Wow! 5 years already! It's blowing my mind! 5 years is definitely a big step and I decided to write a little about how I made my business grow and all the different steps. It was also fun to dig into some old pictures!
I started my first brand—Zipillow—in 2013, with a product but no real set style for the fabric—just random pieces. I taught myself how to sew, created my first website and from there launched my business on Etsy. At this time I was doing all the work from home on my own.
In 2014 I made my first show at the Renegade, and brought some of the new blankets that I had just made. I had only recently discovered the tie-dye technique and decided to make neon stitching with my serger to compliment the pastel colors on the blankets. This was mostly for the sake of convenience, as I had begun dying with cold water and didn’t leave the fabric to soak for very long in the bath. But it was a hit at the Renegade show! I received plenty of preorders for the blankets and have continued to expand that line ever since!
At that point I decided to rebrand as Happy French Gang, focusing exclusively on the tie dye style for pillows and blankets. I launched a new website and Happy French Gang was officially born!
Throughout that year I continued to expand, adding curtains, napkins, and a lot of custom orders. I also explored other fabric styles and started to work with artisans in India, ordering my first big batch of fabric: 700 yards, woven for me in India. My business was growing, but I still maintained a largely experimental artistic approach.
In 2015 I received help in creating my first product catalog and started to work with some awesome retailers. All were super well curated, with varying levels of popularity. Brands like West Elm were starting to feature my products, and my catalogue was beginning to grow.
At this point I began renting a studio— my first space. This was a huge relief to me, because fabric = dust everywhere.
Another exciting thing that happened that year was that I got to work with ABC carpet, which had been one of my BIG goals, and working with them was immensely satisfying.
In 2016 I began wanting to work with something other than tie dye. I started to explore different styles and began trying to collaborate with people aboard. I tried a lot and spent a lot of time on it, but the responses never gained any traction and the result was unsatisfying.
As a result, I began to explore other techniques on my own. That exploration gave rise to a collection of raw silk napkins and tablecloth. At this point I also created a new website again, as I had more items and needed to switch to something more practical.
This experimental success lead me to want to experiment more with my work. I started working with digital printed fabric, and also created the hand painted tea towels collection. It was really satisfying to make things with my hands, but at that point I already knew that that I would need to start finding people to take over some of the production for me. The problem: I just couldn't find anyone. No one could do the pastel dye. So I worked with a company for embroidery, and a small collection of pillows came out of it. I was happy, but not truly satisfied—still on the hunt to find the right people to work with.
At the beginning of 2017, feeling stuck with my ideas, but unable to find the right people to work with, I decided to go to India and search there for people that could help me in my endeavors. And what to my pleasant surprise: I found people! I also had this idea to create the jumpsuit of my dream—a piece of clothing I loved to wear when I was a kid. I experimented by making a few and quickly sold out at the West Coast Craft. It turns out everyone else liked the jumpsuits as much as I did, so I decided to create a line.
Which brings us to 2018! This year I am continuing to expend the jumpsuits line, as well as expending the rest of the home collection. I’m still working with skilled craftspeople from India and Chili as well. Going forward I’m hoping to orient myself more as an interior designer. While I’ve had great success with my products thus far, I don't want to get stuck in tie dye, as I tend to be very curious and want to explore more and learn more all the time.
In the near future I will have different collection of home decor items: Kantha style with hand stitching, wool home decor items, cotton, etc. This phase will be focused on slow fashion, creating each group in little batches, on a first come first served basis. I’m currently taking a marketing class and expanding my horizons—I always want to think bigger!
All in all it has been an extremely rewarding and revealing journey. I have learned so much from my experience as a business owner and am excited for the things yet to come at Happy French Gang!
Thank you so much for being part of my journey through the last five years!!