This week we're stepping away from digital into the world of fashion. Pip Howeson is the founder of bespoke tailoring company, Pip Howeson. Pip has had an exciting journey, from the school for creative startups to showcasing at Royal Academy of Arts and is now growing the business having recently raised investment.
So tell me about your background prior to starting Pip Howeson?
I previously worked for other people in the tailoring industry. I worked for a designer called Selina Blow, then Jack Wills and then Aubin & Wills. I knew I really wanted to do it myself and saw opportunities that were different to how they were running their businesses. I’m very lucky, my husband’s been really amazingly supportive, he said – ‘Go on! Just do it! Do it!’.
Pip Howeson - The Journey
How did you get started with your business?
I started in 2012. It wasn’t just a big moment of ‘I’m going to start the business’ - it’s always been bubbling in my head. It’s been bubbling since I was about 15; this is what I’ve wanted to do. Sometimes I look back and I think how far we’ve come and sometimes I think – ‘Oh my goodness what am I doing!’
Tell me about Pip Howeson, in your own words.
I do bespoke tailoring. At the moment I’ve got a lot of art collectors so I go and look at their art and have it scanned for the silk lining for their jackets; that’s been popular. Somebody may have inherited a coat that they love but it’s falling apart so we take that as inspiration and make their dream coat. Another example is that I’ve just done a lovely overcoat for a sculptor called Nic Fiddian-Green, he wanted pockets for his sketchbook and pencils. Then from another angle I had a client who had breast cancer, she was very nervous about what she was wearing so we made a beautiful double breasted jacket for her which drew the eye away. It was her 60th birthday and she said she had never felt so confident in anything, all because it was made to fit her.
Growth & Day-to-day
How has the business grown since you started?
We have doubled on last year and I’ve also raised investment. I have these two wonderful investors – one who had an advertising agency and is just amazing. He thinks laterally, he keeps sending me emails asking whether I’ve thought of this or that – which is wonderful because sometimes investors can be just on the bottom line margins, but he’s more creative.
What is your ‘average’ day?
I wake up very early, around 6.30am and do any jobs around the house then I’m at my desk at 8.30am. I go through my emails then at about 11.30 I go for a walk then back to my desk . Fittings are usually in the afternoons but it really depends. Tuesdays and Thursdays are fitting days and I’m in the studio 2 days a week.
Achievements & Challenges
What has been your biggest achievement?
I would usually say exhibiting at the Royal Academy. This was part of the Walpole Crafted: Makers of the Exceptional showcase at The Royal Academy of Arts. But I think in reality my biggest achievement is my clients that are really happy. I think that’s what really motivates me. I didn’t know when I started the business how important that would be – if that makes sense. It is a service I’m providing and you need to keep people happy, but actually it’s a huge thing. You really become part of their lives and they a part of yours.
What is your biggest challenge?
I think scaling is interesting. I’m passionate about making in England and using English fabrics but that’s quite tricky at the moment. We are moving back onshore but the infrastructure is not as good as it was 25 years ago. I think in my dream world I’d like to have my own factory in England.
Women in Business
How can we get more women to start businesses or into more senior roles?
I was actually discussing this with two clients I have - a neurosurgeon and someone who’s in the House of Lords. They believe more flexible childcare and mentorship to encourage other women would help. I also think it is a lot down to the culture, I employ two women and we all work very well together. It’s the encouragement and belief in them; I think you’ve got to change the culture from the top. It’s starting to happen but I think it is difficult – I think it’s hard if they have children and they want to go back. If it was easier and if it was encouraged maybe it would be different.
Advice & Final Thoughts
What advice would you give to someone starting a business now?
It’s really important not to beat yourself up. You can spend so much time worrying, thinking you should do this or that. Then you forget to focus on the vision and the journey, which should be enjoyed. It shouldn’t be a chore – it should be something you care and you’re passionate about. Worry about things you can change and focus on making an impact.
What does the future hold for Pip Howeson?
If I could get measurements taken online that would just be amazing. In America they do semi-fitted garments and finish them to your measurements but it’s a bit haphazard. Eventually it would be great if all you had to do is click and it came and fit you perfectly. I’d also love a shop-cum-gallery in a more central location.