HOW TO START A BUSINESS WITH MORE THAN ONE IDEA

How did we start? Where did our inspiration come from? Why are we doing this? Actually, what is it we are doing?!

We are currently in the middle of a business plan as part of our application for a Virgin Start-Up loan. It’s a really exciting time for us but with all the information gathering, figures to calculate and projections to show it becomes easy to forget the bigger picture. This got me thinking about how we present ourselves and whether anyone actually knows what the hell we are doing – and why!

Arkdefo Version 1 – Courses, Photography, Architecture

We started out thinking we would produce online fashion design courses and shoot interior photography, maybe do some architecture work. Over time the architecture fell away and became a side project for building our own dream house. Current site for the house is Santander in Spain. Photography became interiors and product photography. We both thought this could be a thing, with the courses ticking along in the background. That became our business idea.

Arkdefo Version 2 – OK, Just Courses, Maybe Photography and a Shop!

The courses proved to be an incredible amount of work. Some of the courses could take several weeks of full time (10 hours a day) involvement, even for the courses that were given away for free. The courses became the backbone of what we were doing and they began to expand into different areas – basic wardrobe and club & festival wear. We also produced a line of slow fashion, one-off garments, based on a zero waste principle of using the materials we already had, and scrunchies were an ideal use for off-cuts!

A conversation with a family friend pushed us in a different direction – “what about a course for kids”….

This coincided with several other aspects of research, investigation and brainstorming and soon our entire business idea had been ripped up and we were starting again, but this time we had a purpose.

You have to have a purpose

Everything we had been researching covered the mess created by the fashion industry. Over use of resources, forced labour, workers rights, chemical pollution, water usage, over production, poor quality, throwaway society and landfill. We all play some part in this, but we really don’t have to.

“Ah, but it’s too big a problem”

“Who do you think you are?”

“You’re nobody, leave it to government”

“How are you going to change things?”

Nothing will change if we listen to these sorts of people. We didn’t listen.

Our purpose grew, as did our idea, with each part connecting to the next, offering a solution to other problems. Sometimes it feels overwhelming. There is just the two of us. How can we take on all this? How can we change what others have not? Maybe right place, right time, right resolve.

Using fashion (and the creative process) to provide a positive and productive outlet to engage the public in discussions that are otherwise seen as boring. Neither of us are politicians. We are not in the public sector and are not tainted by these things. What we see are creative design solutions to problems and have the drive and determination to see them through.

Positive benefits of handcrafts

Our online courses are designed to teach adults and kids the benefits of handcrafts. Teaching creativity, that it’s OK to make mistakes, to design what works for you, to make clothes for your size, for your measurements, for your style is about confidence and empowerment. You are in control. Don’t settle for high street mass market clothes that almost fit. We are all different, but their clothes are not. Learn to make what fits you!

Tackling our own mess

Our discussions with local and national Government are to raise the subject of textile waste. Currently, we are exporting the majority of it to Africa, so poor quality fast fashion items can lie in landfill over there. We have covered this subject already, as have others including the BBC and ITV and we should be ashamed of what the UK allows to happen. It costs these countries money for this and they are basically buying our landfill. We are working to stop this by making the UK responsible for its textile mess and we can use this as a positive. We intend to create jobs and infrastructure out of this. 

I’d be surprised if Governments were not interested in job creation.

Upcycling

This is really exciting for us. It’s how we begin to change the system in this country and make us accountable for our own mess. We are going to collect end of use denim, upcycle and revitalise it into a new range of clothing. We’ll give it a second life. By doing this we will help reduce what ends up in an African landfill, we will reduce the water consumption for new denim, we will reduce that chemical pollution and the carbon pollution at end of life.

By joining us on this you are playing a huge part in sending a message – change the way we do things!

Teaching the next generation

Our discussions with local authorities covered creating an educational programme for schools. This would cover the impact fashion has on the planet, how we can make informed choices and how to play a part in improving things moving forward. Well informed kids will make better consumer choices and they cannot be allowed to fall into the same cycle of the buy/consume/waste model.  

We hope to run a pilot scheme in 2021.

We need your help

Fashion has the power to do great things. We see fashion being used to create solutions to the very problems it has created, by being the vehicle to instigate discussion.

You may think that Liza and I cannot possibly do all these things. On our own, no.  We do need your help. We need you to consider your choices, to interrogate the brands you choose, to research that impact on other parts of the world, to think about your impact now and what you do going forward. It may sound like we are asking a lot of you. Together we’ll make change happen.

We are doing these things at the moment and, if you listen to our podcast (yes, we are doing that too), you’ll know already we’re going to change the world! x

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