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Women Worldwide : From making clothes for her Barbie to worldwide Phenomenon with 319 The Label

319 the label is the dream come to life for creator Glenna Michelle.

319 the label is the dream come to life for creator Glenna Michelle. Glenna started designing and sewing when she was 9 years old and proclaimed that she could only ever work in fashion. She’s got a CV that would make most people boast, having worked with some of the biggest names in the industry and now she’s put all of her learning, and heart and soul, in to her brand.

Here, she tells us more…

Tell us about the story that lead you to launching 319 The Label…

I have only ever wanted to be a fashion designer since childhood. I made all of my Barbie’s clothing, in year six I recreated one of Elizabeth I’s iconic dresses for a project at school, and continued this love through university, into corporate fashion. But as an adult I had a lot of issues shopping in the mainstream/Highstreet shops. Either I couldn’t find something unique and attractive in my price range, had to alter the clothes so much to fit my figure (I’m short and an hourglass, not tall and lanky), or refused to buy polyester. After a few too many years of spending the time and money, helping friends with similar issues, I started custom making a lot of my own clothes and those of friends and family. I realized that there was a serious blindspot in the industry of what women want and need. Not everyone wants to alter their body or pay to alter clothing, wear manufactured materials, or follow flash trends. A lot of my clients are like me, looking for something stylish that will last for years, through multiple seasons, and fit them without much adjustment.

How have you had to pivot during Covid19 to make sure your business survives?

As I make all my styles in small quantities, I will order extra fabric for a replenishment or custom sizing option. Instead of making any extra units, I’ve repurposed my fabric to make non medical grade masks available for purchase as well as donation. This allowed me to ensure all my fabric was paid for, but I was able to give back to communities as well.

What is the number one thing you are most looking forward to post Covid19?

I am so looking forward to having trunk shows again. I really miss that social buzzy aspect with current clients and getting to meet new clients. And travel. That has been a major factor in my designs, what people are wearing in different cities, regions, countries and using that as inspiration for a future collection.

As an entrepreneur it’s in your nature to be able to come up with new ways of working when faced with uncertainties, like Covid19. What changes have you had to make in your business?

Being one of the few companies that manufactures in Texas has been a real blessing as we have operated businesses on a modified level but haven’t fully shut down. And this allows a much shorter lead time for my collections. I’ve decided to limit new styles for the next 6 months as we navigate the current climate, only adding a few new styles, and new colors or fabrics for existing styles. My clients that are still shopping are having me come to their home for in home appointments, I’ll bring size and style options, they either FaceTime me while they decide, or show me from their door while I’m out on the patio. But the biggest change has been adding accessories. As travel, events and outside of the home gatherings are postponed across the world fewer people are buying ready-to-wear, but accessories are a great way to spruce up your WFH tee and leggings uniform for your Zoom call!

You started the brand because you felt like there was a lack of representation in the fashion industry for ‘real’ body shapes. How does your brand differ to those on the Highstreet?

Every style created is originally measured on my curvy figure, and then wear tested on different figures; athletic, lean, post-baby, a little extra, to ensure that it works for as many people as possible. Sizing ranges from (US) 2 up to a 14, but have extended sizes for clients that are smaller and bigger. My clothing can fit those that are busty but also are a bit less, one of my models is a B-cup while I’m a DD and we wear the same size in the Iggy Wrap Dress. All of my bottoms are made for women with hips and muscular thighs, and have a bit of elastic in the back of the waistband to all for a closer fit without being constricting. No more gapping above your bum!

In 2020, what are your plans for the label?

My goal is to offer my product to more people. Whether they need a brand that understands their body and their lifestyle, or they’re looking to have a custom dress at a more reasonable price, I just want to help more women feel good in their own skin.

One of the reasons fashion labels fail is because they fail on the marketing side. How do you spread the word about what you do?

Social media obviously plays a really big role in marketing these days. Having a solid online presence, interacting with your clients, and being transparent about as much as you can are all needed in terms of building a solid following (that exceeds beyond likes and into repeat purchases). For a small, start-up brand like 319, word of mouth is probably the most important. People trust their friends, family, coworkers and if they have a good experience, love their purchase, feel confident in a style, then you’re more likely to shop the same brand.

As you come close to celebrating one year since launching the label, if you could turn back time, is there anything you would do differently?

At the one year mark I feel pretty confident with my decisions. I think the biggest learning curve for all designers is trying to predict consumer behavior. Some of the styles that I thought would sell out were lackluster, some styles that I didn’t have much hope for sold out at my launch party. Obviously had I known that I would have invested more in the top selling pieces and less in others. But I’m still very happy with the collection I created.

For any aspiring fashion designers, what advice would you offer?

Don’t stick with what you know. Expand your arsenal of knowledge as much as possible. So many designers will close shop because they have little to know concept of the business side. Between university and my career I spent 12 years learning all different areas of the industry. I have a very well rounded understanding of the industry and what will make 319 successful. Thanks to that, I don’t need to outsource nearly as much of the day to day, or big picture tasks as I would have had I not spent time in areas as marketing, design, product development, merchandising, wholesale, textile sourcing, et ce tera.

What are you doing to make your brand sustainable?

319 styles are all made in small quantities to try and cut down on waste, and use complimentary colors within the next collection so that styles from one season can transition and be worn with new styles. I also am very conscious about fabric used. Whether it’s natural textiles such as cotton or tencel, or up cycled fabrics that are being discarded by other fashion houses. Buying pieces that will last longer, making fewer styles and using more natural fabrics are all key to creating a responsible and sustainable brand.

Why is this something that interest you?

Clothing shouldn’t end up in a landfill, material shouldn’t harm our bodies or the environment. Fashion is an incredibly wasteful industry and it doesn’t need to be. We can make conscious choices that support investing in quality over quantity and reduce some of the effects this industry has had on the earth. Choosing quality over quantity may mean spending more but buying less, and it is an practice that can be implemented in our lives seamlessly.

What does self care mean to you?

Self care is not an easy excuse to treat yourself with face masks and new shoes. It’s also Self Responsibility. That means making the harsh or unpopular choices. It means saying no to a night out drinking with friends because you have to get up early to work the next day. It means taking a day to not look at your phone so you can reconnect with your surroundings. Self care means walking away from your high paying corporate job at a well respected fashion house because your emotional and mental well-being matters more. The best thing I ever did for myself was leave New York and the corporate fashion industry to move back home with my parents and focus on my brand full time. It was not popular, I had to leave some of my best friends. It was not sexy, I’m 30 and live with my parents in my childhood bedroom (don’t worry I redecorated!). But in the first three months of this decision, my brand has grown so much, I’m able to deliberately focus on it without worrying about my full time job, and I feel less stressed/more productive. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy a glass of wine and a face mask, but I’m probably looking at a spreadsheet while I do it. It’s all about balance.

Outside of work, what do you do to switch off?

Owning your business means never truly switching off. But when I need to not think about a future collection, or when my next trunk show will be, I typically go work out, running through the park or taking a barre class. Museums feed my soul, travel is exciting and creative inducing, but I ultimately doing either of those will cause me start to think about work, a future collection or design. If I have the time and ability, I’ll head to my family ranch and spend time with just myself and nature.

Tell us your favourite quote to read when you lack creativity?

“Dress to please yourself. Listen to your inner muse and take a chance. Wear something that says ‘Here I am!’ today.” Iris Apfel, my style muse. Have you seen her outfits? She is the most stylish person in every room. No one can look like Iris.

Where can people find out more…

My instagram is @319.thelabel and has past collections, future color concepts, sneak peeks, and client pictures. My website is 319thelabel.com (I ship internationally!)