Pain, there is plenty of it in every industry…
- big chicken corporations in America squeeze farmers by getting them to compete with other farmers based on the size of their flock…
- the gymnastic industry have hidden for years coaches who were taking advantage of their athletes (as seen in Athlete A on Netflix)
- the education industry (which our creative director Saleena has personal experience in) piles the pressure on teachers to make test scores reflect 3 point progression irrespective of the natural learning trajectory of the children involved in the learning process
Why, am I telling you about issues with other industries? Because hopefully in this blog, I am going to explain every part of our custom-made process. You the customer deserve to know how we work, why we work and how we will best serve you. Basically telling you about our issues lol – best brew up a cuppa for this 6 minute read!
This blog was inspired by ‘Supersize Me 2 – Holy Chicken’
I know this is so far removed from the fast-food chicken industry – bear with me and all will be made clear. The creator of ‘Supersize Me 1’ Morgan Spurlock decided to prove how unhealthy a certain fast-food restaurant was by living on it for a month. He did this not to completely put customers off, but to educate them on maybe having a more varied diet. The next documentary he did, he wanted to prove that fast-food could be healthy. But after experiencing the daunting and near impossible task of creating something truly healthy whilst being able to mass produce, he decided to do something pretty inspiring. He described the entire journey of creating his very tasty chicken burger but admitted it was 1000 calories per burger, in his branding and marketing he gave every fact of the industry, from the chickens on the picture to the ACTUAL chickens they use. All the crazy facts to do with the bird feed and the battery chickens and even the pathetic outdoor space available to the chickens just so they could be labelled ‘free range’. Every sordid detail of producing his chicken burgers he laid bare for all to know. Complete honesty, all the shady aspects of fast food.
You would think that was a totally counterproductive approach, right?
Wrong – the openness around the fact that they tried to make their burgers as healthy as possible, but that they’re still not quite healthy and should only be eaten occasionally had the opposite effect on sales as customers loved the honesty, AS THIS ALLOWED THEM CHOICE. Even showing them how an extremely fake photo shoot was needed to make the burgers look even more delicious.
There are many fashion houses, each with their own USP but also perhaps with mistakes in the shadows and after watching how well #holychicken did in America with their branding being totally transparent – they literally plastered every horrific fact about the chicken industry in their fast-food restaurant. Within four months he was asked to be the keynote speaker at every fast-food convention the #totaltransparency paid off, because that was not his initial intention.
What about us? Our Story – how we work, why we choose to do something challenging.
With that in mind, I thought as a #clothingdesigner at #littlerobesroyale I would share our processes as part of being transparent. Our successes, stalemates and solutions.
There are two sides to our business, not many fashion houses offer international custom-made items, and as an amazing a service as that sounds – there is a very real reason. Dealing with customers internationally via zoom is very challenging. For many reasons, firstly getting a customer to visualise their outfit without a real fitting, to sizing and measurements. It’s hard and awkward work – but as you can see from our reviews, we more than manage it. But we have to be honest, over the years we have had 100’s of customers, not all have left reviews. We always get the outfit right, but timings can be a challenge. When timing has gone wrong, we have always managed to rectify the problem but some customers have chosen to not leave a review. In 8 years we have only ever had one customer who did not like their own design, they, like everyone else saw every stage and authorised every aspect of the dress. However, they didn’t have that inner confidence that the style they chose would suit them in the end – I will explain later how this influenced my company.
The customer’s needs WILL always come first;
we WILL listen,
and we WILL always recommend what’s best for them, even if that means referring them elsewhere.
Custom made is not for the faint of heart (we learnt that from the one customer we mentioned earlier on). It’s for that client who has a clear vision, either they know what looks good on them, or they have seen an image which they know 100% will suit their needs. It’s also about having respectable timing that both parties agree on, I will always have the final say in any sales, to guarantee we do not let anyone down, and also because my staff and I have family commitments such as children and I also home-school my autistic son.
Budget – like ‘Say Yes To The Dress’ we also check on the budget a customer has for their outfit – as we don’t want to lead into the design process where we do not try to keep them within their cash flow boundaries (see my other blog – partying into debt). Being honest, here is where we can loose a few customers – we are not the cheapest but we will provide you with an outfit fit for your event, purpose and confidence.
Once that has been established, we move onto discussing what they want, (the process up until this point is completely free), here we may sketch and send images over. Together we guide the client to;
– decide on colour
– decide on the outfit type
– fabric types
– sleeve style
– corset or bodice shape if that’s required
– placement of any lace and of course our favourite the EMBELLISHMENTS! These can include pearls, diamanté, rhinestones, Swarovski crystals or all of the above.
Most importantly – here there is no obligation to buy, if they choose to go elsewhere I am just glad we gave them a good initial experience at Little Robes. We are of course disappointed, as it is a loss of time, we are a small but mighty business being run by myself (Saleena – Creative Director) and 12 members of staff! However, the customer will never, ever be made to feel the pressure to buy. We don’t like that, so why would we do it to our potential clients?
After that, we finalise the design more or less, provide a quote on how much it would cost to make that particular outfit or outfits (the customer will already have been given an idea of cost). Again always being transparent with our clients from the beginning.
The process up until this point is still free! But sometimes at this stage fabric samples are required to be sent over to the client, this allows us and the client to really know what their outfit will flow and feel like. Again, we always put the customer first, if we already have fabric samples in stock, they are free of charge and we only ask that postage be covered. If fabrics need to be ordered in, we again make sure a quote is provided, giving clarity and autonomy to the customer to make any financial decisions.
The last confirmation needed is a delivery date of course! We can do rushed orders, but this is stressful because international deliveries can take time. Tracking is not always the same in different countries, and FYI Royal Mail are amazing, but once a package leaves UK jurisdiction, they hand over responsibility to the receivers’ country. In the past we have been told that even though postage was paid to and accepted by Royal Mail, they have no real power over the parcel once it leaves the UK! Again only through experience do we know this, and as part of following the ‘Holy Chicken’ ethos, I thought I would tell you, so that you can make decisions on your time line. Moral of the story? Please leave as much time as POSSIBLE.
D-day! Once everything has been agreed we begin or provide a date where we will begin. This normally starts with a zoom measuring meeting, where we guide you through taking measurements, we take screen shots which are completely confidential of course and record every measurement that is necessary. We also share these with you, so both parties have all the information.
The next stage is the exciting one, this is where we start to pin your vision onto a mannequin, at this point minor or major adaptations can be made, we pin the initial fabrics together and place roughly cut laces on top of support fabrics. The outfit literally starts to take on a life of it’s own!
Next we make the mannequin true to size, whatever size that maybe!
Step aside Disney, we are the true creators of magic, we…
- Cut fabrics to true size
- Pin everything so it can be seen
- Send a billion pictures to the client
- Once authorised, sew the fabrics together
- Send another billion pictures
- Pin on or place the embellishments
- Send another set of a million pictures
- Get more authorisations from the customer
- Finalise the sewing process – then place on mannequin for the final reveal
Phew – all that’s left is to package and ship,and every outfit gets a free sustainable garment bag protector
For us, the nerve racking part is still yet to come! Where the outfit is tried on for the first time.
This is probably why custom-made outfits are not popular online, as with the best will in the world, bespoke and custom made doesn’t guarantee that the first fit will be perfect.
So, if the dress needs a nip and a tuck, which happens in about 3 out 10 dresses on average (not bad ey?). Then the customer has 2 options…
The customer can return the dress after a further video call, where we can fix the problem remotely and post it back.
The customer can go to a local tailor, and we can help source one for you and complete the alteration.
Et voila….dress done…happy client with a unique outfit no one else will be wearing! For Prom and first communion, the names of schools are taken so similar designs are not repeated too! There is also no social media posting until after the event!
Please do not let the extensive and intensive description above fool you into thinking that this process takes ages, we can take on urgent orders turned around in as little as 2 weeks, we can work as quick as you need.
We think that’s about everything, however if you’re really in a hurry then you can have a dress made from scratch in a generic size like sizes 6 -20 for example.
All our drop down menus from the website allows you to select style and sometimes colour too!
In a nutshell – We help with…
- Designing and sourcing
- Pinning, showing and sewing
- Providing you with an outfit no one else has
- Matching to children or parents or events
- Keeping you informed every step of the way
- Being transparent about every aspect from design to cost to production
WE ARE LITTLE ROBES ROYALE!