Co-Founder of Studio Common
What are you up to?
I started working at a fast fashion retail company just 2 weeks ago for e-commerce branding. It’s been different and interesting so far working for a mass group of audience since I used to work for PP group. They only worked with luxury brands. Apart from that, I’m also working on a swimsuit brand that I co-founded in 2016 called Studio Common.
How did you start with Studio Common?
It started when I was working at PP group. My co-founder, Nita, is actually my ex-colleague from there. I was working as a graphic designer and she was working on the customer side so our backgrounds were pretty different. I’m all about the aesthetics, branding, packaging, etc., and she is so good with the numbers and the realistic stuff like budgeting and finance.
Nita had the idea first and she asked me if I wanted to be the art director for her. We ended up quitting our full-time job and co-founding it together. I do everything design and branding related, she does everything else, but we talk to each other about everything we do.
I’m overly picky about what I wear. For clothing, it’s easier to find stuff that I like in the market. I even tailor-made my own clothes. It’s not hard. But it’s different for swimsuits. It’s hard to find good quality one that is my style and my body type, and it’s also much harder and pricier to get it made just for myself. You could say that we make swimsuits to fulfill our own needs, but I think it was also something the market was missing.
FIRST THING FIRST!
What was the first thing that you did?
The first thing was to find our brand DNA. Product description, brand image, brand description, etc. We started by defining ourselves as being Voyage, Minimal, and Understated. This helped us make better decisions with our marketing activities and other brand related decisions like our wordings, mood&tone, etc. For example, we try to stay away from hard selling our product (hence: Understated). We tried to not talk much and just let the right people come to us naturally.
How did you start designing the pieces?
I started by sketching out so many ideas. Nita kept me realistic about what people would actually wear or which one color do most people like, etc. During that process, we also had to look for materials and factories that could make what we designed.
We brought so many designs to the factories to decide which one to make based on their cost of production and our budget.
Where did you get your fabric from?
We looked in Thailand first but unfortunately couldn’t find what we wanted. We ended up connecting with a source that provided the nice quality of the Korean or Italian fabric.
We got an agency to help us material sourcing outside of Thailand. These agencies can help you find any kind of suppliers in their country. You just tell them what kind of supplies you need, and then they will bring you. We went to different fabric suppliers, picked out what we wanted, chose the quantity of them, and put them in a shipping container to be shipped to Thailand. It was a 3-4 day trip.
Was it worth it?
The fabric was cheap for its quality. With the shipping fee, the total cost turned out to be around the same price as buying fabric in Thailand, but the quality was 5 times better. The fabric was not only thicker, it’s more flexible, absorbent, it sucks you in, it holds its shape well, etc.
How many swimwears did you make for the first round?
We ended up with three designs. Two one piece swimsuits and one bikini style. We only made 50 of each. We also didn’t have a launch plan or anything. We started selling after we got the pieces ready.
What was your marketing strategy?
So after getting the swimsuits made, we hired a model for a photoshoot. Makeup and hair were done by us, same as the photography. We used the photos from that shoot for everything. Then we asked some of our friends to post our brand on the social media. At first most of our customers were people we know, but now there’s a lot more real customers and returning customers.
I think people are interested in our brand because of the product quality and the branding itself.
Do you make more money selling online or at physical shops?
Online is supposed to be our main source of customers, but it really depends. We set up a pop-up store in a mall once and made so much profit from it. It was way more than anything we ever sold online for the same amount of time. I think it’s about getting our product to the right place at the right time and to where our target group is. Another time we tried setting up a pop-up store in a different mall that was further out and we hardly sold anything. We now have our swimsuits permanently in the mall where our pop-up shop did really well.
What sort of problems have you run into?
We were lucky because most of our struggles are the good kind of struggles. Like we didn’t have enough stock, couldn’t produce enough on time, etc.
We’ve also been told that our branding is intimidating. It makes people think our products are more expensive than they actually are. Now I’m really pushing hard to launch our new website soon so that people can clearly see the price there.
Was it hard to leave a full-time job for this?
I was pretty confident haha. I had a bit of an experience owning a brand since I started a leather goods brand when I was in college called 56th Street and I was making pretty good money from it as a college kid. I think the key is to start. For me the hardest part of this business is the initial part where you have to find the suppliers and etc. Once you pass that point, things get a bit easier. I believe that if you make a good quality product, you are halfway there.
When I quit my full-time job, I still took other freelance and consulting work. I mostly did consultant for Department of Industrial Works to help factories create their own brands. Factories that are 30-40 years old mostly only have taken OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) kind of work, meaning that they take designs from shops and manufactured them. When the economy is not great, they have fewer jobs. I helped them create their own brand so that they could keep manufacturing things and sell them on their own. I did brand identity, near-term and long-term brand target, and also helped source creative teams for them. I didn’t do any design myself. It was really fun. The people I worked with were older people but they were very super open-minded. It was really interesting to exchange knowledge with the people from that generation.
What's the plan for the future?
For Studio Common, we are launching our new swimsuit collection in November.
I’m planning on starting another brand that will sell lower priced clothing to a bigger market, like a more relatable clothing brand.
What's your day-to-day schedule?
I have my full-time job during the day, and I work on my own stuff at night. There are so many things going on. I’m lucky to work with my friends so work time = hang out time.
How do you take care of yourself?
I don’t. I haven’t washed my hair in a week. I also don’t work out. Luckily, I have small bones and long arms and legs so they give me the illusion of being skinny. I need to exercise more though! My bones are really fragile that when I do an intense exercise like running, my ankles swelled up. I can only swim, but it’s so much work to bring a change of clothes and shower after. I love fried and greasy food.
Any skincare routine?
I love skincare and am very particular about it. I don’t really try new products. I use Bioderma for makeup cleanser. I use Muji toner or Caudalie for toner. Then I use Japanese eye cream, Aesop oil, and this purple bear moisturizer.
I like to be tan but I don’t want wrinkles so I put a lot of sunscreen on my face prior to being in the sun, and a lot of aloe vera after.
Where do you shop for clothes?
I do go to Zara or Massimo Dutti, but I make my own most of the time. I’m already a regular at this garment making place so I always get a good price there. I love shopping for fabric so it’s all fun. Now that I’m working for a fast fashion brand, I have to wear their clothes on weekdays. I try my best to make it my style.
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