17. Look to the future constantly. But understand that you can’t predict it.  

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Well. Maybe I am going to turn this one inside out and say that sometimes you CAN predict the future.

I read tarot. I used to practise yoga and yogic magic (well, I never got far with that but I was taught a few techniques) from a very early age and if I am entirely honest, I do believe, through experience, that sometimes you can get a very good idea of what's going to happen. Even occasionally in detail.

A rationalist would call this hunch based on observation and analysis. I once heard a professor at the Royal College say that in the case of some designers, it's an almost uncanny ability to pick up on the zeitgeist before most other people can recognise a coming trend. Whatever, sometimes you may get a powerful feeling of what's going to happen and an equally powerful urge to do something in anticipation of it. My advice is to follow it when it's strong and persistent. I did, it's the reason I packed up hastily and came here in 2001 - and it worked.

But. Mostly, we can't tell what's going to happen. I had been here just five days when 9/11 occurred and all sorts of things in the world changed. I walked across Charles Bridge the next morning early and the only people on it were two police - checking for bombs in the arches - and an elderly accordion player, playing this:


The big financial bubble had its beginning then - in the days when panicking Western governments took hideous long-term risks to stop their economies being affected short-term. We are still living through the effects, in both small and big ways. Our "recession beater" new shoulder pouch bags would not have been my last six months' obsession without all this. Equally, rents here could never have fallen to the level that allows us now to take on a vastly larger working space (right by the Castle too). Trivia compared to world events of course, but important to us and our studio.

So. Look to the future because it will have a huge impact on your planning if unanticipated events occur. And they will.

To do this, first and foremost keep up to date with what's happening. Follow news channels, read papers, think about everything from why Obama got in to why the world went mad this week over an unknown Scottish singer (good emotional manipulation on the part of a reality show, but more than that also). Think about where it's all leading. Try to predict how things will go over the next couple of years. Don't be caught out following a trend that's past (in fact, why follow transient trends at all?) and don't miss opportunities.

Here are a few of my non-political predictions. If you're interested you can see if I'm right in a year or so:

1. Big blousy flowers will be huge on textiles and in fashion. Sort of improvisations around those Dutch still-lives with great big overblown roses (I knew someone who faked those - many of the ones you see around are probably by him. But I digress). It'll be like the chintz thing of the early eighties, but more decadent and with a slightly over the top period feel. It'll be everywhere, so in a couple more years we'll all be sick of it again. Buy your florals the minute it happens or you won't get a whole lot of wear out of them.

2. Modernism will begin to look very, very dated. Okay, that's an easy one, because it already does. But seriously, Danish chairs will suddenly begin to look a bit like stripped pine did in the 90s. A shame, because I have some and I still think some (Wegner - sigh) are inherently beautiful.

3. Distributors will get hit particularly hard by this recession and you'll see more and more direct-to-customer online distribution services such as Amazon Fulfillment. Shops will be used as showcases more than as actual places for selling. Well, that will take longer than a couple of years - but we'll see a lot of signs of it soon. Many of those empty high-street shops won't come back in the form that we've been used to for years.

4. Etsy will be sold to someone unlikely. Sellers there will be surprised and not altogether pleased. Though in fact, it will all work out okay - or as okay as Etsy was ever going to work out.

5. We will spend a lot of time dressing cats and other animals. More than we expect right now. We will also get our first "serious" fashion feature (fingers crossed, fingers crossed - perhaps that last one is wishful thinking).

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If you are into "things to do" take-outs from a blog like this, then write your own predictions. Don't spend too much time thinking about them, go purely by hunch. Keep them somewhere and look at them from time to time. If you have really, honestly, gone by instinct and gut feeling, I would predict they will turn out to be very accurate.

Growing pains  

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I know, I know, the irony of saying "don't freeze" and then not posting for over a month is apparent to me!

It's just been a crazy time. A period of realising that we really do need some help soon. Right now, it's sort of okay, but I have less and less time to do some of the design, development and more interesting, creative marketing that I really want to be doing - and which we now need.

So, it's made me think about the times, as a business grows, when you have to stop being, at some level, a "start up" and start being a little more managed and planned.

These are some of the features about the early years of a creative business:

  • Excitement - which at times means anxiety.
  • Eccentricity - in a strange way you can often be exactly how you like at this time. Work in your dressing gown (I try not to, but it has happened), take lunch at 4.00pm. Decide to sit and read under the sun and work until midnight to make up. As soon as co-workers are about, things become more formal and predictable, at least to some extent.
  • Possibilities. When we began, we didn't know if we were a design company (and if so, designing what exactly?) or a publisher. Our first two projects were a deck of cards about the year after 9/11 and a small series of corsets built from Japanese kimono fabrics. Neither were terribly well thought-out or successful. But both were entirely new for me and I learned a lot. As we've grown, we've had to focus and make decisions. As Alex says - we can't hop like a rabbit from one thing to another. The focus is great, but I've had to learn not to jump around and follow my every whim.
Now we are about seven years old (goodness!) We went through the break-even point and into a small profit quite a while back - in a shorter time than average for a new business, and now it's time to begin to become what we'd like to be in five years time. This means, this year, a move into an office space that's large enough for four desks, and a couple of people to sit at them. Well, one first then the other when we can afford it.

So goodbye eccentricity and doing whatever I feel like. But goodbye also to over-working and to having no-one to hand over to.

But it's odd to face up to the fact that I've put this moment off as long as I can. I have to admit that a well-run business needs to have enough people working in it. I need to allow Baba to grow up a little.

So without being too maudlin I hope, here is a little song for the start-up we were. I know things are going to change this year and I am looking forward to it. With just a tiny touch of regret. This is the third business I've started, and in some ways I always find it hard to take this next step. Then again, if it all works out my reward to myself will be to get into clothes design next year, and that's a big, big compensation.