Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a creator, an artist, have been in business for 10 minutes or 100 years, small ventures like Meiji Designs are an inspiration to us all. Meiji Designs specializes in hand dyed and printed silk accessories and has featured in GQ, Elle and Vogue. After meeting them over (amaretto) coffee, 5 things really stood out to me. Ruth and Natalie are the definition of peaceful warriors, and they’re here to stay!
- It’s ok to be afraid, everyone starts somewhere
When first starting Meiji Designs, after graduating from uni, Ruth and Natalie just took the leap. The concept was born during their final year as students. They faced struggles at the beginning, in the summer of 2014, having little studio space and having to move their workshop several times since. But the girls describe their development as an organic process. First scarves, then kimonos… The brand is ever-changing and often reinvented; they’ve experimented with ice dyeing and screen printing, with different colour schemes and shapes… Ruth said “bad experiences shouldn’t discourage you.” Putting yourself out there as an artist is easier said than done, but it is so worth it! Meiji’s advice: just do it.
- Keep It Simple, Stupid
One thing that really struck me speaking to Ruth and Natalie was how natural their business came to life. There was no over-thinking, no over-doing; they try something, and it works or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, they start again. With screen printing, the final outcome is always a bit of a surprise; having the ability to be spontaneous opens a whole new aspect of creativity. When they worked on their prints as students, they enjoyed it so they stuck to it. It’s simple! For all of you out there thinking you need some big, complicated and novel concept to get started; you’re wrong. The Meiji girls turned their passion into a growing business and haven’t thought back, because it’s true to themselves!
- It’s the little things
Fashion consumption is changing; we no longer want the cheap scarf shipped from the other side of the world, packed in bubble wrap and wrinkled upon arrival. Opening a parcel is an experience, not a means to an end. Natalie and Ruth have really taken this on board; your item is hand-made, just for you, wrapped and shipped just for you, and the time and effort put into your item is as valuable as the item itself. They told me they want to create pieces that are going to be cherished for years and years, and they pour everything they have into their creations. Your item is not only made to order, it also includes a super sweet note explaining the creative and technical process behind your very own piece. There’s really nothing better than feeling like you’re being looked after, and we have a feeling this trend is here to stay!
- Creative gems are hidden all over the country
Pack your valuables, sell your possessions, live and create out of your car, make connections and work a side job in a pub to make ends meet. Sound familiar? A lot of artists move down to London, and are in fact encouraged to do so, to “make it” in the creative industry. But you don’t have to. As time goes on, more and more brands are emerging all over the country. York is a small, budding creative centre; it has its difficulties but also many advantages. Working from a smaller city has given the girls a lot of freedom to experiment and they’ve taken a niche in York’s market that isn’t already saturated. So don’t think you need to move to a great big city to make it work! Plus, if you’re looking to sell online, you could be working from a hut in the Lake District for all we know – as long as the UPS delivery man can get to you, you’re set.
- Get yourself out there, whatever it takes
In just 2 and a half years, Meiji Designs has achieved a lot. Ruth and Natalie both have day jobs, but make the appropriate time to stay on top of their business. More than once they’ve had to work extensive hours (let’s not forget a single piece requires dye preparation, painting, drying, cutting and stitching) to pitch their products to potential investors and partners. “I wish we could just be artists” Ruth told me, but they both know that being an artist and being an income-earning business is not the same thing. Their best advice was to talk to as many people as humanly possible and to be confident in building a strong network around you. There is nothing wrong with just starting out. They’ve provided beautiful pieces for a friend’s wedding, pitched their designs to Prince Andrew, and are using the FCY platform to share their work. Their university was also very supportive in finding them opportunities and supporting them. Having a mentor can be a great way to give your business more direction if you aren’t sure where to start! But most importantly of all, just get yourself out there. That’s the first step.
Author: Elise, BARE. Lifestyle