The truths of starting a business in the fashion industry

By Tom Lovelace 1 year ago . 10 minute read

Tom Lovelace from Hawthorn, a clothing manufacturer in London talks about the truths behind starting a business in the fashion industry…

Why did you start your business?

Back in 2011 I owned and operated a small personal training company, working specifically with high end clients in the City of London. Whereas some personal trainers work as sole traders, I have always been entrepreneurially minded and decided to work as a brand, rather than just myself. Having never been particularly suited to working for someone, business has always been something which has been very important to me. Hawthorn actually developed out of my personal training. To help improve my brand identity I had some branded t-shirts produced with my company logo by a manufacturer here in the UK, however the fit was terrible and not suitable. I decided then to have the tee shirts altered professionally to give them a more physique accentuating cut. This cut received many compliments and along with my business partner we decided to turn it into a clothing brand. Manufacturing proved to be difficult with the options here in the UK, so we started manufacturing via our first factory overseas. This proved to be quite lucrative, so I stopped personal training and started Hawthorn as my full-time focus.

What is your biggest barrier to business in your industry?

The biggest barrier to success in the fashion industry is the sheer quantity of brands out there. This means that if you’re looking to succeed with your own fashion brand, you need to ensure that your execution is impeccable and that you don’t make some of the mistakes some do, which make them look amateur and ultimately result in a potential customer losing faith in your brand and your products. One of the best pieces of advice that I could ever give a new brand in the industry is to look at your idols, and for every decision you make, ask yourself if they would be executing it in the same way. If the answer is “no, they wouldn’t be using their phone to take pictures of their items against their bedroom wall” for example, then this is a pretty good indicator that you should look into a professional solution.

What is your most crucial business lesson from 2017?

We have undergone some expansion during 2017, namely adding extra production lines in our factories and relocating some of our workforce from one location to another. If this experience has taught me anything, it’s that you should always allow extra time for delays which are outside of your control when going through any business change. For example, at our location in Sialkot, there was very heavy flooding during the transition period, which was something that we were simply unable to account for time frame wise. This caused unavoidable delays and disruption to the business which in hindsight we should have allowed extra time for.

What are your top tips for startups in the fashion industry?

The fashion industry is a very visual one, so it’s important to ensure that your new brand is not lacking in the respect of your online presence and your social media. The best way to ensure that you’re noticed as a brand and that you’re respected as a professional, rather than an amateur, is to ensure you hire a professional photographer who can help you to express your items in their best possible light. This helps add to your branding, and means you have shareable imagery; something very important in the era of social media marketing. As with any business which requires a consumer to spend their hard earned money, you have to convince them that your brand is worthy of that, and you will never be able to achieve that if you look amateur.

What were your expectations vs reality when it came to business?

I think one of the first things I remember thinking when starting my first business was “this isn’t that hard; why are people always complaining that starting a business is hard work?” Oh, how wrong I was! Business is a massive learning curve, and it means that you have to have a well-rounded knowledge of a number of different skills and capabilities. Personally, I’m a perfectionist, which is a blessing as well as a curse in some ways. For example, when starting out in business I would never have imagined myself lying awake at night, unable to switch off about something as simple as a website layout. With that being said, I love running a business, and there is no greater satisfaction than knowing that something which you have built from nothing is a success.


About Tom Lovelace

Chief Creative Officer, Hawthorn

My name is Tom Lovelace and I'm Chief Creative Officer of Hawthorn, a clothing manufacturer based in the City of London. Although we are based in London, we operate internationally and have factories across the world. We work with a lot of start up fashion businesses because we offer the lowest minimum order quantities in the industry for fully custom clothing.

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