Call me old fashioned, but I believe in doing business with ethics and integrity. Has this been lost in today's fast paced competitive business world?
Ok my business is small, very small.... just me designing my island creations, and a few (very few) island girls helping, actually its just 4 girls helping me behind the scenes, and I have 7 sales reps around USA who are always selling the line. Here I am with Lauren at the end of Miami Swim Week after we have finished breaking down the booth. We kinda do everything ourselves.
I work with my 3rd generation Indian family factory, who are awesome. They are ethical too. There is no child labour, underpaid labour, threatened overtime or lack of health & safety standards. They are audited annually and I see the reports.
I coordinate the bulk factory orders, I personally measure every sample and check all the fits, I arrange the shipments and coordinate all the freight, customs clearance, garment duty codes, the whole thing. I organize the unique barcodes on every item, I organize the photo shoot, and help dress the models. Here I am holding the light filter at the 2019 photo shoot.
I even build the website, and write the stories about every garment. There is kinda a lot involved in getting one of my ideas from my head, onto paper, and a year later onto your boutique floor or into your wardrobe.
I can honestly say that I NEVER straight out copy other designers. I can look you in the eye and say that, because I did it all myself. Sure I see idea's that spark inspiration in me, and yes I have been known to turn my trolley around in the supermarket to follow someone who is wearing a cute skirt.... BUT I never straight out copy !! I always add my "island twist".
I can honestly say that I do all of the DESIGN work myself. I design the labels, the hang tags, the prints, I choose every fabric and decide on every color. I decide which print is going on what sort of garment. Sometimes I work with an artist who draws up my prints for me, I recently featured artist Debbie Laan who worked with me on my Ocean print for 2019.... but overall the decisions are all mine. Both the good & the bad decisions are mine.
I find it disheartening at times when I am blatantly copied. A few years back I walked into a Bealls of Florida store, to find one of my palm tree prints hanging there, the exact same print and the exact same color ways, but in a stiff cotton sheeting fabric.
Next I had a store in NC buy one pack of my tunics from me. Next season, there she was at the same trade show with a whole line of tunics of her own... even starfish tunics which I had been doing for years. This lady continues to stalk me at the shows and see what we are doing next. Well its all there on my website too, in plain sight for all to see (and copy).
Then there was the time that I walked into Surf Expo and just 5 booths down the aisle from me was a big line with an 8 foot banner on the outside of the booth which had my Palm Leaf Tunic on it. Same print layout and color ways I had done for years.
Just recently someone has sent me a photo of another copy garment hanging in a supermarket chain in USA. YES a supermarket.
Yes I should SUE them, and YES I should complain, but really I am not a complainer, and I certainly do not have the spare cash flow to sue some retail giant. That is not the way I do business. I just have to come up with NEW designs and try to stay ahead...keep my designs FRESH.
Coco Chanel was a designer who was known for her timeless quotes and timeless fashion. Her quote "If you want to be original, be prepared to be copied" remains true today.
Surely you guys like to do business with integrity too? Maybe I am just a dreamer. Yes you can call me "old fashioned", but I do stand by my business of integrity. I will continue to support the SEE Turtle Foundation with proceeds from the sale of my Turtle Tunics and Sarongs. I love to help out island charities, like the recent fundraiser we did for Lucky Paws in St.Thomas. I will most certainly continue to pay the school fee's for the 6th year, of the young girl we are helping to get her education in Haiti, a country where fewer than 30% of the students reach 6th grade.
Most of the stores I supply are small family businesses too. Young mom's and older mom's creating jobs for themselves and a life for their family and their dedicated staff members, by doing what they love... FASHION. They too are small businesses trying to keep their heads above the water while retail giants try to drown them out. Many have been in the business since they were young and fresh out of college, just like me.
At the end of the day, I like to think that my island friends are with me.
I know you guys believe in good business ethics too.
One love x
I once worked for a company headquartered in Berkeley, CA called The Nature Company. It grew to a 250 store chain because at the time their approach to store design, visual merchandising and product was revolutionary. Naturally this invited a lot of knock-offs. Unfortunately the founder, who was the creative heart and soul of the company, passed away due to terrible illness. His replacement became obsessed with litigation against the copycats and by doing so he sucked up all his time and energy in the process. He didn’t realize that continual creativity was the answer. The copycats can copy but they will always be two steps behind the original.
Keep your eyes on what makes you and your product special and let the competition chase you. Once you put it out there its going to get knocked off, that is just the way it is.
Have Fun and do the things you love to do! That will keep you successful and happy!!" Mark 05/07/2019
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