Rachel started her millinery business in May last year, working from her dining room, and putting in long hours to establish her label.
The Bumpy Bit
There is no question that Rachel is still in the bumpy start-up bit of establishing her millinery business. Ten months in, she is still like a weather vane trying to work out where the wind is coming from. Every thing is new, every thing is a struggle, except for the hat making itself. The once stylish downstairs of her house is awash with millinery clobber, she can’t come home and unwind because home is now work.
In the run up to Christmas I was working from eight in the morning until seven-thirty each night, seven days a week, it was hard living with the mess and it was difficult to switch off from work.
I haven’t had anyone round to dinner since I started, I don’t even have a dining room any more.
“I am quite good at making hats”
Rachel did Costume Interpretation at Oaklands College, St Albans; work experience at Jess Collett and at Philip Treacy; then worked at Siggi in the Fulham High Street shop. So she can make hats.
“But no good at selling them”
Actually she is wrong, I spied on her selling at her stall in the weekend Brick Lane Backyard Market. She is very good, she is confident and friendly and when I was there, surrounded. Maybe it is the Eliza Doolittle effect but men seem to be drawn to her stall.
Men buy fascinators for their wives, but I have had to develop a bit of a thick skin over time-wasting customers such as boyfriends trying ladies hats on themselves as a bit of a game. At first I stupidly let them, now I realise that its my livelihood and stop them
“Taking the stall was all a bit of a baptism by fire”
A friend suggested a stall there, my husband pushed me to do it but I was afraid that no one would like my stuff. I didn’t think I was going to walk away with my pitch fee of £45 but I made £105 so I went back the next week.
The stall meant extra expenditure hat boxes (from Baxter Hart & Abraham) and display heads. It also meant making to market demand and learning to be tolerant of making the same thing over and over. For example the buckram bird clips which were popular at £6 each and which Rachel loathes making. The market is a tough learning curve you have to manage disappointment
My best day at the market I earned £300 and I had a run between £220-£250 and you get cocky and then suddenly it stops happening.
I spoke to Rachel just after she had gone back to the market after Christmas she had transferred to the main Spitalfields market where the stall cost £90 and her sales were dead. “Winter, no one wants to try anything on”