It was right around this time last year when we opened Elly number 2 (or larger Elly). Just when we thought we were settling down, we leapt into our expanded shoe range with 11 shoe suppliers and a whole host of other new products we were finally able to stock with the larger space (which meant even more suppliers, more sale reports, more re-ordering etc). The one thing we didn't have time to focus our energies on was our clothing, which was rather ironic. At some point, we promised ourselves to re-focus our energies this past twelve months. To be honest, there was a point running a retail front (actually two!) and an online store started to wear us down, especially when we were having to design our own clothing plus manufacture plus constantly manage inventory for thousands of SKUs in a retail front that had to stay open for 362 days a year.
So, we sat back down and re-prioritised how we worked, what we did, what we didn't or shouldn't be doing; and the most wonderful thing that came out of re-prioritising was first of all, really being able to go on breaks without carrying the burden of work through the holiday and that meant being more energised to come back and pick up where you left off. It also meant being able to take the time to design our pop-up store at the recent Boutiques, work with bloggers, do professional photoshoots again, make our own props and of course, design more collections like this one.
In previous years, we skipped Christmas collections because Christmas was / is too close to Chinese New Year (when we normally launch our largest collection in the year). But this year, we thought it would be a good change to have a sea of blues, whites, blacks, cream or pastels and turquoises before the CNY red
hits the store.
We wanted this Holiday collection to be special. We were so busy just "doing" anything and everything to keep our store going that for awhile, it stopped being fun. We stopped doing what we loved (i.e. designing, pouring through fabric catalogues regularly, being able to spend time conceptualising and creating) and it stopped having meaning to us. (Yes I'm an idealist about life having to have some meaning.) So I roped in family members to help me brainstorm. This collection we worked with Lil S and a cousin from overseas - you'll see how Lil E influences CNY2017 when we blog about that in December.
We chose the Love and Hearts theme. Why? Because in the many years before her mei mei came along, Lil S would have sleepovers at our house and she would always leave notes for us to find if we were away or if we didn't come home early enough to say goodnight to her. They would be stuck on our walls with a lot of tape! The top left one she did years ago but the bottom right one, she just wrote for us yesterday when she spent the day at my house being baby-sat. She has formed smiley faces with the peas at the Japanese restaurant and then made me take a picture to remember our solo dinner date. She asked for heart balloons! If these hearts do have smiley faces, I noticed she draws the eyes with long curly eyelashes (like the pokemon goldeen). The hearts did stop for awhile when Lil E came along. We found it harder to reassure her that she wasn't being neglected especially when everyone would rush to cuddle the baby wombat. It's been tough putting time aside to spend with her now that she's in primary school. We can't just take off randomly like we used to when we first started. Our week days now are crazy intense and relentless. This year, I didn't even get to spend her birthday with her until dinner because we were at Boutiques fair all day.
In June, I told her to draw something for me. If she worked hard at it, I would print it for her on a tee and it would be her
So, this tee is by her, for her.
Her dad remarked that she's been "promoted". No longer just a model, now a designer too! You should've seen her face when she saw the finished tee for the first time. She grinned like a cheshire cat.
Why black? Because this 7 year old is starting to look for black tops. She scoured our tween store, Twelve by Elly, and remarked there was no black for her! I don't know why they start this early because I remember turning grunge-y only in Secondary 3! But just as she likes black and wants to attempt to look cool in hip shorts, she's still young at heart and loves long skirts and being a girly girl.
So we created this collection carefully to cater to the girl who's struggling so hard to want to be like the "big girls" but really, is still only 6, 7, 8. Our tween is a ready-to-wear shorts and tee child, just as she is a twirly girl with fairy skirts and long twirly dresses. We deliberately didn't design themes or allover colourful prints and kept our designs classic, understated and extremely easy to mix and match because our next collection (CNY2017) will be all about prints.
We've styled this Holiday collection quite deliberately to pair tank tops with tulle skirts and shorts and to include turquoises and fuchsias alongside blacks and whites. Our collection is meant to be worn after the Holiday season - for school holidays and also for weekends when school re-opens. Our skirts are just as versatile for dressing down after the festive season!
So whilst we designed matching onesies and rompers so babies could match their older siblings, the inspiration behind this collection was the tween we had started this label for many years ago. You can find love and hearts in all shapes, sizes and forms!
And, to complete our collection, we roped in our young cousin who is a truly talented artist to draw this print for us. She is hard at work in college and we hope she pursues art because talent like this is a rare find. I hope she never stops dreaming.
Yes there are days I feel like that clown with the party hat. Most of the time, we feel amazingly inadequate with designing, IT technology, accounts and well, basically everything we are confronted with every day. But hey, you should never stop dreaming. Love.
x, Audrey (Photo credit: The Studio Loft