Designers Marketplace has had a busy busy past week running between the exciting cities of Amsterdam and London hunting out some design related brain food. This is the first chance we've had to upload our interview from last week with designer maker Katy Howieson, owner of the fresh new brand What Katy Did Next...
So Katy, what is your background and training in?
Studying Design Technology and Textiles for GCSE and A Levels was a real turning point for me. I had always been artistic and creative but the lessons made me realise that this was where my strengths were and it was an added bonus that it was something I enjoyed doing. For my Degree I decided Textiles and Surface Design was the perfect choice for me. I had already gained my making ability from d.t. and wanted to develop my skills in surface decoration. Throughout the course I managed to attain my own style of working as well as my awareness of the design industry.
And having just recently graduated what made you decide to set up your own business and move into designer maker products?
Even though my degree course was about surface design and decoration I have always loved making gifts for people or customising my own outfits. My second year at university really opened up my eyes and I found a media I was comfortable with and developed my own style of working – Embroidery! I started making a few accessories for myself such as hair bands and necklaces which caught a lot of attention. A friend suggested making some up to sell and after hearing about the Designers Marketplace through Helen Stevens (my tutor at the time) I decided this was something I wanted to be part of. Since having my first stall last Christmas my confidence has grown immensely and I have been working hard on getting my own business up and running since then.
Describe your brand 'What Katy Did Next', what does it represent and mean to you?
The name for the brand ‘What Katy did Next’ comes from a series of books I read as a child. In my early teens I decided I wanted to be a fashion designer and that this would be the name of my label. Even though the fashion designer dream has altered the name has stuck. The brand represents accessories for people who want something that not everybody has, something that is different enough for them to make a statement and although some of my work does follow fashion trends it also carries enough of my own taste and style for it to stand out from the crowd. I feel especially proud when I’m complimented on my bespoke one off designs and custom made pieces.
I think its the compliments which make it all worth while in the end, there is nothing more fulfilling. Do you feel the interaction with potential customers at Designers Marketplace helps to direct your products? Who would you say your target market is?
Absolutely! At last years market my embroidered products were limited to hairbands and a couple of necklaces, a couple of members of the public mentioned how they loved the idea of the product but felt hairbands were a bit to young for them. One woman suggested making brooches and then comissioned a few from me there. Initially my target market was for young females, but after doing the designers market and meeting an array of new customers I have widened my scope to an older audience. My accessories cater for all ages of women with a taste for something quirky and classy with a vintage feel.
What are you working on at the moment?
My work is currently being stocked in Changing Rooms in Middlesbrough and Sunkissed in Sedgefield, so as well as providing stock for them and taking on orders for custom pieces I am getting prepared for my stall at the November Designers Marketplace and working on new products for Christmas time. I am also currently working on a collection of bridal headwear and accessories ready for next Spring which I am really excited about.
What techniques do you favour and use?
The techniques I use mainly focus around embroidery and embellishment. I love working with Vintage items such as fabrics, lace, beads and even old brooches and jewellery. A technique I picked up recently for my last project of my degree is cutwork using leather. I intend on exploring this further for creating something really amazing and unusual for my bridal collection.
What are your plans for 'What Katy Did Next', how big is the brand going to become?
I’m taking each day as it comes with the brand. The accessories line has been well received and is extremely popular around Christmas time for gifts. The wedding industry is something I would love to conquer with my headwear, I feel many British brides are restricted in the choice they have for wedding accessories and I would love to offer them something different from the norm. Once my pieces are made up and ready I plan on hiring a professional photographer to capture some glorious images of my work and help me turn that into a look book which I will send off to companies, magazines and blogs. Ideally I would love for my bridal collection to take off and then continue with my original designs as a side business but we will have to see what comes from it.
Who and what inspires your work? Where do you go for inspiration?
My inspiration comes mainly from my love of everything Vintage, beautiful gentle colour palettes with aged lace and pearls and gorgeous florals. Although my work is fashion based I get a lot of inspiration from the likes of interior stylists Emily Chalmers and Sibella Court but I do contrast my love for them with high fashion designers such as Elie Saab and Valentino.
Blogs are my addiction and I am easily distracted by sites such as Dear Golden Vintage, Lobster and Swan and Claire A Baker’s blog. I also make a lot of amazing discoveries through having my online shop through Etsy.com and have found amazing designers such as Myra from Twigs and Honey and Emily from Which Goose.
What do you feel are the most important skills for a designer to have and/or develop?
As well as having the skills to make products or design work you need to be able to communicate and be confident in promoting yourself. I shamelessly plug my work online and in public and it is necessary for small businesses to build a name for themselves and get recognised unfortunately you cannot rely on luck.
What has been the biggest achievement in your design career since leaving university?
Having not one but two shops offer to stock my products in the first two months after graduating is probably the biggest achievement in my design career since leaving CCAD. I am also thrilled to get the chance to design and make bridesmaids headwear for a bride to be in Belfast.
What is your advice for new graduates or students hoping to set up their own business in design?
Again it would be not to be afraid to shamelessly promote yourself and do not be discouraged by a slow start. Also a major lesson I have learned is that you can’t please everyone, being able to alter your products or designs to cater to a client’s taste comes in extremely handy in my line of work.