A year ago today we launched DressCode Shirts. A business built on a glitch, quite literally, that was the inspiration and remains the itch that we just have to scratch (listen tot the full Pecha Kucha 20x20 presentation here).
Like many young businesses it has been a roller coaster year featuring some amazing highs and the occasional low as well. Having been back through the start-up process after several years away we wanted to share our highlights from the past 12 months. So here goes…
DressCode - the Launch party
Everyone likes a party and there’s nothing quite like the launch of products that you have designed and produced to get you excited and nervous in equal measure. Believe it or not, Andy doesn’t chase the limelight, he appreciates the need to let people know what’s happening but he is much more used to playing a conductor roll in his daily business, where he is often out of site, pulling the strings, creating the buzz from a safe distance. But when it’s your thing, people want to see you, meet you and hear the story, so a launch party with lots of face to face interaction was a 'must have'.
For many people the hardest thing about a (business) party is the cost, the ROI! We looked at the event as a long term investment, because revealing your stuff just isn’t enough in our opinion, we think it's conceited and old school. We believe in creating what we call a 'rounded event', something to stimulate conversation and genuinely entertain people. Why? We think it's pretty obvious, but perhaps not that obvious to some, if people have a good time and enjoy themselves it’s much more likely that they will remember you, and remember you for the right reasons.
So we looked around our network to see who we knew that would have something interesting to say, people who would be entertaining, fun and informative – thank you Jon Torrens, Communication Coach and Dan Sodergren, BBC Tech correspondant, they talked about gamification and the future of healthtech. These talks were supported by food and drink with the opportunity to see, touch and try the products with tailoring expert Jason Ball. A year later, looking back, we're more than happy with what we did, it was an evening with a really positive vibe that set the tone for DressCode Shirts.
Without a doubt the most exciting things that have happened this year is the interest that we have received from the press and media. GQ and several other international fashion publications, TV and film producers including Netflix, have all seen our products on social media and thought that we’d be a good fit with their audience. We’ve also connected with some seriously cool and influential people, we're not going to name drop, if you follow us closely you’ll know exactly who I mean.
If you’ve done anything like this yourself, you’ll know that there is simply no better feeling then hearing others say that they searched you out, love your product and want to work with you. When that comes from an international fashion titles and global influencers we found ourselves, double taking, literally pinching one another, jaws on the floor, just stammering bits of words out loud, completely blown away that this was really happening. The sense of fulfilment that we have had and the validation for what we're doing, it's been nothing short of enormous and it has created some incredible highs.
People and product
This will sound slightly crazy, but we promise it’s the truth, it had never really occurred to us what it would feel like to walk into a room and see customers wearing the shirts. We can tell you now, it’s one of the greatest feelings, there’s nothing more personally rewarding than seeing others enjoying the products that you have worked hard to design and produce.
We are grateful to every one of our customers, their support and encouragement is nothing short of tremendous, thank you all. We're looking forward to the next chapter and hope you’ll all enjoy it too.
The feel good factor - Enclothed cognition
Whether you acknowledge it or not, the clothes you wear have a massive impact on your personal outlook and well-being. Wearing clothes makes you feel good inside affects how you present yourself outside, in the big wide world. We love playing a part in this process, hearing the stories and helping people nail their look. If you want to know more about Enclothed Cognition we have written a blog. Being prepared is also an incredibly powerful personal asset, it does take time, but preparing for a positive start to your day is a real game changer.
ROI - Return on investment
The nitty gritty, can you make something like this work? Pay for itself and earn you a living? This is one of the hardest parts of creating anything new. Obviously it takes time, you have to be patient and you have to have tungsten in your resolve, because the challenges are immense at times and the rewards come from places that you’d never possibly imagine.
As Andy says,"I’d always been proud of myself for being ‘busy’, using my time well and always delivering the goods. When I look back at the past 12 months I now know that what I previously thought was good time management and project delivery was actually full of holes". Developing DressCode has sharped Andy's skills no end, broadening his learning, testing him in many ways. Read Andy's personal blog here.
At the end of the day, this is a long term investment, people often talk about planning ahead, well that’s exactly what we’ve done, we've got big plans that we’re honing and refining, testing and delivering. Yes there's a 5 year plan, in fact there's a 10 year one too and yes it is constantly being refined, we've already seen a significant ROI but we know we can do more, we're focussed and we're ready, watch this space.
We all aim for work and life in perfect balance, at times we all have achieved it, but maintaining it is probably the trickiest part, this remains a constant goal for both the business and every member of the team. As a start-up you’re wearing lots of hats and we are no exception, as we grow and mature the balance will improve, it has to and we're working hard to master this.
Looking back at the past year it has really brought home the value of time with family and friends. The time that you spend away from the day-to-day brings you back revitalised, brimming with enthusiasm. Andy is clear about how important this is to him,"I try to take time every day for me, reflective, contemplative time, to be mindful and to be grateful for those who work with me. I feel this is really important, not in a self-indulgent way, but to ensure that I am being my best, supporting and collaborating with those around me in the most constructive ways".
Sustainability...thinking about tomorrow
We're never going to be part of 'fast-fashion', we believe in creating the best shirts possible, making them by hand, collaborating with skilled crafts people, using the best materials to produce a product that delivers and continues to deliver for a long time. We are constantly monitoring our production and our environmental impact. We have begun several long-term tests and experiments to explore the 'life' of our product. We're videoing everything that we're doing and will share it with you in the coming weeks.
Christmas was always the barometer by which we would measure and test the sustainability of this business. The response from customers, influencers and the press was fantastic, this has laid down a base upon which we feel confident we can build something special. That’s the goal and we’re making progress, bit by bit, taking every small win, as cumulatively they have a big affect.
What does year two hold? There are lots of interesting things happening, we remain focussed on building the brand, delivering great products and giving our customers a great experience.
There are investors on the horizon, we have plans for more designs and a wider range of products but we’re keeping our feet on the ground. This Christmas sees us take a new angle, venturing into the 'smart clothes' arena rubbing shoulders with the likes of Google, who have developed Project Jacquard, the smart jacket and more recently with Jacquard Tag, the Saint Laurent smart bag.
We have developed the CashCuff® – smart clothing with contactless payment that is embedded into the cuff of our shirts. We are now pushing the boundaries of shirt design and construction, integrating NFC chip design and control with a super simple process that we believe will help people as they go about they daily lives.
Data driven innovation
The CashCuff® development was influenced by a number of things, without a doubt the major contributing factor was data. The data has proved to be a powerful signpost for the general direction and interaction with our brand and our products, helping us verify the opportunities to pursue, defining who our customers are on a human scale, using human values to connect and identify what they want from DressCode.
The CashCuff® is one of the first pieces of designer smart clothing, it's not a wearable and it’s not fitness or sports orientated. The CashCuff® offers contactless payments directly from your shirt – no wallet, phone or app is required. For us it was all about simplicity, removing the need for devices and everything else. Life is so hectic these days, there’s so many distractions, we all need things to make life simpler, we believe the CashCuff® can do that.
We’re about to launch this years designs and that in itself is very exciting for us, it's also nerve racking as well. The excitement comes as this is the culmination of a lot of skills and hard work to innovate the designs, reflect the latest and greatest tech and bring it all to life in a product. We were over the moon when we saw Pantone reveal their colours of the moment last week, we have designs in nearly all the colours that they have identified as 'on trend' and those designs are ready to hit our online shop in just a few weeks time.
This also makes it nerve racking, whilst we believe in what we’re doing and naturally, it’s nice to be aligned with people like Pantone, GQ and many of the tech influencers we believe the ultimate test is our customers. It’s them who decide if it’s cool or not. Don’t get us wrong, none of this stuff is done in a vacuum, we speak to our customers daily, share concepts with them and always listen to feedback, but you can never be totally confident until the designs are out there, for all to see.
The 2019 range will be revealed mid October, sign up to our newsletter for more details and updates about the CashCuff®.
We’re on the cusp of doing a lot more with the business, designing more products, covering more themes and expressing more ideas. We’ve come a long way in the past 12 months, but we are far from sitting back and relaxing, there’s still a lot to do, and we hope that you’ll join us as we move forward and develop DressCode Shirts into 2020 and beyond.