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Savagé Clothing: How I Started My Own Fashion Label (Whilst Still At School)

With many High Street retailers struggling, the world of fashion might not seem like the easiest industry to start a business in. However, look beyond the big names, and many independent brands are thriving. Fuelled by increased consumer demand for unique and bespoke pieces, bedroom designers and entrepreneurs are capitalising on our fast-changing shopping habits and helping to keep the UK at the forefront of the fashion industry.

One such entrepreneur is Emmanuelle Meredith, founder of Savagé Clothing. Emmanuelle demonstrated his business acumen from a young age, grasping the mechanics of markups and profit margins selling cookies and Lucozade whilst still at school. This led to him exploring a further string of business ventures before discovering a gap in the market for American rap culture-inspired t-shirts. Savagé has since established a loyal following, with the young entrepreneur’s designs being worn by music artists such as Jazmin Gonzalez and 070 Shake. 

We spoke to Emmanuelle shortly after a pop-up event in London’s Brick Lane to find out more about making it in the fashion world. 

 

Instagram: @svg_clothing

 

What were your first steps to creating the brand? 

Creating the brand started with me looking online for small independent companies that printed onto t-shirts and then calling them up and asking if they could work with me on a just-in-time production method.

I then started my Instagram and Facebook pages to market my clothes, as well as sending them to different celebrities. 

In a time where everyone is seeking to be an individual, I use bright colours in order to be noticeably different and be perceived as a brand you wear to express yourself. 

 

What were the challenges around launching the business?

Starting Savagé came with a large number of problems. The first was my ego. I have always been afraid of being in the limelight. Although all my friends know me as “Emmanuel who knows everyone”, I have never been the biggest fan of being the centre of attention.

Therefore, instinctively I hid my brand from people in the early stages and this turned out to be a huge advantage. It allowed me to work on ideas without the fear of being judged or having to live up to an expectation. If I only sold one t-shirt in 2 weeks, no one would know. If I sold 10 in 2 months, no one would know.

Another challenge was timing, as I was 16 years old and had just started my A-Level’s. I had to balance shipping 100 t-shirts a month, as well as studying three extremely difficult subjects. I think I ran on about six hours sleep for the first AS year and then, as the company grew, this reduced to four hours sleep in the second year.

 

Where did you find your time being spent?

My time was spent talking to customers, sizing, returns, refunds, missing items, suggesting colours or just general conversation. I loved talking to customers so this took up a large amount of my time. I would spend my lunchtimes replying to Instagram messages or paying invoices.

I don’t think anyone now can comprehend what that amount of work does to someone’s brain. I was constantly tired and always depressed due to the lack of sleep. I didn’t have time to think about myself as I was constantly serving others but it made me feel complete.

 

How has the business evolved since your launch? Have there been any particular milestones?

In the last two years, the business has evolved in a very unconventional but beautiful way. I’ve hosted a number of pop-up stores across the country and my clothes have been worn by a variety of celebrities such as Jazmin Gonzalez and 070 Shake, a music artist signed under Kanye West. I have also had artists such as Cuban Doll, comment under a custom design we did for her telling us how much she liked it. I’ve recently moved to Denmark to study Business at university and explore a new market.

 

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Jazmin Gonzalez, a vlogger with over 32 million views, wearing a Savagé Clothing t-shirt

 

Thinking about social media and marketing, what are your tips for boosting brand awareness and ultimately sales?

Social media is in my opinion like a game of golf rather than football. The objective is not to attempt to score straight away, because it is not possible, but rather to keep edging until you have a clear shot. A common misconception in the world of social media is that you can expect results in two months or even one year. Social media marketing is complex and relies on a combination of networking, knowledge in marketing and luck.

You need to be able to use the people around you who have a target audience who may have an interest in your product to your advantage. You need to be able to know who your market is and then invest money in advertising to them. And you need to be constantly engaging with your customers. I’ve had people who simply ‘like’ my photos consistently, so I contacted them with a small thank you message and a 20% discount code. As a model, you expose yourself by getting tagged in brands products or doing catwalks. As a brand, you expose yourself via your customers and the content you put out.  Customers have seen it before and you will have a hard time selling your product.

Growth is a lot harder and slower, however, if you use ‘models’ or ‘micro-influencers’ as the face of your brand, you immediately capture both new customers and their followers.

As a young entrepreneur, what is your next big goal?

Without giving too much away, my next big goal is already in play. We plan to expand to Depop to see a 50-75% increase in sales every month, but we also plan to officially work with a number of celebrities designing their merchandise.

We are also planning to create a new collection focused on Danish wear as I’ve recently moved to Denmark.

I have the intentions of renting an official Savagé Office, as we started out of my kitchen, and having this as a place where some of my creative friends can come to pursue their own art.

 

What are the challenges on a personal level of running a business?

Time and Stress. Lack of sleep is essential but dangerous. I never have time to relax. I’m constantly doing something related to the business and, when I am not, I’m thinking about what I need to do relating to business. It is important to take the time to do normal things like go to the gym and go for a jog or just read a book (not related to business).

Money. At the start of it, all money is a huge concern. You are very careful with your money and you cut costs in all ways you can. However, as you grow, money becomes less important as you have so much of it coming in. It is important to still remember to budget and put money aside for yourself as well as reinvest. Finding the balance between counting your equity to quantify your success and being too money-vigilant must be drawn out.

Ego. As a brand, the whole objective is to sell your products in any and every way. Constantly bombard your customers with photos and videos to increase sales. As a normal human being, this is not how you should act in everyday life. Sometimes it’s hard to separate the two and, although I am always humble, I feel myself talking too much about myself due to the conflicting agendas.

 

What are your proudest achievements?

My mum smiles every time I send her a photo of a customer wearing the clothes I’ve designed. She has always been very supportive from the moment I told her I made £5 off a pair of earphones and continues to support me in every way she can. 

Walking down the road when I first moved to Denmark and someone running up to me telling me how they know the brand of t-shirt I was wearing and then looking at my face and saying “OMG, you’re the owner, I know you”. It made me feel very proud as they told me how when they had ordered the item, it came with sweets in the bag and when they thanked me on Instagram I had been very kind to them and offered them a discount code/gift card. Although I did not remember who they were, it was nice to know I was running a brand which had a positive brand image.

Finally, hosting the Savagé Backstage Launch Party last summer which cost over £3,000 of personal finance and over 150 hours of planning. I hired three live performers, a videographer, catering, drinks, security and a full sound and light system. The event was a huge success and gave me a return on investment, but also was highly praised by all 300 attendees.

 

Instagram: @svg_clothing

 

 

What are your top 3 tips for someone looking to launch a business in your field?

Do not seek to make a short-term profit
Short-term profit will disappear faster than you made it. Always seek to establish yourself and act professionally as that will carry you further. 

Do not push your products onto those around you initially
Your friends should be a quality circle, focus group or critics. However, they should never be your customers by force. In the real selfish and harsh competitive world of business, people don’t purchase goods based on pity. They buy things based on differentiation. Therefore, always start by establishing a market and target audience and have REAL customers purchase your item.

Be original
Whatever your idea is, make sure it hasn’t been done in the same way before. It isn’t about coming up with an idea which is brand new and innovative. But, if it’s been done before, customers have seen it before and you will have a hard time selling your product. 

 

For a comprehensive guide to getting your business up and running, read our guide on how to start a business in 20 days.

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