When I first embarked upon my couture business full time, I was naïve as to some of the challenges that would lie ahead. Don’t get me wrong, whilst not coming from a perspective of setting up a business through rose coloured glasses; having assisted others set-up and grow their businesses, I gained valuable experience to support my new venture. Thus armed with my business plan, fabrics, and sewing machine I was prepared for a few obstacles; all I can say is I thank God for my faith, and the movement of mountains!
I found myself navigating through the world of building a website, the various social media, all of which I felt were written in some ancient language yet to be deciphered, this was a whole new learning curve!
The first web agency I met with assured me that setting up a website would be a doddle, nothing to it, sign on the dotted line, pay your deposit and we will get to work. I could hear the alarm bells ringing when an email I received saying “sorry for the incontinence, it has taken a little longer than planned to put things into place” that being said, they were the experts and I didn’t have a clue as to how to build a website. Eventually there was some semblance of a website, however it was not quite the one I had envisioned, and to make changes I would have to refer back to their web developers, so you can see where that was going!
Then there was all the things that make a website look great, one of which being photography, what a ballyhoo a half dressed mannequin can cause, and did I mention the myriad of social media experts who for an eye watering fee would place you on the first page of Google.
In the years that followed I would continuously tweak the original website, then have a new website built, all the while I would cross my fingers that on the daily check up of the website, there would be no ‘error warnings, PHP’s, hieroglyphic messages on the home page’. Credit where credit is due, the technicians from the hosting company were excellent, when I logged a ticket, they would rectify file errors, deciphering coding that to me resembled something from the Matrix!
In the meantime, there was still the day job of designing, making garments, making my presence known, as Google changes its algorithm, Facebook updates, YouTube subscribers ‘like this video’ pin it on Pintrest, post it on Instagram, tweet a 140 characters on Twitter. It was a madness, I had to stop spinning those plates, turn off the outside volume, and get back to my ‘why’.
Have you noticed whenever you are in a place lacking in clarity, or preparing yourself to face a new experience, the first thing you are told to do is ‘stop, now take a deep breath’…
With the help of my brother Derek, soon to be friends Alex and Pearl, I stopped, not only did I take a deep breath, I tuned into my original ‘why’. Why I started my business in the first place, and I tuned into me, my voice’. It started with four main ingredients: a love of fabrics, sewing, dressing up and the sheer delight in seeing others wearing clothes I had made. However it was more than ‘seeing’ them in a garment I had made, it was them ‘seeing themselves’, it’s a bit tricky to put into words, it’s a something we do, when getting dressed up, be it your favourite ‘go-to’ outfit, to something completely new. The seeing yourself in a different light is the best way I can explain it. Not just any kind of dressing up mind you, no, it had to be different, it had to be couture, and the craftsmanship of those personalised touches that only handmade can produce.
I recall making a zip-fronted fine wool tunic shirt for my Dad, the following day he told me the evening of which he had worn that shirt, his friends kept asking “Fred where did you buy that shirt”? He said he was so proud saying his daughter made it for him. Then there was a woman who stopped me in the street to ask where I had purchased my coat, I told her I had made it, she asked if I had a business card, months later I received a call enquiring if I could make her a dress, she was making changes in her life, and part of those changes was to update her wardrobe.
It was one of my bespoke clients who said to me “Coral if you could make couture ready-to-wear garments for people who are time pressed, and want something different to what is on the high street, you could be onto a winner, so think about that”. The seed was firmly planted, one thing I knew for sure I did not want to be part of ‘a sea of sameness’, it’s one of the reasons I started sewing from a young age. I didn’t like seeing anyone wearing exactly the same outfits as me.
I was then set the challenge of making 20 garments in varying sizes and styles, to launch my business, the importance being these garments would have to encompass my core values: couture sewing, unusual fabrics, and whilst I have no problems duplicating a design style, the mass production of a garment in the same patterned fabric, was a no-no for me, not to mention I was the only person making these dress pieces. It went back to ‘I didn’t like seeing someone wearing exactly the same outfit as me’.
I’ve been a collector of fabrics for years I am guilty of this obsession. Growing up in Manchester it was Beech Road Fabrics the owner Yvonne would put aside bold crazy print fabrics for me, Moss Side Precinct which to me looked like a massive fabric store, full to bursting with non repeatable end of line fabrics, varying market stalls who would have fabrics from all over the world, sometimes only half a yard available (as it was then before purchasing fabrics in metres). Oh boy was that a trip down memory lane…
The fashion industry was made up of seasons, collections, and trends, my business model doesn’t translate to any of those concepts, how could it? We are talking couture ready-to-wear, handmade garments that speak to longevity, I want people who wear my designs, to wear that piece again and again; distinctive design not classic, beyond a trend, a league of their own.
My vision would be based on the opening of wardrobe doors where in among our staple pieces, there would be ‘that unusual top’, ‘that dress which when you turned to look at yourself in the mirror’ would smile back at you. We all do it when we get dressed up, that last look in the mirror just before we head out the door, the excitement as you know without a shadow of doubt, you look good, I mean real good!
In gathering my thoughts the ‘why’ behind my vision, my brother Derek a former fashion designer and great artist, was always telling me to push the boat out; on our road trips of discovery he would take me to obscure places to look at Vintage clothing, eclectic designs of fellow craftspeople. Little did I know he was showing me that I was compacting the vision of my brand into an industry I wasn’t part of from a commercial standpoint. The independence of unique niche brands stands outside the collective norm.
A new day dawns, I meet Alex Moise of https://moise.pro/ I say he was heaven sent, a superb Web Developer, Alex took me back to basics, understood my ‘why’, it was Alex who suggested that I think about a rebranding, a new start, he was right. Along comes Pearl Jordan, Performance and Wellbeing specialist https://pearljordan.com/, Pearl created the introductory video on the new website; her effervescent personality put me through my paces, ‘32 takes later’ of Pearl saying “now action” she stood behind that camera directing my every movement, snapping me out of brain freeze, days later I could still hear my script, it was gruelling and yet I still speak to her, she is now one of my clients and muse!!
Now back into my groove, a whole new way of being and thinking, so much had happened, and then the world went into lockdown. Talk about stop, reflect, take stock of life and the world around you, count your blessings and then count them again.
In the rebranding of my business, of Coral Turner and Coral Turner Couture, I had to make sure I was ticking my own boxes, those that reflect my values for Mother Nature; those that reflect my values for the skill-set that are my blessings. We are all reinventing ourselves, our way of being, our way of living on this planet respectively.
If you would like to see how I have reinvented myself pop over to https://coralturner.com/ then come back and comment, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.
For those of you feeling unsure in these changing times, be it work, personal or your business life, take stock of your blessings, stay in gratitude, it will guide you to see your bigger picture.
Peace and Blessings to you and yours,