Tuesday 16th February 2016, the date I launched clothing brand, Brother & Gent.
So what's happened since?...
As a start-up brand I found that the first few months were a huge learning curve. I remember the day of 'the launch', I had all my plans sorted, the website complete and my ordering system in place. Everything was set and ready to go! I clicked the button to make the website go live and then announced it on social media!
I remember half expecting a sea of orders to come flooding in and thinking the word (of this new brand) would spread like wild fire!... When the opposite actually happened it was quite tough. I didn't really have a clue what I was doing to be honest. I had no real marketing budget, no established database to contact and no assistance in promoting the brand! What I did have though, was determination and a goal in mind of what I wanted to achieve, which was a start!
With very little money to invest in advertising and marketing strategies I had to rely mainly on word of mouth to promote the brand. Social media also helped, but it was a slow and inconsistent way of building an engaged customer base. Understandably people don't have a huge amount of trust or confidence in a start-up menswear brand that they've never seen or heard of before.
I started sending out press releases with updates on Brother & Gent and the products I had to offer. Unfortunately the majority of magazines and menswear bloggers were not interested in the slightest... but there were a handful that gave me the time of day. Grey Fox, Highstreet Gent and Chic Geek all took the time to reply, ask me questions and offer to feature Brother & Gent. I thank you gents once again for your kind and humble approach, and for featuring Brother & Gent in your own little ways at the beginning.
It meant a lot to me, the fact these individuals had taken time out to write about the brand. It gave me a needed boost to continue what I was doing and to believe in myself that little bit more!..
Over the next few months I introduced various new products including silk ties, braces, tie bars and original design t-shirts to my two collections: Suit & Boot and Stay Classy. Followers on social media started to increase and new orders soon followed. Every order I received got me excited! It still does to be honest, and I think there'd be something wrong if that excitement ever stopped!
As time went on my many ideas and plans for the brand came to the surface, but at that stage I didn't feel the platform I had created was established, respected or strong enough to really support those ideas. I also began to realise that although the brand was fairly strong in appearance, the products I had to offer sadly did not reflect anything particularly inspiring - at least not in the way I had in mind.
The products I had were top quality and beautifully made, but the fabric prints and the designs could be copied and they didn't have any real story or meaning behind them. I didn't like that thought, and the more I pondered over it the more I realised that this was not what I'd intended for the brand. I didn't want to be just another ordinary menswear brand turning out uninspiring and plain old products to make a quick buck.
Things had to change.
My goal was to create products that were raw and unique, from start to finish, designed by me and seen through every stage to the end by me. I wanted to make products that inspire people and that really mean something... That would be how I'd differ from the majority of menswear brands today.
In reality though, this was quite a major change to make as I wasn't set up for this sort of production. It would clearly require a lot of work. The more I gave thought to it though, the more I knew it definitely was the right decision for me to make.
So in February 2017, one year after the initial launch, I announced that Brother & Gent would be closed and offline temporarily. If I wanted to really concentrate on making these changes and put my heart into creating something more unique and inspiring, I needed to completely close down the current activity. It didn't feel good at first as I'd just started to build momentum and I had no real idea on how long it would be before I'd be back up and running... I felt I'd lost the connection with everyone who had supported me over that past year, which was difficult, but I stayed focused on my goal and got straight to work!
In March 2017 I started work on my loft studio/workshop (and sort of man-cave) to prepare it for the sort of work I'd be doing up there. Since I'd decided that the majority of Brother & Gent products will be designed or made by me, I needed an area suitable to make this happen. So up I went into my dark, dingy and cold little loft to get to work.
I first made a large cutting table, as well as an ironing/pressing table. I also created space for drawing out my designs, leaving just enough table room for my sewing machine. It was quite enjoyable actually, and once it was complete (or in a workable state at least), I got started on the real work!
The Loft Studio/Workshop:
In May 2017 after taking apart old vintage ties and mapping out how they had been cut and sewed together, I began teaching myself how to make a tie. In time I made my FIRST necktie from scratch using a bright blue fabric with penguin's all over it... obviously! I mean why wouldn't you?.. [I still have a long way to go before mastering the art of tie-making, but it's a start.]
*Hopefully in the not so distant future I'll be releasing a limited edition collection of handmade silk ties. Stay tuned!*
Over the next year I worked hard on various new designs for the different products I had planned. Then, around March 2018 I began sampling and selecting suitable fabrics as well as finding manufacturers to work with. I also began designing a brand new website, testing fabric prints, converting my designs in a digital formats, preparing blog content and finishing off my loft studio/workshop. There was A LOT to do and this all took far longer than I had anticipated... I really don't like to rush things either!
>> Let's fast forward to right NOW... February 2019.
It has been 3 years since the initial launch (in 2016), and 2 years since I'd taken the shop offline to make the changes (in 2017)... Now the time is finally here to get Brother & Gent back online and start releasing the new inspired designs!
In reality, this whole re-launch is just like starting over from the very beginning. Like in 2016, I'm still a one-man-band, I don't have a marketing budget yet and I don't have any real reliable way of promoting the brand... but if there is one thing I've learnt so far, its that none of those things matter. I believe I can make something of it, so that's what matters.
Along with the Brother & Gent brand I have also started a personal blog [Dan's Diary] which is where you are reading this now. The blog will be a way of communicating my thoughts, inspirations, experiences and of course my actual design work. It is the blog behind the brand, written by myself, the Designer.
I recently spent the afternoon with the very talented Joshua Atkins, a Photographer from Rochester. He extended the opportunity for me to be part of his Photographic series "These Hands" revolving around artists and creatives in Medway. He came over to see my work space and took some great snaps. You can see them via the link below:
Photo credit: Joshua Atkins
So that brings us up to date...
I am now looking forward to taking the brand and my designs in the direction I've always wanted to.
Of course I am still learning, still taking my time with everything, still making plenty of mistakes, and still working from my little loft studio... but that's all part of the journey!.. I can't wait to share the next chapter of the story with you all.
Also - let me just take this opportunity to say Thank You to everyone. I am very grateful for each and every customer, supporter and follower that I have and continue to gain.
Thumbs up emoji.
Feel free to ask me any questions you have in the comments section below.
Thanks for reading.