Style is the best address, and a viable fashion product was the missing ingredient of my business model. I launched Style Icon in 2005, followed by The Lifestyle Collective blog in 2017. The two did not satiate my entrepreneurial appetite. ‘Great things come in threes’. I yearned for a new challenge; thus, Shades and Coffee—an eco-friendly t-shirt range—was created to make you feel-good to look-good.
Who inspired Shades and Coffee? Let us go back in time. I used to work as a door supervisor at an established hotel in Central London. Where, exactly? Conveniently, it was opposite Mamma Mia, where hordes of people made their presence known while keeping me entertained. Every night, I would think ‘here we go again’ as I managed the side door, wishing for a better lifestyle that excluded night shifts. Ironically, such times represent the lost zeitgeist of the West End scene amidst the COVID-19 plague.
In retrospect, the beauty of working in hospitality was that I met interesting characters and engaged in fruitful conversation with my coworkers—mainly the security team who assisted me on the door. I remember a security guy named Patrick. We used to speak for hours, especially on quiet nights, about our future goals and aspirations. He suggested I write a book one day and title it ‘Shades and Coffee’ as a reflection of my life story, which consisted of sleepless nights, hence the need for shades and coffee the following morning.
At the time, I did not envision a t-shirt range as a possible business venture. A book? Perhaps. Time will tell. However, I felt confident about developing Shades and Coffee into a relatable concept and, as such, incorporated the catchphrase ‘feel-good look-good’ into the brand message. The latter means that whether you’re fatigued from the night before, on a school run, travelling to work, or whatever your engagement may be, you need a daily dose of coffee (to feel good) and shades or sunglasses (to look good).
My research findings helped me to realign my vision for Shades and Coffee with its USP. Yes, financial gain is a key factor in starting a business but I needed to understand what would generate sales revenue. Sustainable fashion is relevant and my unique selling proposition. Furthermore, I respect the environment; thus it felt natural to source an eco-friendly product.
I researched organic cotton and hemp t-shirt manufacturers in the UK. There is a limited amount hence my decision to source products abroad. As a result, I found a US wholesaler (within budget) who specialises in GOTS certified t-shirts. Some sceptics may argue that international shipping impinges upon sustainability practices by increasing carbon footprint. The UK manufacturer I wanted to use originally, specified a five-week production run at their mill abroad (ironically). Shipping would take a further five weeks as they do not air freight. Overall, I would have spent beyond my means for more inconvenience.
I chose a reputable US manufacturer, subsequently, who ship to the UK within two weeks using Fed Ex while adhering to fair-trade clothing productions and standards. Additionally, Fed Ex is committed to reducing aircraft emissions’ intensity.
From the outset, start-ups should adopt a cost-effective approach to expenditure without compromising on the quality of production. To spend unwisely with limited financial injection is a recipe for disaster. I dare not look back in anger at the amount of money I have lost owing to poor business decisions. Call it a learning curve that should make one more resourceful in the future.
London-based illustrator Georgina Trestler designed the Shades and Coffee logo based on my creative vision. Furthermore, the screen-printing process involves the use of water-based ink, which absorbs into the fabric. Attention to detail is imperative when building a brand. In essence, Shades and Coffee is about style, quality, emotion and good energy. The core message, ultimately, is that the nature of our well-being impacts our outlook on life.
The organic hemp viscose range of Shades and Coffee is available on www.shadesandcoffee.com Other online stocklists include Teemill, and It Won’t Cost The Earth. Shades and Coffee clothing is due to launch in a London-based store in 2021. Stay tuned.