At the end of November I was involved in a Q&A style talk at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Fashion Institute. I sat alongside three other Manchester based companies – Jutah Studios, Stitched Up and Pop Boutique to discuss the pros and cons of being in the fashion industry as a small business.
Whilst we all had very different agendas – one is an independant shop selling exclusive brands with an ethical/sustainable bent, another is all about preloved and vintage, and yet another is a cooperative and community focused (and myself as an independent slow fashion designer) – there were some unifying aspects to what we do.
All of us in some form or another had an ethical / sustainable motive. If you run a small business it’s a natural part of what you do. Being small means you can never compete on the fast fashion level of the high street and so you do naturally gravitate to more mindful practices. But that is a part of the mind-set. You do it because you want to challenge the mainstream, to offer something more meaningful and to contribute to communities and the industry at the smaller, more tangible end.
We all agreed that having passion for what you do is the driving force. Two thirds of what we do comes with no price tag. No one is paying you to update your Twitter every day or file your accounts on time. If you’re only in it for the money you’re probably better off joining a bigger firm with a 9-5 paycheck. Which of course is what most of us had tried and not enjoyed.
The fact of the matter is that the pluses of running your own business far outweigh the cons. You do have less money. But in fact, your quality of life is better. You are your own boss. You set your own rules. You work the hours that work for you. You own something that means something. You are in control of your own career.
It’s not until I participate in projects like this or meet others doing it the same way as me, that I realise what I do means something. I have a voice and I have something to say. I remind myself that I should be proud of what I have achieved and how far I have come in the nearly 5 years I have been in business.
I may not be big but size isn’t everything. What I do provides a service, not only to customers but B2B too. I own something that comes with standards, an ethos and cares and all those things that make being in business something to be proud of.
What I found particularly interesting is that although we were all connected with the fashion industry, a notoriously materialistic industry in its own right, we were all content to make enough to live on. None of us wanted to be the next Armani or dominate the high street. We were happy making a different, getting by and enjoying a rare quality of life. I for one would rather be earning just enough to live on and get up every day loving what I do (which is how I currently feel) than earning £60,000 a year and dreading Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…..
Being able to put that back into education and help the next generation make informed choices about where they go after university and how that impacts the world is really important. Fashion is a chronically oversubscribed industry with significant environmental and humanitarian issues and there is room for people who want to make a difference and have something to say. It doesn’t matter how much you lecture someone in a classroom the real experiences don’t begin until you are out there doing it your own way. Putting theory into practice is where it’s at and if we can help just a few people work out what it is they want from their skills, then that’s got to be a good thing.
For all things Falcieri Designs check out my website at www.falcieridesigns.co.uk