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News

Re-Working the System: An Insight into the Broken Fashion Business Model

Caitlin Charles-Jones

When I started Caitlin Charles-Jones in 2015 I had my sights set on showing at London Fashion Week.  LFW is essentially a trade show where brands showcase their new collections to potential stockists.  These buyers then place orders which they will then sell in their shops in six months time. 

Fresh Faced! My debut exhibition at London Fashion Week SS16

Fresh Faced! My debut exhibition at London Fashion Week SS16

My AW16 Exhibition at London Fashion Week

My AW16 Exhibition at London Fashion Week

My SS17 Exhibition at London Fashion Week

My SS17 Exhibition at London Fashion Week

The Emerging Designer Dilemma

In the past buyers would be on the look out for exciting new brands to sell in their stores, eager to be the first to introduce the new 'must have' label.  However of recent years retailers have started to feel the pinch and are increasingly reluctant to take a chance on young labels who a) might not sell and b) might not fulfil their orders.

In addition, emerging designers face the challenge of having a workable production plan in place on the off chance that they get an order. Now here lies the problem: factories are also wary of working with emerging brands, they don't like producing small quantities as it's not financially viable for them and even getting them to agree to produce samples for a new brand is tricky. They've been screwed over too many times with new labels not paying their bills and leaving them in the lurch, they prefer a proven track record.  It's also a lot of money for a young designer to lay out when it's unlikely they will get many (if any) wholesale orders in their first season.

Many new designers start by producing samples in house, working with seamstresses and craftspeople.  This means they can make small quantities of pieces, but it also means it's more expensive.  This is very difficult when it comes to pricing, as it means their wholesale price (the price the store pays the designer) is higher than if the pieces were factory produced.  It also means that the subsequent retail price (the price the customer pays) is sky high - stores typically mark garments up three times the wholesale price.

My Start

This is how I started.  I produced my collections in my studio by hand, I was lucky enough to get a stockist in my first season who then continued to work with me for the following seasons, but it was very tough.  I would produce the production order myself - generally the maximum would be 20 pieces but physically it was very demanding. I also found myself in a new predicament: of course I wanted more stockists but I knew that I would really struggle to produce larger quantities in this way - and yet the quantities I would need wouldn't come close to a minimum order required at a factory. A small order in a factory is around 150 pieces per style - i.e. 150 of each garment in the collection.

Moving Forward

I'll be honest, I felt very stuck in this cycle.  I wanted my business to grow and I loved that it was grounded in the craft and the handmade, but I knew this would never be a viable or indeed practical way to run my business in this industry - and then I had the epiphany! 

I realised that instead of changing my business to fit the traditional model, I would change the model to fit my business.  It would be on my terms.  This is why for the next few crucial years while I establish my brand I will not be wholesaling my pieces.  I will only sell direct to the customer via my online store and pop up shops and sales.

What This Means

-  I can continue to produce small quantities of pieces in house and outsource to craftspeople and small production studios 

- I will establish core brand staple pieces as well as introducing new designs every couple of months

- I will be selling all year round as opposed to producing two seasonal collections a year

- I will restock depending on what is popular rather than producing large quantities of pieces that I don't know will sell

The Kickstarter

The Kickstarter campaign aims to raise money to jumpstart this new business model.  The pieces available to buy through the campaign are a taste of what to expect from CC-J in the future.  So if you like the sound of what we're doing, head over to our campaign page and show your support! It's a great opportunity to treat yourself or even better, get some Christmas shopping done while making a huge difference to a small business.

 

 

HOW IT'S MADE: CC-J Hand Intarsia Jumpers

Caitlin Charles-Jones

My favourite reward over on our Kickstarter Campaign has to be our beautiful slogan knits.  They're made from 100% fluffy lambswool for a soft yet durable finish - these are truly jumpers to live in and will last you many years.

These jumpers are investment pieces and that is also reflected in the price tag - I'm often asked how we justify these prices when people are used to grabbing a jumper on the high street for £25.  So this article will tell you all you need to know about our jumpers and hopefully you will come to love them for more than just their good looks!

Hand Intarsia - LINDA

Our jumpers are handmade in Scotland by a master craftswoman. You read correctly, ONE WOMAN.  Linda is a true artisan who trained and worked in a knitwear factory in Scotland her whole life until the factory was closed down as brands started moving their production overseas.  When the mill closed she was able to keep her knitting machine and now works with small brands.

The intarsia technique is so intricate and time consuming that many factories using digital machinery discourage their clients from using it as it is not cost effective or reliable to knit.  Linda is able to do this BY HAND. Beautifully.

Watch Linda in action knitting our KNIT GIRL jumper.

What makes intarsia so beautiful is that you can create an image within the knit which is as beautiful on the back as it is on the front.  It is seamless and every stitch is manipulated by hand.

Before you even start knitting there is a lot of work involved calculating the stitches as well as the overall pattern of the jumper.

The design is plotted out to scale on graph paper and every stitch and colour change is calculated.  This acts as Linda's roadmap.

The design is plotted out to scale on graph paper and every stitch and colour change is calculated.  This acts as Linda's roadmap.

British Lambswool 

These jumpers are made from 100% lambswool.  We only produce small runs of each design so we source our lambswool carefully within the UK - it's more expensive than buying overseas but we're happy knowing it's been produced ethically and hasn't travelled too far.

Fully Fashioned

There is ZERO cutting involved in these jumpers.  They are knitted to shape for the perfect fit.

Finished in London

When Linda has knitted all the panels, she sends them to my studio in London where they are linked together, washed and finished.

There you have it.  When you buy one of these jumpers you may be paying more than on the high street, but you are paying for a piece where every step of it's creation has been lovingly and closely considered.  You're paying for skills that have taken years to perfect and are becoming increasingly rare.  You're paying for a piece that has been painstakingly created by people, not computers and we promise you can feel the difference.

We only have a small number of these jumpers available! If you love them please head over to our Kickstarter Campaign and pledge for your favourite. You will not only be buying a beautiful piece but will be making a huge difference to our small business.

CC-J Ambassadors: Sophie

Caitlin Charles-Jones

Sophie

Sophie

We're so excited to announce our first set of CC-J Ambassadors! We've selected three amazing women who embody all aspects of the Caitlin Charles-Jones brand.  Each month, they will receive a piece from our latest collection and style it up in their own unique way.  We can't wait to see how they style their CC-J! 

Our third Ambassador is Sophie: Sophie has wide and well rounded experience in the creative industry which she balances with being a new mum! She's passionate about supporting new creative talent and we're so happy that she's going to be styling our knits each month.

Sophie Monro-Pruett is a London based Costume Designer, Fashion Editor of Noctis Magazine, Fashion Stylist and Mum to one.

She has been involved with Noctis Magazine since it started in 2011; creating a supportive and successful platform for up and coming talent was and still is the most important focus for Sophie with the magazine.

She is very proud to have designed two feature films, both of which are available or will be available on Netflix and both will have had official U.K. releases, a real feat from working her way up as a trainee in 2012. 

Becoming a mother in 2016 has opened and closed many doors, and has been Sophie's biggest achievement so far.. she is currently working on bundling all her skills into a new venture! 

Look out for Sophie's pics!

Instagram: @sophie_stylist    //    Website: www.sophiemonropruett.com

CC-J Ambassadors: Tracey

Caitlin Charles-Jones

We're so excited to announce our first set of CC-J Ambassadors! We've selected three amazing women who embody all aspects of the Caitlin Charles-Jones brand.  Each month, they will receive a piece from our latest collection and style it up in their own unique way.  We can't wait to see how they style their CC-J! 

Next up is Tracey who posts as The Naughty Forty Diaries.  Tracey's mix of playful, sophisticated and edgy styling really caught our eye when we discovered her on Instagram and we can't wait to see what she does with our knits - she also loves sparkly things so it sounds like a perfect match!

"Hi I'm Tracey, 46 and from Sheffield. 

From an early age I've had a keen interest in fashion & beauty and could be found with my head stuck in Vogue drooling over the Super models especially Christy Turlington. I don't necessarily have a signature look. I'd say my look is individual and I don't necessarily follow the latest trends.  I wear what I feel comfortable in.  I do however love a pretty dress / top. I'm currently channeling floral maxi dresses with big cardigans. I am akin to a magpie and drawn to anything sparkly.   My role model apart from my mum was & always will be Blondie / Debbie Harry "

Look out for Tracey's pics! 

Instagram: @the_naughtyfortydiaries   //   Website: www.thenaughtyfortydiaries.com

CC-J Ambassadors: Ali Silver

Caitlin Charles-Jones

Ali Silver

Ali Silver

We're so excited to announce our first set of CC-J Ambassadors! We've selected three amazing women who embody all aspects of the Caitlin Charles-Jones brand.  Each month, they will receive a piece from our latest collection and style it up in their own unique way.  We can't wait to see how they style their CC-J! 

First up is Ali Silver - A personal trainer and health coach with a love for fashion based in Battersea.  She loves to mix her activewear into her everyday outfits and we can't wait to see how she works our knits.

"As a personal trainer and health coach, I'm super active. When I'm not training clients, I'll be in the gym myself or delivering outdoor bootcamps. My ethos is holistic - I believe that it's important to keep your mind healthy as well as your body and I try to always practice what I preach. 

During the week, I like to mix and match my gym wear with a leather jacket, a pair of sunglasses and my black rucksack for an athleisure vibe.  I love a statement legging, something with a print or mesh panels, and I'm rarely seen without standout painted nails. 

Being in Lycra all week means that I love experimenting when it gets to the weekend, whether it's a jumpsuit or a pair of high waisted jeans and trainers. 

My style echoes my mindset - casual, put together, and not taking myself too seriously, it's important to have fun with fashion and experiment! "

Ali has selected some great pieces from our latest collection, so look out for her styling pics over on Instagram!

Instagram: @alisilverpt     //     Website: www.alisilver.co.uk

Summer Stock Now In

Caitlin Charles-Jones

We've got lots of new exciting products for you this summer - as a knitwear designer summer can be a bit of a battle.  Convincing people they want lovely woolly jumpers and scarves in 25 degree heat is no easy task! 

So this summer we're bringing you the ULTIMATE organic cotton Tee - fitted and super flattering and finished with hand sewn lace flowers - is there anything better??! Probably not. But there is also the signature stripe knit updated for summer in a cute crop jumper.  This piece is SO versatile. Amazing layered and amazing on its own.  Finally there is the sweetest lace crop vest finished with knitted rib trims.  Not just any lace either - Sophie Hallette lace - think Kate's wedding dress lace. Dreamy.

CC-J KnitShop

Caitlin Charles-Jones

Introducing CC-J KnitShop, the new accessories diffusion line from Caitlin Charles-Jones.

CC-J KnitShop aims to combine Caitlin's signature craftsmanship and style with fun, easy to wear pieces at an affordable price point.  The pieces are mostly made using surplus yarn helping to further Caitlin's aim of a waste free studio, and also enabling the price point to fall into the easily treatable category!

First to make their debut are the new beanie hat - easy classic wear with a CC-J twist.  100% super soft acrylic with handmade crochet flowers.  Grab one now and show us how you wear yours! x

Open Studios Event!

Caitlin Charles-Jones

0Stop by my studio at Cockpit Arts in Holborn for some fabulous Christmas shopping! I've got some amazing new accessories on sale with stocking fillers starting at £10.   

Knit Workshops!

Caitlin Charles-Jones

Calling all students, rusty knitters and keen creatives!

Knit workshops with Caitlin in her studio in Holborn are now available to book.  Caitlin offers one-to-one sessions or sessions for up to two people on her hand operated knitting machines.

Whether you think you need a crash course, a refresher session, a beginners guide, portfolio advice or a mix  - get in touch via the contact form to book.

All yarn, equipment and tea provided - check out the flyer for more info!

 

The Countess

Caitlin Charles-Jones

I've been adding to my machinery obsession with my recently acquired domestic linker - it's far more beautiful than I expected in its fancy colours. It's an Italian make and pretty old.   

So....meet The Countess! 

 

 

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Open Studios

Caitlin Charles-Jones

My first open studio event at Cockpit Arts is happening right now!  

As well as a mini sample sale of near extinct Window of Sky pieces, I created some exclusive new accessories - neck warmers, wrist warmers, iPad sleeves and of course...pom-poms.  

Stop by today and tomorrow 11am-6pm

Cockpit Arts, Cockpit Yard, Northington Street, London WC1N 2NP

 

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Live from LFW

Caitlin Charles-Jones

This is Day 3 of LFW and it's been a really great experience so far. This is my first season exhibiting in the BFC Designer Showrooms which is part of the many reasons my label has definitely taken a step forward this season.

Friday was my first day where I met lots of interesting press and talked non stop about my collection. In the evening we had the launch of the sparkly new initiative between the BFC and Boden, Future British, which I am very honoured to be part of. It was held at the Union Club in Soho and I had an adorable little library room at the top of the building in which to show off my work. We transformed the space into a simple yet effective expression of my collection and aesthetic by recreating my signature stripes using the books on the shelves. We had framed Lookbook photos as well as amazing signs designed by Ventura Signs - mine was in Helvetica, naturally.


LFW // AW16

Caitlin Charles-Jones

It's 3 days until I show my second collection.  A lot has happened since 'A Window of Sky,' and while AW16 is definitely a step forward for me, I will always have a special love for that first collection - not least because the name was inspired by my Grandfather, who just happened to lend me the right book at the right time.  

I think he loved that he was part of that collection and he definitely revelled in coming to fashion week and showing off all his fabulousness. Although he didn't quite get to see AW16, I'm sure he would have liked it too.

So, for AW16 expect to see a gloriously bold lookbook, with big typography and shots of acid yellow, expect to see my signature clean shapes and some new ones too, along with delicious merino wool and fluffy mohair.  In short, as my boyfriend described it the other day - it's got 'tude.

I'm excited to show you this new collection and also to show in the BFC Designer Showrooms for the first time.  Although he won't be there this year, I'll be picturing my grandad, strutting around, making friends, looking glorious and above all making everybody smile.

'A Window of Sky'

Caitlin Charles-Jones

Making my first collection out of university was a very new experience for me.  I was used to having weekly tutorials, guidance from tutors and peers as well as regular fittings and critiques.  This time I had to trust my judgement implicitly, work to a schedule that was entirely my own and have the confidence to make tough decisions.

In addition to all this, this new collection was different.  It couldn't be a self indulgent exercise in creativity, it didn't just have to appeal to people, it had to appeal to them enough to make them want to buy it.  Suddenly I had to think about balancing my creativity with commerciality.

Surprisingly I found this a really enjoyable challenge.  My aesthetic naturally leans towards the commercial in terms of silhouette, so I decided to balance this with considered fabrications, unique construction and bold colour placement.  And being fiercely organised working to my own schedule suited me rather well.

Working out my knit patterns always hurts my head - but it's so satisfying!

Working without a linking machine meant I had to be creative with my construction.

Hand-made crochet flowers made by local craftswomen.

Making sure the garments are beautiful inside and out.

THE LABEL

Caitlin Charles-Jones

It's been a long time since my last blog post.  Since then I have graduated from the Royal College of Art, worked for Missoni in Italy and made the monumental decision to start my own label.

During my studies, like most of my peers, I was always determined that I would be sensible, work hard and land my dream job after graduating.  It turned out that I did land the job that I always thought I wanted, and it was amazing - but I began to  have this nagging feeling that it wasn't me.  So in January I returned to my family home to set up my own label.

This year I've had times where I've been run off my feet with freelance work, and times when I wonder what on earth I'm doing.  But regardless of those scary moments this past year I've been so happy, so fulfilled and so empowered.  Most of the time I'm winging it, but I don't wing the same thing twice.  I've learnt so much this year and done things I've never thought I'd be able to do.

I made the decision a few months ago to apply to Fashion Scout  to exhibit a collection at London Fashion Week.  I was offered an exhibition space and so I began working on my first collection as a graduate (and a grown up!).

 

My studio - with my pride and joy 12gauge knitting machine.  ft. Missoni cushion.

My hard working studio assistant - Morse

The beginning of the new collection.