Right before my trip to Europe a girlfriend of mine, Eileen, asked if I would review one of the dresses offered at her online store, Hautehangers, here at my blog. Pretty dress? I’m in! So by the time I arrived here, there was a package waiting for me a in royal blue sparkly number. It’s lined, well-made, embellished at the neckline, and much shorter than what I’d usually wear out of the house. But Paris makes you do crazy things, and I thought what a better way to feature a dress than in an action shot taken right here in Paris on an early Sunday morning? Well, if you are 20-something the picture should remind you of rushing home after a long night of partying. And if you are not, as in my case, well, what happens in Paris…let’s say my face is blurred for my own protection ;-).
Anyway, since I had so much fun doing a recent interview with K a few entries ago, I thought I’d turn the table on E today and ask her about her new company. More on Paris in the next few entries.
Hi E, it’s been a real pleasure getting to know you since we first met at the Purse Forum. So tell us about this new venture you have going with your sisters.
Larkie, it has been 4 years since we met on TPF?! 🙂 Thank you for giving me this platform to share about my life.
HauteHangers is a blogshop run by the 4 of us and so far it has been an exciting journey of learning and meeting women from all walks of life. Our store currently carries a mix of imported apparel as well as our own designs. We strive to bring to our customers timeless pieces with great workmanship at affordable prices. Quality and customers service is of utmost importance to us and every piece that we manufacture is carefully thought through. Every piece is lovingly made.
Have you always wanted to work in fashion or retail?
I have a full-time job managing my family’s limousine business together with my husband and second sister. But yes, it has been a dream of mine to get into fashion/retail. Now that my day job gives me more freedom, I have more time to pursue my interests.
What was your work background, and how did you get into this new business?
I have a Science degree and a diploma in Education and teaching was my first job. After I had my elder son, I decided to leave teaching to help my parents. While I enjoy what I am doing in limousine, a part of me felt unfulfilled. Since I can’t relive my life and choose my career path again, I decided I would do something about it and take small steps in achieving my dream. I always believe that the best days of our lives are ahead of us and that gives us hope and courage to do new things.
Are you involved in the actual design of the items at your store? Or is there a division of labor among your sisters?
I do not have any academic background in design and fashion except years and years of poring over fashion magazines and fashion sites. The first manufactured designs were really items from my personal collection which I love very much, while others are inspirations from what we see on runway/my favorite celebs. We tweak the design a little to make it more relevant, select the fabric to make sure we get the final effect before sending it to our suppliers to do a sample. Once we are satisfied with the the sample piece, the manufacturing process starts. For example, in the Bejeweled Dress* that we recently launched, the supplier told us that the stones were painstakingly sewn piece by piece by the manufacturer and they could only do a few pieces a day. In terms of quality, those that we design and manufacture are definitely better than those we get directly from from suppliers, i.e. from the wholesale. But we didn’t dive into manufacturing right away as the minimum quantity was huge and we didn’t have the customer base at the beginning.
So my job is mainly to work with the suppliers on the designs while my other sisters are involved in the invoicing, photography and photo-editing.
What everyone probably wants to know is whether working in fashion curbs your appetite for shopping…or is it the opposite?
I think I have become more selective in the things I buy. With less impulse buys, I think shopping has cut down but I do indulge in an exquisite piece every now and then when I see something I like. But gone are the days where I don’t give much thought to what really suits me and splurge on clothes and accessories just because they are on trend. I feel it also has to do with maturity. I took a long time finding out what works for me and then started this arduous process of purging my wardrobe of excess which did not correspond to my style and body type. It was both painful and therapeutic. But the pieces that I now have are cherished wardrobe staples that I know I will wear over and again. So I am less of a violent shopper these days…lol and I love this quote from Garance Dore, “Sometimes it takes me 10 years to own something. It’s like LOVE. You want to let things grow on you”
What top two pieces of advice do you have for other women who want to start their own companies?
If you ask me, its Prayer, Planning and Action.
How did you come up with the name of your company?
The challenge was to find an unused domain name to set up the blogshop’s url and email accounts. We were brainstorming one day and the name “HauteHangers” just clicked. They were all agreeable and the name was available. So we registered our company in May 2010!
How did you find your manufacturer?
The first thing I did was to pray because I didn’t have any idea how to start. Then I spent a lot of time researching and talking to suppliers. There are many manufacturers out there who can do a good job and ours are mainly from China.
We know about the advantages of outsourcing production to Asia. But what are the main pitfalls to look for, especially if you do not speak the local language?
If you don’t speak their language, find a trust worthy supplier who travels there and who can. They are many around. For us, the issues mainly arose during the festive season where we experienced delays and sub-standard quality. So you have to prepare your stocks way in advance and in the case of poor quality, a good supplier will take it all back.
If it’s not too personal to ask, how did you raise the capital to fund your new business? Was a lot of capital required to fund this new business?
Running a blogshop is much simpler than a brick and mortar store. There is no rent to pay if you host it on a free site and no overhead expenses. The initial start-up would be your model, photography and the actual stocks. If you are in great shape and have a reasonably good camera, you can even do the modelling on your own for a start.
What are your short and long-term goals for this company?
Short-term goal would be to get acquainted with more suppliers/manufacturers so that we know who can do the best job at the most competitive price. We have also just designed our label and it will be tagged onto the coming manufactured items. This May we celebrate our first year in business:)
In the long run, we hope to turn HauteHangers into an online store bringing good quality apparel in timeless designs to our customers. But to elaborate this further..currently, our blogshop uses the livejournal platform which may not be as user-friendly to customers who do not hold an account. So to make a purchase, they email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will reply with an invoice. While this gives us an opportunity to interact with our customers, some may prefer a more straight-forward check-out. So by moving to a full-fledged online store, it will definitely simplify processes.
Thanks for answering these questions, E! As a female entrepreneur, I wish you and your sisters great success on your endeavors. And as a fellow fashionaholic, tell me, what bag and what shoes are you wearing today?
Thank you for having me on your blog, Larkie. It’s a privilege as I have been so inspired by your life and passion. It was Chanel that made our paths meet so here’s me in our favourite label!