I had lots of press but that press dies off quickly. I did continue to do lots of press that year, however while fashion week was all I dreamed and I realised that this was my place in the world as I felt in such a community and understood. 

Two years later...

I would say my gamble has paid off as the opportunities and people I have met in the last 2 years since our launch, I would never dream of. However this is not a 9-5 job. It's a job that has countless hours and is dependant on the amount of resources you have. Fashion businesses don’t make much money and start ups in general do not break even for 4, 5 years in.  But I would say the fashion industry is where I have found my place in the world. I know that for sure.

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Moray — Founder & Designer

I am a young designer and  owner of an eponymous label, Moray Luke which makes bags inspired by my seafaring Celtic heritage and shows at London and Paris fashion week every season. I write about the many fashion weeks I do and my love of history and how it intertwines with high fashion.