Being a 25 year old fashion designer, you'd think I'd regard London Fashion Week as one of the most important points in any year. The truth is that it's about as exciting for my sustainable fashion brand, Tom Cridland, as the musicianship on offer at a Flo Rida concert. That's not to say that being front row at Burberry wouldn't be amazing or that Alessandro Michele's work in resurrecting Gucci is nothing short of extraordinary. It's simply that for my brand and for countless other independent ones across the country, spending ludicrous amounts of money for a LFW showcase in some swanky hotel would make about as much sense as casting Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs.
So what, you might ask, have we at Tom Cridland spent LFW doing? Well, once we'd managed to resist the temptation of spending the whole week in pyjamas watching Narcos and eating Terry's Chocolate Oranges, we decided to mark what should be a momentous occasion for a fashion label by launching our first ever shirt. Rather than lazily continue The 30 Year Collection, which has helped us engage many around the world with our "buy less, buy better" sustainable fashion philosophy, we decided to call it The Entrepreneur's Shirt instead.
It's more than a shirt. It's a campaign to support entrepreneurs. Debs, my girlfriend of seven years and business partner, and I have had our lives totally transformed by being able to work on our businesses. Working is something we actually enjoy and we were lucky to be able to get Tom Cridland off the ground with just a £6,000 government start-up loan. Many others out there want to do something entrepreneurial but support, funding and, worst of all, education is so sorely lacking. In this spirit, we're meeting Tom Pursglove and other MPs this month to lobby them for a great focus on entrepreneurship and business training in curriculum all the way from primary school to University level.
We've partnered on The Entrepreneur's Shirt with two amazing charities who wrote to us asking if we wanted to collaborate. DEKI support entrepreneurs in Africa who want to work their way out of poverty and Young Enterprise have long been giving people in Britain the wherewithal to start and persevere with business ideas from an early through their programmes. When you order a shirt, 10% of the sale price goes directly to these aspiring entrepreneurs who are in need.
What's the lesson to be learnt here? As a designer first starting out, trying to run a start-up, it can be easy to read the Evening Standard on the tube home and see photos of glamorous looking people at LFW and think, "I need to be a part of that to be successful". The problem is you can quickly get roped into squandering budget on events that will not contribute to sales or the growth of your business.
Through our friendship with Nigel Olsson, Debs and I found ourselves backstage at Elton John's Radio 2 gig in Hyde Park earlier this month. I saw one of my favourite shoe designers, Patrick Cox, and rather inarticulately introduced myself. He couldn't have been more down to earth and friendly. Sadly, that is not the case for many in the fashion industry, so my advice to all fellow young designers and entrepreneurs in this business is not to ignore LFW. Just think very carefully before spending too much on getting involved, it might be more rewarding to spend the week focusing on something more realistic.