The latest to feature as part of the Nine to Five series, Olivia Williams from luxury sheepskin & knitwear brand 88&Half gives us the low down on launching the company, life working alongside her sister Grace, and her tips for young entrepreneurs.
Describe a typical day at 88&Half.
Each day is different from the next but would usually start by checking emails, liaising with boutiques and general sorting in the studio. If we have been at an event or show we would follow up with any leads from press or buyers. In the afternoon I like to be creative in the studio, so set time aside for designing, developing ideas, selecting colours, yarns and skins for the new collection.
How did the business progress after showcasing your final collection at Graduate Fashion Week 2012?
After showing my collection at Graduate Fashion Week I went straight into developing 88&Half. I began by making accessories and smaller pieces, to sell specifically at fairs and trade shows. The products were so well received that I began to struggle to keep up with the demand, so decided it was time to find a manufacturer. I really believe in supporting and celebrating English production so knew I wanted an English based manufacturer for the sheepskin pieces. After a year of retail sales we began to find a demand for supplying independent boutiques. We launched into wholesale with the AW14 collection, which was a big step for 88&Half in growing the business and developing the brand.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
My biggest challenge so far was producing the full AW14 collection to show at Scoop International. It is such a prestigious trade show, I felt the pressure to get it right and wanted to make a good impression. I found it particularly tough juggling the sheepskin and knitwear designs but feel very proud of what we achieved.
And your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement was managing to secure seven boutique stockists for our debut AW14 collection. This was a challenge I set out to achieve – being an emerging brand I knew the value of having great stockists onboard. I really feel that the boutiques are great outlets for our brand.
Where do you find inspiration for new collections in such a specialist area?
I find inspiration for my collections from many different mediums. I am a very hands on designer and often like to develop patterns and silhouettes on the stand as apposed to sketching. I always look to the raw products to gain inspiration, for example new sheepskins tones and colours as well as textural yarns and stitch choices.
What attracted you to work with knitwear and sheepskin?
I was keen to work with sheepskin and knitwear together as they both embody luxurious qualities. Having trained as a knitwear designer I felt in a strong position to push the knitwear and develop all the skills I had learnt at university.
How do you find running a business with your sister?
My sister and I are great friends and are lucky to share an open and honest relationship. We respect each other’s opinions, which is how we can work together so successfully. Like everyone we do have our moments, but on the rare occasions when we do disagree it is always resolved for the better. Grace and I have a good balance in the office as we bring different attributes to the company and push each other to develop areas of weakness.
As a young entrepreneur, what advice would you give someone looking to start their own business?
– Think carefully, as you need to have drive and be self-disciplined. You really need to believe in yourself & your vision as no one else is going to push you.
– Have a good plan and idea of what you want to achieve before jumping in.
– Talk to people outside of your industry, and don’t be afraid to share your ideas with others and get their slant on your business ideas.
Want to know more about Olivia? You can find her on twitter @88andhalf or check out the collections at 88andhalf.com.