When I was recently at the Dublin Tech Summit (which I would recommend going to if you are into tech/digital and what the new trends are), I saw that Holly White from Holly.ie was going to be interviewing Natalie Coleman on all things tech and I knew it was one session that I could not miss.
Today I wanted to share some of that interview with you as I found it so interesting. Holly is a natural at interviewing and Natalie is such an amazing designer with an interesting viewpoint that the entire event flowed really well and I certainly took something away from it.
So firstly, what is your personal relationship with tech – specifically through the design process. Do you sketch or are there digital platforms that you use?
Everything always starts with pencil and paper. And then at some stage everything almost come digitized – we work a lot with print, so even though we may start off with illustrations by hand we do need to make it all digital so it is ready for digital printing. I’m not naturally a techy person but I have had to engage with it in order for the business to grow and to develop. We do always start with old school pen and paper – even patterns they are all done by hand but then they go through the same process.
You have attracted some highly aspiration celebrities wearing your clothes. Can you talk a bit about if these relationships were organic and natural or was there a strategy involved? How did some of these key relationships occur and how have they affected the brand?
At the very start, I started up the label in my dad’s garage you know in Monaghan and there was no Instagram – Twitter was kinda new. Very early on Suzie Bubble saw the first collection in Berlin and she wrote about it. I think that it is about getting attention for the brand.
We didn’t have an enormous amount of money to spend to pay people to wear the clothes, so I really learned the business as I went along. There is a store in LA and from that, I have gotten a lot of business because some stylists picked up some pieces. We do also try and encourage it as well like we have a great relationship with Angela Scanlon and Laura Whitmore. So each season they would also normally pick up pieces each and that compliments and really helps.
You are building a very strong social platform – do you delegate handling the accounts or do you personally handle your social media accounts?
Up until very recently, I would have done all my social media myself but now we have partnered with a visual contents agency called Skimp. They are handling about 90% of it at the moment so we are kinda telling a few different stories – we are developing this right now. Facebook is now more about driving people to our eCommerce site. Twitter and Instagram are telling the Natalie B. Coleman story.
How do you keep the third party true to your vision? Do you designate content, how does it work?
We have a good relationship, they are working on the See Now, Buy Now model. So we are very closely linked with the business and the label. We are just shooting Autumn Winter 2017 in the next few weeks so we are getting more excited about the content, to make it more engaging in our process.
We do a lot of handwork, for example and are working with Molloy & Sons in Donegal and have completely changed the looms to create our new fabric. We have videoed the process and the steps – so we will be putting up more exciting content.
In relation to online shopping, do you see things moving completely online? There is the convenience of course and you can be in any part of the world and still shop!
We do have an online store but also sell to brick & mortar stores in Europe and Asia and there is a beauty in that. For me when I go into a store I want to feel the clothes – it is the whole experience. I think that most of the exciting brands are having their own stores but are also becoming more innovative about the experience that you have in store.
I think that there is a massive drive for online but I think that you do need to engage more with the customer, they need to have trust and to know your brand. Then more sales will happen. I think also that through our relationship with Skimp we are reacting quicker to trends which will help sales. We are quite focused on adapting that model of See Now, Buy Now and also experimenting with that in Autumn Winter 2017. It is hard to just rely on wholesale, as you know the whole fashion world is in flux right now.
You are now working with young designers lecturing in NCAD, which is very exciting, has the education process changed with regards technology? Is tech changing the way designers actually design now?
I think that everything starts with the basics -you need to learn skills and then if you can draw and design by hand then it is amazing. You can then bring your ideas forward through tech. A lot of students now design most of their work through CAD, it is such a personal thing I think of how people approach the designing. It is about creating your own approach to design and then that can be something that you can adapt.
Careers change so much and there are so many opportunities being created in the fashion world now. Especially with tech, it is like the 60’s at the moment – we are at the start of it! But I think designers working with more tech people as well is going to be really exciting. In some ways, things are changing a lot and in other ways, the fundamentals are still the same. But I think we will see more collaborations and more interdisciplinary work happening over the years. It is an exciting future.
There was so much more that they spoke about but this is what I found most interesting. I also love the Natalie likes to take traditional fabrics and have fun with them to see what they can do differently. I really enjoyed this session at the Dublin Tech Summit – the tech and fashion combined focus was of course right up my street! You can check out more about Natalie and her beautiful creations on her website. She is also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And Holly can, of course, be found at Holly.ie. Roll on the Tech Summit 2018!