Everything we do at Aesthetic Laundry has to sit within one of our three core values. So when it came to looking at our goals and direction for the remainder of 2021, this was our starting point.
Our company values were created in 2019 following a focus group held in our studio. The focus group really forced us to hone in on what we were trying to achieve as a brand and once we finally worked out what our values were, we knew they would underpin every future decision we made.
Our values fall under three categories - We Care, We Are Fair and We Dare (more information on each can be found here).
For the past few months, it is these values that have constantly been swirling around as we decide where we want to take AL. This is how we work out what we want to prioritise in the year ahead. It is safe to say that COVID-19 had quite the impact on business (so much so we almost closed!) so although we can always be found dreaming big, we are acutely aware that we might have to look at smaller scale areas which we can practically improve upon in the last 7 months of this year.
The new studio which we took on in May, will probably be the biggest change we make this year. It was something we had been speaking about for a while, but as a business we were waiting for that ‘right time’, when we felt secure enough to make the move. We would love to say that the decision came around quickly because we were ‘smashing it’, but in all honesty COVID-19 twisted our arm (through its requirement of social distancing measures) to take on a bigger studio sooner rather than later as it was the only viable option to support our business operations.
The studio move is a good example of how we utilise our company values to make sure the decision we take is the right one for AL. The move hits all three of our values, so by breaking it down I hope it gives you an insight into the conversations that take place behind the scenes prior to a decision being made:
Being in control of as much of our supply chain as possible has always been at the forefront of our production process, thus our decision to make our garments in-house. We have a green ambition to be able to produce garments with as little waste as possible, whilst also wanting to bridge the gap between fast and ethical fashion, which we have done through operating a five day turn around on orders.
This sounds simple, however from a business perspective there are so many factors to be accounted for in order for it to be viable. If you look at the majority of clothing brand business models you will see they operate differently. Most outsource and produce stock, which makes sense given it is the easiest and most straightforward way to produce clothes. The typical factory set up for clothing is lines of machines all with their own single contribution to a garment (i.e one machine for waistbands, another for buttons etc). Put simply, producing stock of the same garment, in the same size, would mean the cutter could cut more per hour and the seamstresses could sew more per hour.
Therefore by choosing to Make to Order, but with a short turnaround time, we are essentially turning the production process on its head and therefore need a team in-house to help us achieve this new way of working. By increasing the size of the space in production, it will allow us to grow the business; we will have the space to introduce both new machines and team members and thus continue to Make to Order without needing to compromise on our green ambition ( if anything it will challenge us to make better decisions to support our contribution to being more green).
We Are Fair
Production now makes up 80% of our team. We have five people in production (2 cutters and 3 seamstresses) whilst it is just Heidi and I who continue to work on all other aspects of the business. With that in mind we were well aware that a studio upgrade was needed for the production team. Not only did they lack the space needed for a team of five (plus equipment) but the lockdowns of 2020 meant the team had to be really flexible and were working on a rotor system. (We don’t believe in Zero Hour Contracts so this was definitely not the case of just dropping team members). So the team finally have space and we are working towards everyone being back on their original daily hours.
Heidi and I come from backgrounds in luxury and high street fashion. We have seen how the industry works (yes, that is the good, the bad and the ugly) and prior to even working together we decided that if we joined forces we would take what we had both seen and dare to do it differently. We would love to right as many wrongs as we can in the ‘bad’ and the ‘ugly’ to hopefully prove that in an industry that everyone loves to hate, small steps can be taken to make a positive difference.
The bigger studio has meant our commitment to dare to do things differently is more cemented.
We have taken a leap on a business model that to many will make no business sense but we truly believe it can work and encompasses our idea that the fashion industry can be less wasteful, fair to its employees and also transparent.
So this is how we came to make the leap and take on a bigger studio in a time that is still, quite honestly, very volatile.
We are currently working on our other business goals (all of which will fall into at least one of our core values) for this year. Once we have them we will be putting them on paper - because what better way to be held accountable to achieving business goals than by you, our lovely Laundry family!
More to come on this very soon!