It has been a year since the first line of Arthur Shirtley branded shirts left the tailor's shop.
Today, we have let this milestone sink in. In the never-stopping and often hectic cycle of juggling administrative duties, production, design, and promotion, always thinking ahead, we rarely take a moment to reflect on the distance that we have already traveled.
We feel we are really just getting started, sitting on the cusp of something exciting. We don't usually look back, and when we do (as any novice entrepreneur can attest), we tend to see more teachable moments than accomplishments. And yet, as the year ends, a new collection is in the making, and the Online Store is finally what we want it to be, we can take a minute to reflect.
For us, 2016 has indeed been a year of personal and professional growth, a sort of coming of age as a brand. What started as a raw and ambitious idea, has matured into a value-driven, responsible business. Here are our three key takeaways from this first year of our journey.
Refine, Don't Compromise
This year, we have taken the time and effort to define our priorities and values as a brand. A great deal has changed since the first time we entertained the idea of launching our own fashion label or went to our first trade show looking for fabrics. For one, we have come back to London and firmly anchored ourselves and Arthur Shirtley here, in the heart of Bloomsbury. We have tested out countless suppliers, and developed new products. We have adjusted our designs and our operations.
As an entrepreneur you continuously pivot and refine. However, we found that it is important to never lose track of your key values. For us, this means being a responsible producer for a responsible consumer. As tempting as it may be, we have made a commitment not to cut any corners on transparent material sourcing, selecting only the best European suppliers of natural fabrics and trims. We only manufacture in European tailoring factories that we have personally inspected, and with whom have built lasting working relationships. Finally, we develop each garment with functionality in mind: as fabulous as it looks, it also has to be light, breathable, compact, and easy to care for.
We are quite proud of ourselves for having established these cornerstones of our business model. At the end of the day, you are only as good as what you stand for.
Practice Makes Perfect, but Perfectionism is Procrastination
When you are just refining your business vision, it is important to participate in every process, and build your procedures from the ground up. It is extremely difficult to explain what you want to others before you have a clear understanding of it yourself, and we have found that experimentation is key to developing that understanding.
Over the months, we have shot and re-shot most of our product photography, only to find we wanted something different. We have experimented with Online Store layouts, copywriting styles, and anything else you can think of. We made decisions and changed our minds, just to do it all again.
At each step of the way, however, we learned something new about what works and what doesn't, and with every attempt things did become easier. Now, at the end of the year, we are much clearer in our vision, and much more confident in explaining it to others. Of course, we will keep tweaking and refining indefinitely, but this ongoing process is no longer holding us back; it is moving us forward.
Ask, and You Shall Receive
Perhaps the most important thing we have learned from our first year with Arthur Shirtley is that it is never too early or too awkward to seize an opportunity. All the time spent strategising, overthinking, and overplanning is the time that can be devoted to doing. Our greatest revelation has been this: we are surrounded by benevolent, supportive, and helpful people. All we need to do is approach them, and tell them what we do.
We could not be more grateful for the people we have met and worked with this past year. And, as it is time for New Year's resolutions, we are committed to sharing our ongoing journey in this Online Journal, so that you can meet some of them, too. Have a merry and peaceful Christmas, and see you in the New Year!