Kate Ford reveals the journey to launching her womenswear brand during the pandemic, from product pivots to a commitment to sustainable design.
My signature label, Kate Ford was born in 2021 during the pandemic, launching at this strange time wasn’t without its challenges.
The brand was meant to launch with Spring/Summer 2021, an entire year prior, but it just didn't feel right and we didn’t want to rush the process.
The wholesale process was made a lot harder being unable to sell physically in a showroom due to the restrictions and lockdowns here in Australia - we needed to improvise and go digital.
This meant we needed a strong campaign, which was impossible to do in Australia at the time. I was also temporarily living in the Gold Coast for three months due to my partner's work.
I got creative and sent the entire S/S22 collection to my L.A-based photographers who organised and created the most amazing shoot for the launch in Joshua Tree, California.
It was quite a daunting time being a new brand as buyers generally want to see the product in person, and not just purchase digitally. But it was an absolute success and we’ve not looked back since.
In regards to the design process itself, this was business as usual. It was a little different having to adjust to remote working, but I felt everyone working for the brand took to it really well.
It was extremely difficult in regards to getting shipments in and out and getting the collections in the factories was very challenging. With constant snap lockdowns worldwide and factories completely stopping work, this extended our sampling process.
This meant the workers were not across the comments made prior to them leaving and it was causing many issues with communication, and not to mention the delays with shipping.
A shipment that should have taken 7 days to arrive was now taking at least 4-5 weeks, it was as though we were doing the impossible.
I have built a lot of connections over my time working in the fashion industry and a lot of knowledge about textiles and ways that the factories I work with are trying to make change on their end too.
In saying that, with my experience I’ve grown up adjusting to the industry, always looking for ways to make more sustainable choices and be conscious of how we’re designing for a sustainable future.
The brand is forever trialling new ways to manufacture, as well as sourcing.
We’re educating our factories and artisans at the same time as they’re supplying us with new items they have found, which are reducing an impact on the environment.
I continue to educate myself about new technology and ways the fashion industry is trying to make a difference and proceed down a sustainable path to ensure the brand iis treading lightly every step of the way.
Experience and knowledge is one thing I can forever take with me on the sustainable path, educating others as well as making a difference with bringing out a resort-wear brand who follow the same beliefs and ethics as I personally do.
From giving back to the communities that do not have the opportunity to express their artistic skills on a high scale such as my artisans in India who are hand-making all of our crochet garments and belts, through to working with organic and sustainable fibres that do not use harsh chemicals for manufacturing or dying processes.
We also ensure we’re not buying stock fabrics or items where we’re not sure of the origin or how they were processed.
We’re very cautious of working with new factories, I personally need to inspect all of our factories and working conditions. I’m in daily contact with all of my artisans and factories to ensure everyone is being treated and paid fairly and they enjoy working with us and being a part of the brand's growth.
We limit the quantities of orders we place for our online store as we want to ensure our customers are buying on demand, and not impulse buying.
This is due to our main belief of keeping the brand as a staple item in your wardrobe for years to come. We don’t want our garments to end up in landfill and we’re reducing our impact on the environment as much as we can.
Lockdowns and living through the pandemic in general has been a difficult time for everyone and you don’t know what someone is going through.
It’s extremely important to be kind to yourself and the people working for you. You need to ensure you’re taking time out for yourself and checking in on the people who are making the brand come to life - even if on the other side of the world.
I believe this comes with experience and you need to be put in those high-stress moments to be able to grow and take experience from them to adapt to change - growing as both an individual and a business owner.
We want Kate Ford to be timeless and to grow with the customer. The brand will continue to explore further sustainable options for the future as we grow with all of our artisans and factories, ensuring we continue to create bravely and with lighter impact.