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My Top 3 Mottos for Work

June 8, 2015

Many of you have probably arrived at this post because you know me, others may have ended up here by clicking on the opening banner on my website, while some of you either follow along regularly on the blog or just stopped by for the fun of it.

If you’re in the latter half, and have no idea what website I’m referring to and probably don’t have much knowledge about what I do or who I am- this next paragraph is for you.

I am an entrepreneur fashion designer who sells women’s clothing primarily through my e-commerce site: www.lesliebuchanan.com. While I don’t usually get too personal on this blog (what I make for dinner isn’t nearly as personal as my successes and failures) I do want to write a post about my experience with my company.

My label, Buchanan, has been around for a little over two years (if you count the first several months of purely conceptual business plan activities). Looking back over the last 24 months, I am amazed at how much the business has changed. Yes, the key components from the business plan are still consistent (high quality clothing, limited production runs, etc) but other pieces have been added while still others have shifted (sustainability movements and target markets, respectively).

One of the first revelations I had was: If it’s not working, or it doesn’t feel right- try something else.

I started off making high end clothing for a very small target market. It was fine, but quite honestly, it wasn’t me. I was catering to a very specific customer, and while that isn’t bad, I spent most of my days realizing that no one around me would ever be able to afford my clothes. In fact, I remember having a horrible conversation during a Women’s Group at church that started with a woman asking me what I did. I replied that I was a women’s clothing designer. The woman then started telling me about how she just received a catalogue in the mail that had shirts for $60! She was clearly appalled as she told me this story and I spent the 2 minutes praying that she wouldn’t ask me how much my shirts were. Luckily, she didn’t.

That’s when I realized: I couldn’t make ‘affordable for everyone’ clothes, but I could make ‘much more affordable than I was’ clothing.

It wasn’t that I was just jacking up prices and taking advantage of people. I was just buying very nice expensive fabric. But I soon realized, that people didn’t really care. Nor did they want to take care of expensive fabric (usually it’s a dry clean only kind of world). Buying more affordable fabrics allowed me to produce more affordable clothing. Which in turn, ended up increasing my sales. That was great, except then I felt like I had turned into a mass producing monster spewing out lots of new clothes into the world. Which lead to my second revelation:

I care about the environment and I have the power to change my industry

In my heart and my own life, I was living by the principle: buy less and buy better. In my work, however, I was encouraging others to buy more, more, more! (Although, I do feel like I was successful in making better quality clothing). At some point, I was either going to go crazy living a double standard, or I was going to change some principles of my business.

This caused me to sit down and ask myself the following: what do I really want out of this company? What do I want this company to be? How can I help others with my work?

While my original business plan had the answers to these questions all along, I had written them in very political ways. You know the kind: sweeping statements of truth that were perfect for a banker’s approval, but less great for daily remembrances of self. So, when I answered these questions a second time, I dumbed them down and gave them an almost motto like feel.

  1. My clothes should make women feel empowered. Empowered—> confident, beautiful, comfortable, proud of who they are and how they look.
  2. My manufacturing processes should be as environmentally friendly as possible.
  3. I will not produce anything that I would not want in my own closet.

Words are great, but without actions, they are simply words. Here’s how I have, and how I plan to continue forth fulfilling these objectives.

1. Clothes that empower. It’s hard to feel empowered wearing something that doesn’t fit. I make a sample garment in my size and test it out for about a week before I make any duplicates. It’s also difficult to feel special when you are wearing the same thing as five million other people. That’s why I produce limited quantities. The chance of you wearing the same Buchanan piece as someone else is slim to none. You were not mass produced, so why should your clothing be?

2. Environmentally Conscious. My main resource is fabric. I knew that if I wanted to make advances to being an environmentally caring company, I needed to pay attention to where I source my fabric from. Many fashion houses have fabric that they over ordered and are ready to simply throw away. I jump in and buy up that fabric. I also look for natural fabrics whenever possible. It’s not much, but it’s something. I take care to craft clothing that is high quality and will stand the test of time. Additionally, I never recommend a customer buy something unless they ‘absolutely love it’. Do I lose sales that way? Absolutely. But the garment always gets sold to someone who does love it. Better to be loved and worn than to sit in a closet forever and then head to the landfill.

3. The Golden Rule of Clothing Design. I understand that everyone has different tastes, but if I wouldn’t want my own clothing in my closet WHY would I even think of selling it to anyone else? If the quality isn’t good enough for me, it’s not good enough for you. If the fit isn’t right for me, it’s not going to be right for you either.

I have a corkboard right above my computer at work where I have printed out this picture of my 3 mottos. I opted to write ‘fashion design’ instead of ‘Buchanan’ because I feel that the whole industry could use a little more of this.

Fashion Design Mottos

As my company continues to change, as I’m sure it will, I have these reminders to keep me on track. This Fall I’m going to take my mottos to the extreme. Essentially, my Fall collection will be a capsule collection of ‘the season’s greatest hits’. And I don’t mean trendiest hits, I mean- ‘these are the only 10 pieces I will need to have in my closet all Fall long’. I should be rolling Fall out around August, stay be sure to follow along on the blog, on Facebook, or on the website to see the new pieces. Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t. You never know until you try though.

What are your thoughts on the matter? I always love feedback.

-Leslie Friedman Buchanan (aka to frequent visitors of the blog: Bucky)

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