Fierce Females: Collective Closets

Sometimes you have to be prepared to eat tuna out of a can while you fund your dream.

For fashion designers Laurinda and Fatuma, the sister duo behind Collective Closets, 'living the dream' meant they had to fully commit to it - and be prepared to sacrifice a few things along the way.

The pair launched Collective Closets while holding down full time jobs. This meant implementing some seriously kick ass prioritising skills. I managed to squeeze in some time with them to ask them: how did they grow their business, while holding down a full time job and nailing the 'working with the sibling' card?

Fashion sounds very glam. What's it really like behind the scenes building your own brand?

"There’s a big difference between having a hobby and having a business. Identifying this early on saves a lot of heartache!

"It’s crucial that you are brutally honest with yourself and identify very early on if your idea is a hobby and something that you enjoy doing in your spare time or a business idea that you are prepared to live and breathe.   

"We spent all of last year engulfed in Collective Closets or working at our other jobs, we ended 2015 completely burnt out and on the verve of exploding and slightly nervous on how long we could physically and mentally sustain this way of life. So coming into the new year we’ve made a conscious effort that balancing it all is vital for our businesses longevity and the quality of work we produce."

Did you have previous experience with fashion and design? How'd you get into it?

We didn’t go to university to study fashion or design. We actually still work in our current professions that we studied at University to help support or business. Before launching the business, we did styling and started a reworked vintage label. After having these businesses for a while it was only a matter of taking the plunge and not allowing the fear to hold us back to do our own thing.

Fashion suppliers are notoriously hard to find. People protect their suppliers to remain competitive. Has that been your experience? How'd you get over that hurdle?

"It hasn’t been easy, but we knew it kind of came with the territory. Fashion is competitive.

"In saying this we were quite lucky to have been referred onto a number of people in the industry who linked us up with other suppliers. We also did A LOT of our own research (and continue to do so).  Yes we made a few mistakes along the way but there are some good people out there that are willing to help you out and point you in the right direction."

In what ways has your working process evolved since launching? I mean, you guys are sisters.

"We’ve evolved in so many ways since launching the label in 2015. It’s been quite surreal to look back at how much we’ve achieved and how much we’ve grown.

"From a business perspective our working process has evolved by strengthening and improving how we communicate with one another as colleagues and differentiating that relationship as sisters.

"Setting realistic goals in achievable timeframes and reviewing them but not being too hard on ourselves if we don’t reach the desired outcomes has played a big part in that, too, for sure."

What tough love would you give to others looking to do the same?

"We'd definitely tell others to ask yourself what sacrifices are you prepared to make. What life changes are you willing to make? Are you prepared to eat rice and tuna for a while? Talk to a financial advisor, establish a budget, research a tonne, and ask yourself: how will starting your own business impact your current life.

"Be prepared to live and breathe your business. In order to get your business off the ground you really need to make a lot of sacrifices and miss out on what your (pre business) Friday nights were!"

So.... where to start? How could someone go from an idea to making it a reality?

"Get real about money before you start. We decided from the get go that we would juggle kick starting our business and stay in our current full time jobs. This meant we had income coming in as we tried to kick-start our label. 

"We found sharing our ideas extremely beneficial in the early stages. Even now we ask and seek guidance from people that have had a lot of experience in starting their own business and those in the industry. I suppose we'd say: don’t be afraid to talk to your inner circle or people that have started other businesses - and this is important - even if it’s a similar product to you. 

"Don’t be afraid and be fearless in the pursuit of what feeds your soul. We love the saying: 'fearless is not the absence of fear. It’s being 100 percent scared to death, but jumping anyways.'"

Check out Collective Closets here.

Images by Breeana Dunbar Photography.