Charlotte Meek, the founder of Yorkshire brand The Stitch Society, delivers a fascinating talk. She discusses branding and growing your business in the textile industry, but the lessons are relevant to all British businesses across any sector. It’s essential watching for anyone looking to build a brand in the UK today.
Charlotte owns the successful brand The Stitch Society designing and manufacturing premium, luxury work aprons to artisans around the globe. But, in the early 1990s, when Charlotte graduated from university with a textiles degree, she faced an industry which was imploding. She felt that the lack of planning for the future left hundreds of businesses floundering, with a reliance on large retailers and that a lack of branding had damaged the textile industry. Today Charlotte sees an industry fighting back.
“It’s very different now, it’s leaner, it’s wary of putting all its eggs in one basket and it’s learnt the lessons of the past.”
Charlotte discusses all the queries you need answering about branding your business, including…
What is a brand?
“Branding is often misunderstood. It isn’t your logo…or your brand image, it goes much, much deeper than that. Your brand is your business. It starts with your core values, defines who your customer is and how you treat them. It should be at the forefront of everything that you do. Essentially, it’s the soul of your business.”
Why do you need a brand?
“Without a clear vision for your brand, how can you develop your business? …to be a truly successful business you have to do this with intent. …This is what makes the difference between a company that plans for the future…and not only survives, but thrives in the future. One that anticipates the status quo and reacts to opportunities rather than seeking them out.”
How do you create a brand?
“By its nature branding creates the need to look to the future, to plan for it, to embrace any changes that can be identified…So what should you look at? Firstly, there’s your customers. You need to get under the skin of your customers…”
How can you apply branding to your business?
“…packaging is the first port of call for somebody actually touching our products, so it needs to be right…In terms of operations, how do you get your product to market?…Look outside the business at opportunities and threats…”
How will you navigate the uncertainties of Brexit?
“There are a few key areas that are going to have a big impact on the textile industry over the next 10 years and beyond. These are generic and are very important and everybody needs an awareness, and you do need to plan for your business. The first one is Brexit…”
How will you ensure you have skilled employees?
“Employment in the textile sector is rising for the first time in decades and it’s boosted by the re shoring of textile manufacturing, but it brings its own problems and challenges for UK retailers and producers. The huge scarcity of skilled workers is the single biggest factor holding back growth…”
How will ethical sourcing and social responsibility affect you?
“As a brand you need to have a clear policy of guidelines of sustainability…developing goals, lessening the impact you’ll have in the future… Changes like this involve risk, but the greatest risk is not being relevant in the future. Brands that don’t face the realities of the true cost of apparel and fast fashion risk being left behind.”
How can you incorporate new technological developments?
“Textiles is the most exciting and innovative industry and we’re on the verge of massive changes which will impact on the whole industry and society. This is one of the main reasons you need to have a clear vision of the future. Branding yourself now, having a clear vision of your business and where you want to be will ensure you are well placed to take advantage of the future changes…”