how to start a fashion brand by sibling's cozette mccreery
sibling fall/winter 16. photography jason lloyd evans.
Born of a desire to reinvigorate knitwear, initially for men and then for all, SIBLING has weaved a fun-filled world of playful prints, buff boys, sun-kissed sexiness and smiles that spread. Put simply, SIBLING has been a breath of fresh air from the moment it launched in Spring 2008. Today, as the brand's offerings evolve and its business grows, designer Cozette McCreery shares her experience and wisdom.
What I do and why I do it
"I'm one half of SIBLING, the men's and womenswear knitwear-specific brand, with Sid Bryan. I head up the public side of the brand, by that I mean press, sales, all social media, brand identity, yadda yadda. But there are only the two of us plus our studio-erm-everything Sarah making it three people, so it's not quite as cut and dry as that. There is research and design input, running the studio, shows. Actually listing everything I do might make my head explode - lol. Basically and to paraphrase Katie Grand: 'I make it happen!'
Growing up, I wanted to be a train driver but when I found out that I had to work at a station and I couldn't just drive a train, that idea was dumped. Then it was a ballet dancer but as I grew too tall, that too was given the elbow, even though people told me that I could do other dance forms. I'm so stubborn that it's pointless talking me into something. Then it was a vet. Then make-up artist. Then back to vet. Fashion just kind of happened around me, once I started saying yes to things.
My parents were without a doubt the biggest influence and inspiration. Both were very fashion forward. Papa McC was a metrosexual dresser before the name existed. I'd go to his suit fittings. I'd be taken to family friend Joseph to buy jumpers or to Biba for sequins and feathers. Myself and my brother would be in pastel Newman jeans and check shirts or head to toe black when other kids were in pinks and blues and very much being dressed for their gender. Very progressive parents. They treated us as children but with respect that we had our own minds and characters.
At aged 18 heading towards Cambridge to read English I was told by a careers adviser that I'd make a good teacher. That stubborn streak reared its head and that was it, no uni for me. Teacher? No thanks. I was modeling, mainly department store catwalk shows and making a lot of money and very 'over' studying anyway. Don't get me wrong, I actually loved school! Weirdo ha ha. Anyway I went clubbing with Fat Tony, met people who looked after Max Mara, people at Fendi, Jasper Conran, Alastair Blair and I never looked back. Like any good relationship, you know when it's right because you love what you do, going to work is fun. When I start getting Sunday evening back-to-school-dread, I know it's time to move on."
A day in my life...
"On the whole I'm tied to the computer. Calm down, not actually tied, all you S&M freaks out there! But yeah my typical day is answering emails or uploading to social media and everything to do with promotion. It's important because that becomes the foundations of your brand image. I do it myself because, OK I'm a control freak, but I'm also a social media addict and love how it manipulates and in turn can be manipulated. I find it fascinating. I'm rapidly becoming some sort of social media guru.
So there is that, and press call-ins and interviews such as this. In addition, we may be signing off a collection or delivering stock or paying bills or chasing payments or hurtling towards a show.
For me the most rewarding moments are the daft things such as seeing someone wearing SIBLING or getting a page of editorial. Did you see boxer Anthony Joshua on the cover of ES in fall/winter 16? That made me feel so very proud because it takes time and effort to get pictures like that to work, it's such a team effort. Covers such as this are a pat on the back for me personally. OK, it's not brain surgery, that's why I've said 'daft' but it makes me happy. I've had friends message me congratulations and these people work for or have huge brands 'you get more and better coverage than I do and we advertise!'
The biggest misconception about this job is that it's glamorous! Maybe it is if you are Karl or Donatella but in all honesty the glamour is an illusion, it's part of the brand identity and they've worked hard to get to that point. Plus, there is the added stress in running a business, in being a figurehead, all those employees, the responsibility.
The moment that made me.
"Jasper Conran started me off and then Bella Freud took me on and gave me a huge amount of confidence in my own opinions and my instinct. When someone gives you that amount of freedom to basically do anything you like (within reason) it either pushes you or sinks you. It also makes you grow up or at least grow into yourself.
Career highlight? Wow, there are so many. Working with Bella and John Malkovich on short films, doing our first SIBLING catwalk show at LC:M for spring/summer 13, having my father FROW, traveling to Tokyo and Shanghai."
To degree or not to degree, that is the question.
"Well, as you will have read I didn't take my place at uni. I met people in the fashion industry and I was very open to possibilities: 'Do you want to work for me?' Say yes! Then think about it later. I was lucky in many ways as my family moved back to London when I was 16 so I had free accommodation plus for someone who is pretty shy I do have the ability to talk to people. And my name helps, it's a hard one to forget. Anyway my path is not for everyone and you have to go with what you feel is right for you.
I studied English (language and literature), Biology, Chemistry, Media Studies, oh gosh loads, I have 8 O Levels (she's old) and 4 A Levels. I love learning and it came very easily to me, none of that cramming or revising. I apparently told my mum when she questioned my lack of revision, 'Look, I've been doing this for EVER, if I don't know it by now then I never will.' And then got amazing grades. Hateful child, ha ha ha.
I'm always stressing the importance of gaining experience. For me it makes the most sense for graduates to see the industry from as many angles as they can. I've been a PA, I've worked on a shop floor, I've worked in sales rooms, I've modeled, I've spent days hand knitting or sewing in labels. The best learning curve for me was working for a small brand and taking on as much as I could: production to PR and everything in between. Sid worked freelance for designers and also the high street. It's good to get as much information and as many contacts as you can before launching your own line in my humble opinion. Others may disagree but this industry is tough, it has always been trend driven and that can be hard on your self esteem let alone your business. If you are no longer the new club kid on the block, the new shiny fashion thing, it's good to be grounded when people have moved on."
What I wish I knew then that I know now:
"That it's good to know when to give up, that giving up and saying no are not always negative. 'That dead horse, stop flogging it', is probably the best advice I've been given along with, 'if it makes you happy do it. If it doesn't then stop doing it. Simple' both from my father. Other words of wisdom from him are NSFW.
What advice would I give to anyone hoping to follow in your footsteps? It's going to sound really naff here but: BE NICE! And if you can't, then WALK AWAY! Yes, that's my advice because it has stood me well. I'm not suggesting being sycophantic, far from it, be yourself and importantly don't let your successes go to your head. The fashion industry has many casualties, actual 'fashion victims' and when things get tough you'll be thankful for friendships."
I'm excited by tomorrow because…
"Fall/winter 17! Since merging men's and women's we are now working to the menswear calendar which is bliss. Doing this gives Sid and I the chance to think and to be creative. Everyone needs headspace. We decided to be the ones to say stop to the incessant demands of 4 shows and 5 collections a year. SIBLING is 3 people not 33, enough with killing ourselves."
Text Cozette McCreery