In the latest issue of Homemaker we interview the team behind BY HAND LONDON, a young organisation which began as a independent sewing pattern label and is now pushing boundaries in the exciting world of custom fabric printing. Here on the blog we have a bonus Q + A session from these creative women who are leading the way in all things fabric – for the rest of the interview check out the full feature in issue 30, out on Friday 27th March.
Who are the By Hand London team?
“We are Charlotte (lover of a sleazy syncopated beat and bold block colours), Elisalex (DIY obsessive and 1950s house wife reincarnate) and Victoria (erstwhile gamer turned pattern cutter & designer who not-so-secretly wants to re-train as a mechanic) and the few (but rather vital to BHL) things we have in common are a love of knockout dresses and the desire to have control over our own style. Oh yes, and jerk chicken.”
We ask Victoria a few more questions…
How would you describe By Hand London?
“Our brand identity is very integral to our product and our style and obviously we do now literally have a fabric printing service, but it’s also service in the sense that you don’t just buy a product from us and that’s the end of it. We like to engage people and help them to learn more about sewing techniques, DIY projects and crafting through our blog content and we have our in depth sew-a-longs which accompany each sewing pattern. We also encourage customers to get in touch if there’s anything they’re stuck on or if there are things they think we could improve. It’s important to us that we keep an open dialogue with the community because they are the reason we are here today!”
Where does your inspiration come from?
“We’re pretty greedy when ladling from the inspiration cauldron, which means it’s pretty much an inspirational free-for-all round at our place. When it comes to designing we look at everything from vintage pin-ups to the catwalk and an amalgamation of our own wildly different personal wardrobes. Whereas business master-plans are often the spawn of coffee fuelled living room pacing, long bus journeys, or midnight light bulb moments.”
Tell us about your typical day…
“We have a dedicated studio, a lovely little breeze-block empire in West London. We tried to maximise the space by creating a mezzanine, the ground floor housing our printer and storing sewing patterns, while upstairs is the sewing studio where the toiling and sampling magic happens. Because it’s just the three of us there isn’t really such thing as a typical day, it’s mostly an all hands on deck situation so we do everything from packing up orders, to sampling new designs, updating our website or firing up our shiny new textile printer.”
What spurred you on to start your own creative business? What advice can you give to people wishing to do the same?
“We would say, DO IT! However, we would also temper that with advising not to rush into it - make sure you have a well thought through business plan before you start and seek (and actually listen to) the advice of people who know more than you. Our trusted circle of pals-come-advisors, from a variety of backgrounds, have been absolutely invaluable to us.
We are all naturally self-starters that relish a challenge and therefore for all of us running our own business makes perfect sense. Similarly, simply because of our interests and strengths, there was no way that a business that we started altogether would be anything other than in the creative industries.
What has been the most exciting opportunity you have had since you started the business?
Our most exciting opportunity was probably being stocked at Anthropologie over the Christmas period in 2013. One of our ambitions from before we even had a product to sell was to be part of making home sewing mainstream again, and being picked up by such a big high street name was both a move in that direction and a huge compliment to our product design in general.
Our proudest moment was probably hitting our Kickstarter target. We are very aware that we did not get this far as a business on our own, we began with a loan from family, we grew thanks to our wonderful customers shouting about us (vital when you have absolutely no marketing or advertising budget to speak of!) and were then able to expand in an exciting new direction thanks to our Kickstarter backers. It was a large amount of money and a big risk (there was no plan B) and we still feel extremely humbled and proud that so many people believed in us and our business.
Dream commissions or opportunities for both would be a great collaboration. In terms of the textiles it would be working with a famous artist to get their prints for sale in our gallery. We are big believers in textile design as an art form in itself and also that it can act as an important ‘democratiser’ for fine art by offering it on an accessible medium at an accessible price. For our sewing patterns similarly it would be amazing to be able to co-design a dress with a designer we really admire, again to democratise the whole designer fashion industry, this time by giving you the tools to recreate the look in your style and your size at home.”
How much do you think the use of textiles can change an interior?
“Your home is supposed to be a sanctuary and the place you feel the most comfortable, so the use of patterns and colour is the best way to make each room an expression or reflection of yourself - if you move into a new house, it never really feels like a home until you put your own personal stamp on it! That’s one of the many reasons we love custom printing because no one else gets to dictate what your home should look like, want your cats face beaming down at you from the curtain rail? Sure. Hot pink flamingos on a leopard print background plastered over your bedroom furniture? Why not!”
What is your advice for people using your fabric printing services?
Bear in mind that it is difficult to accurately represent the colours of a printed product on a computer screen so it’s always best to order a test swatch of your design before ordering enough to kit out your house! Make sure your design tiles well and keep an eye out for pesky white lines around the edges which often creep their way in without you noticing. Always follow the instructions on our care label, when washing your fabric a small amount of fading is unavoidable but we tell you the best ways to keep it to a minimum!
Check out issue 30 page 56 for more from BY HAND LONDON