Thursday, 11 February 2010

A Little Perspective

We are finally there. The panic has subsided and we are now firmly entrenched in the selling season and it has been going great guns! I think partly that is down to things looking up for the economy in general but also - may i say it - to the strength of the collection. As a designer there is always the natural inclination to be terribly critical but this season I can honestly put my hands up and say we have done a great job.

This is it - Autumn/Winter '10

I realised when looking back that I started this blog in the middle of the SS10 selling season which made me consider how much things have changed in that time for us as designers and the process we have followed this season. When you design a collection there is always pressure to do more. To make the collections bigger, to target other markets and fulfil every need as expressed by your buyers. This is natural and as a business person of course the instinct is to grow. However we found ourselves in a situation where our brand had grown so extensive in its product offer that we were over burdened by these huge collections and we finding less and less time to enjoy the process of design. I guess that is always the problem when you have a creative and business person in the same body but it wasn’t working for us anymore.

The recession allowed us to take a step back and see how much the design process meant to us in a very puritanical way and how much we wanted to go back to our roots. I think that for the first time in the history of our business it wasn’t about growth but about enjoying what we have built. 

This is me on what was a good design day. Very happy!

The success of our bag business showed us how valuable it could be to focus in on our strengths and how much we enjoyed the detail of design. So for AW10 we decide to indulge ourselves and really concentrate on the things that we loved designing as opposed to trying to tick all the boxes. Please understand that this is a pretty brave move. For years our buyers have been coming to us to see two full collections (Sara Berman and Berman Black) per season – each one a comprehensive, fully merchandised offer. In cutting back and presenting a basically egotistical offer of our favourite parts of a collection we risked alienating those buyers. Thankfully it seems to have paid off. The buyers who have seen the collection so far have been ecstatic! That sounds like a crazy word to use but when you have women dancing around the showroom throwing the clothes on themselves and doubling their orders it looks like a pretty enthusiastic reaction!

This season our collection is all about British. Our knitwear is made in a factory that actually makes for the Royal Guards. We have sourced real Donegal yarn-which is the only yarn still spun in the UK and is of such a beautiful quality it makes you proud that we can still make yarn like this. Our Harris Tweed coats are not only made of a yarn spun in the weavers own homes, but the coats and jackets themselves are made in the best factories still operating in the UK. Our silk dresses are also made in the UK and the whole vibe of the collection is British through and through. Think Dodi Smith's ‘I capture The Castle’ meets George Macdonald Fraser’s ‘Flashman’ with a dash of rock and roll thrown in.

Amiee channeling rock 'n' roll

We have also done a collaboration with British artist Dan Baldwin and are using one of his incredible paintings as a print for dresses and the lining of a couple of our Harris Tweed coats. Imagine opening up your coat to show one of Dan’s amazing paintings! The wonderful thing about this is that I have been a fan of Dan’s work for years (you can actually see one of his paintings in our AW09 mood board) and we came together over many shared ideas and inspirations. Terribly pure, honestly non commercial and a wonderful example for us we can indulge our love of art with our commitment to design. We want our customers to buy from us knowing that they are not buying just another mass produced item of clothing but actually a piece which contains a little soul.

The whole process has been an indulgent pleasure from start to finish. The funny thing is that although the collection has ended up being much bigger than we intended, we realised that we have gone back to the roots of what Sara Berman is all about. We found the pictures of my graduate collection from St Martins and realised that it was all leather, knitwear and tweed! Just goes to show that you will always do best that which you love most.

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