Kyanisha Morgan speaks to Katie Jane Rose, founder of The Bridge Co about her background and what advice she has for the design hopefuls of the future.
Can you talk a little bit more about your background and how that has lead you to where you are now?
I’ve done quite a few things that a lot of people wouldn’t really expect… For starters, I studied languages at UCL (German and Spanish with a year abroad in Berlin). After graduating I spent 18 months working with small fashion brands on PR, marketing, budgeting, tradeshows and more, as well as writing freelance for the likes of Dazed and Grazia. I also held an editorial position at LibertyLondonGirl.com – Sasha has been one of my biggest supporters and mentors since then and I reckon it was her glowing reference, as well as the fact that my background was so varied, that got me the position at Fashion East.
I was at Fashion East from 2012-14 working across everything to deliver the non-profit’s projects –events, sponsorship bids, PR, helping the designers with ad hoc projects and problems… It was just me, Lulu and Tash so it was an amazing, tight-knit experience and so hands-on. Because I showed such an interest in budgets, cash flow, etc., when Lulu & Co were down their Operations Manager I took over the books and got to work on accounting software Xero.
Though I love spreadsheets, writing is still labour of love so recently, I’ve continued contributing to magazines like Rollacoaster and i-D but have held more marketing-focused copywriting positions at Jack Wills, AllSaints, Hudson Jeans, Centre for Fashion Enterprise and Harvey Nichols.
All these disparate experiences have led me to where I am today. It was mainly from working at Fashion East with young designers (I worked with 34 during my time there!) that I saw a lot of the same problems reoccurring and I really wanted to be able to do something about it in a way that would be effective but affordable for them. Obviously with my varied experience I wanted it to be broad and for us to be able to offer 360 degree help, a kind of one-stop shop for brands to master the business side of fashion.
How long have you been running The Bridge Co. ?
I set up The Bridge Co. in May 2014 so it’s been just over a year.
What is it that you look for in a young designer when considering them for The Bridge Co?
Potential! It doesn’t matter if the visuals are off or the prices don’t match with their brand positioning – if the ideas are there, that’s all that counts. You can’t teach that.
The Bridge Co looks after a lot of young designers, do you think you would branch out and help mentor and support other young creatives?
Absolutely. I’ve always helped friends, new graduates, freelancers etc. with things like registering for self-assessment with HMRC and I’d love to formalise that in future.
Your first seminar was how to start your own fashion business, what’s been the hardest thing for you setting up your own company?
Learning how to switch off. When it’s your own business you can’t just flip a switch in your head and stop thinking about work. But somehow you have to remember to make time for yourself and your friends. I’m still trying to find the balance…
(Logo for The Bridge Co’s first event earlier this month, FYI:Starting your own fashion brand)
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given and what is the best piece of advice you would give to anyone considering setting up their own business?
The one piece of advice that always sticks with me is from my maternal grandmother – ‘if in doubt, don’t do it.’ I don’t think of it as a negative, more to trust your gut. I think that rings true for business and life.
When starting a business I would advise to always have some start-up capital. Even if it’s a small amount stashed away to ensure you can pay your rent for a few months. That, and if you’re lucky enough, to have frank conversations with yourself, your parents, your other half – whoever is rooting for you and a part of your life, to ensure you have a back up plan if you fall short. People are funny about money; it’s better to be upfront and have a plan.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you see young designers make?
Not costing up for everything properly so they’re effectively losing money every time they sell at wholesale; not understanding who their customer is; not sticking to a critical path and then having to pay surcharges or extras (cabs, trims, expensive fabric etc.) because they’re running out of time; not communicating effectively with their factories…
Who’s your favourite emerging designer right now and why?
That’s a tough question! Obviously I’m excited about everyone I’m working with otherwise I wouldn’t be working with them. I’m really looking forward to seeing new graduate Roberta Einer’s debut collection and presentation, which we’re putting together at the moment. I’m also excited about Sadie Clayton, who works with copper and avant-garde shapes. From a commercial standpoint, she’s really owning the trouser. And Timur Kim who’s doing some great things with denim., turning the fabric on its head and creating something quite elegant.
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Image © Max Barnett using Impossible Instant film 600