Take two talented red-haired sisters, one of them a graphic designer, the other a fine artist. Mix in a passion for fashion, an eye for aesthetics and an innate understanding of how to mix trends with wearable, functional clothing. What do you get? An innovative, highly desirable range of gorgeous designs for women, men and children of all ages.
Caren studied graphic design at the famous Parson’s School of Design in New York and worked in the Big Apple for seven years. Since her return to South Africa, her clients have included Chicago-The Musical, Pavarotti, We Will Rock You, DMX Music, Chefworks, Austrade and RENT among others. Gina, a fine artist with a Masters Degree in Fine Arts from Wits University is making her mark on the local art scene. Her acclaimed solo exhibitions at prestigious galleries include the Standard Bank Gallery, Bell-Roberts, Obert Contemporary and Artspace among others.
It was only natural that combining the sister’s talents and experience would lead to a creative and artistic explosion. So, in 2003, born out of their love for fashion, Caren and Gina Waldman established TWO (at first called Boom Factory) with the small sum of R4 000 and started making underwear out of home. Since 2005, they’ve worked out of their studio in Doornfontein, which they share with their group of CMT’s. TWO now stocks 24 shops around the country. “Our design philosophy is comfort, beautiful fabrics, simplicity, utility, classical basics with graphic elements,“ explains Gina.
Gina and Caren recently gave a talk at the Sanlam SA Fashion Week seminars why they thought Two was a success and how small labels and young designers could learn from them. These are some of the insights they expressed:
Design with the intention of someone wearing it
If you are making ready to wear, make wearable clothes. Think about the person who has to see the garments in the store, try them on, decide to purchase them and then chose to wear them with the rest of their wardrobe items.
Play with your ideas.
The fact that they did not study fashion gave them the opportunity to be more free with their ideas. They were not limited by what they can or cannot do. Drawing from this, one should not be a slave to fashion and trends. Being too trendy can push you into the cookie cutter realm, where it becomes hard to differentiate your product with the masses of similar goods out there. Also the big retailers who focus strongly on trends will have the manufacturing cost and distribution advantage. So rather find and love something special. Personalise your work. Two recently discovered esoteric teachings about colour and chakras, so they incorporated this into their work. They developed a range of yoga clothes that tap into the different colour associations and energies. Make something you love.
Fashion and art are big business.
There is plenty of money to be made in fashion, but you cannot assume that you will manufacture goods and make money without a sound understanding of business practices. If you have the opportunity to intern or work with a mentor or in a business, take it. You can only learn valuable, experiential lessons that could cost you money in the future. Most fashion colleges fail to properly educate their students on common business practices so even a college diploma/degree may not be enough to get you started. Do a business course.
Think about your connections.
Rather than just sell their good anywhere, they only considered stores that communicated an individualist, creative, homegrown and artistic message. This perfectly reflected their own label’s ethos and the result was a synergistic relationship rather than just business. These connections extend into your personal relationships and the relationship you have with yourself. Connect with people who are creative, different, stimulating and who share your values. Visit art exhibitions, be aware of the world around you. Tap into what inspires you and express it.
They started with R4 000 and used the profit to grow their business. Use your profit to make more things, to grow your business and not to live off. Have another job to support yourself and make one or two things which you can sell. Grow your business slowly so that you can understand what works and so you can manage it yourself.