Our Design Journey - How Our SS23 Collections Were Born!
It was early Summer 2022, my co-founder Camilla who heads up production in Kenya had just started her maternity leave to have her beautiful daughter Effie. At the same time our Production Coordinator Peris also went on maternity leave to welcome her daughter Thelma into the world! Tabz who lives in Nairobi had gone through some weeks of intensive training with Camilla and Peris and so was ready to take on the Production Department with myself overseeing and guiding. We were ready for the challenge!
It all started with an idea, one that I had embedded in my mind for a while...vertical stripes and checks! We needed some fresh designs, new colours, new patterns and so it began...
For six weeks I worked on the concept of five new collections, creating moodboards, sketches, identifying colours and sampling initial ideas with the weavers in Kenya. It turned out that checks and pinstripes were actually rather tricky! But, we persevered and Tabz took time to visit the weavers in person to better explain the technique and what we were trying to achieve.
The first samples of the pinstripes and check designs! They needed work...
Tabz been welcomed by Madam Dorcas and the weaving group
By the end of July we had finalised the design sheets and were ready to proceed with the first stage of sampling! Tabz and I communicated on whatsapp with her forwarding me photos sent by the group leaders, it was so exciting to start seeing my ideas come to life! We had split the designs between three of our partner weaving groups, each of them specialising in particular techniques and so we do our best to work to their strengths.
Some of the first samples made by the weavers
Madam Dorcas holding up their first attempt at creating a checked basket!
Without the expertise of Camilla and Peris we were pushed to our limits, it was a huge team effort to get over 60 new designs signed off to start production. Costings were worked on, some designs were axed and the weavers really did challenge themselves to learn weaving techniques that were completely new to most of them.
We were working against a deadline to get our SS23 look book out to our wholesale stockists, our lead times are long and we work very differently to most fashion/homeware brands. Every stage of the production is done by hand, weavers predominantly work from home and we do not operate factories. We manage our whole supply chain which gives us a unique position but boy it isn't without its challenges! It is what makes us different, unique and able to say who made your basket.
By August we had samples of all the new designs! Marvin, our photographer in Kenya worked on three separate shoots to take product shots, Katie in the UK managed the editing with Naveen who is in India and Anna, our wholesale manager used the photos to showcase our SS23 designs to potential buyers!
Production needed to commence, we had overrun on the sampling and photoshoots, the weavers can only weave to a certain capacity within a timeframe and we needed to make thousands of baskets for SS23. It was time to steam ahead and put the orders in with the groups.
Tabz visited the groups again, this time to take photos of the weaving in action. Marvin and Johnny accompanied Tabz with cameras in tow.
Weaving takes place anywhere! Here the weavers met Tabz in a dried river bed.
Bundles of sisal drying after being dyed
A weaver weaves whilst she walks to meet the group
Pre-orders from wholesale buyers were being placed, it was incredible to see the new designs receive such positive comments and feedback, now we just needed to make them all!
Production commenced in the Autumn with Peris returning in time to help oversee it all. We decided to book the Maison et Objet Trade Show in Paris for Jan 23 to show our new designs to the world! It was busy, with everyone working on prep for the trade show, prep for the Christmas season as well as receiving and processing retail and wholesale orders. We welcomed the Christmas break!
Most of the baskets were delivered to our partner warehouse team in Nairobi before Christmas, but some of the groups had struggled to finish everything on time. More complex designs were slower to make and colour consistency (which is always an issue) had cropped up again. We decided to push the container departure back until after Christmas to allow the groups a few more weeks of weaving in the New Year.
January came and Maison et Objet was everyone's focus! So much had to be prepared and we were thankful that Tabz' visa arrived just a week before the show opened. It meant she could join Anna and Katie in Paris and meet the customers who would buy the designs that she had been a part of since conception.
Katie and Tabz showcasing our new designs at Maison et Objet, Paris
The container finally left Kenya early February and arrived at our warehouse in Chipping Norton in March. It was suddenly FULL! Baskets everywhere. So many orders to pick and pack and a whole lifestyle shoot to plan!
Katie and I worked on bringing the final three collections to life, concepts that had driven the designs last Summer were being fully realised by styling the baskets as though they were in your homes. Another huge planning and prop sourcing session commenced as well as a hunt for a new photographer. We even had a custom backdrop built by our lovely carpenter because we could no longer travel to the old studio we used to hire in Bruton (my toddler still likes his breast milk too much for me to stay away from home!). It was all coming together, the final details falling into place...and then we met Abbie! A local photographer with a great eye and who understood what we were wanting to achieve.
Katie and Abbie working on our lifestyle shoot
Well, almost....still the launch to go!
As I write this today, the 21st April, the day has come. We launch our SS23 collections to YOU! I'd like to use this space to say thank you, to everyone involved in every step of this process. To Tabz for taking on such a huge responsibility last Summer, to the weavers who really pushed themselves to create our visions, Marvin for your beautiful photography, Anna for planning trade show, Katie for being such an incredible support in styling and marketing, Alice who wrote all the new product copy, George, Leilah and Joe for never giving up when it came to processing and picking/packing all the orders. My co-founder Camilla and Peris who did such an amazing job in training Tabz before you went on your maternity leaves.
And thank you to all of you, our customers who continue to make this possible.
Shop Our SS23 New Designs here!