Clouds & Cups’ first winter season has passed and truth be told, it hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. It's unfortunate, but it’s been an interesting experience nonetheless. Many of you have wondered about the lack of jumpers and hoods, so what follows is an explanation, and some insight into lessons learned the hard way. If you’ve been following the Clouds & Cups blog, you’ll know that failure and how to deal with it is a topic I explore frequently. I thought I’d share some inner workings of the brand to help illustrate the importance of your approach to situations.
Many months ago, I began planning a fully-fledged winter collection. I wanted to create a variety of heavy gear based around a core concept which, at the time, seemed quite solid. This was back in February, and after several weeks of fleshing out ideas, I shelved the plans, deciding to revisit them closer to winter. The problem, however, was that I left things too late. In the months that passed, the brand underwent some shifts, not only thematically, but also in regards to how it was run. As the cooler weather approached, I revisited the original concept only to realise that a lot of revision would be necessary in order to keep the collection coherent with the brand's direction.
A major factor that hindered decision-making was my tentative entry into DIY screen printing. I got very busy creating single-garment releases but it soon dawned on me that printing an entire collection of different designs on different garments was going to be far bigger logistical challenge than previously imagined. In short, I left things too late. My estimated completion time for this project was the end of winter. I wasn’t willing to rush a collection nor release small bits and pieces just for the sake of it. There was a solid two weeks of major indecision, but eventually, I decided to hold off. It was frustrating because I had begun planning months in advance but still ended up postponing the idea for an entire year. After some thinking, I shifted my focus and spent the following months working on my printing instead.
Not only is it necessary to conceive ideas well in advance, but you also need to constantly revisit in order to refine them. Creating a concept early is useless if you shelve it until the last minute. Running a small brand with no prior experience means changing your mind a lot and pivoting many times before finding a groove. That’s just the way it is - it’s exceptionally rare, if not impossible, for any business idea to be born perfect. An infant brand’s position can change relatively quickly, so you need to make sure product ideas are keeping pace with the bigger picture. I don’t think you can ever start a collection too early, provided that you are working on it constantly. Break it down, schedule like there’s no tomorrow, and work consistently. Not only is the process time-consuming, but you also need to release a collection at the beginning of a season with plenty of relevant weather to follow. I know this sounds stupidly obvious, but I still managed to mess it up somehow.
I also learned that getting confident too early on can be your downfall. Whilst it’s not exceptionally difficult to hand-print a single-garment release, an entire collection is a whole other ballgame. Because of small, early successes, beginners tend to forget their own inexperience and get a rude awakening upon realising that they’ve still got volumes to learn. This is exactly what happened to me. I underestimated how laborious it would be to print an entire collection using my limited resources. Don’t get too drunk on early success because it will derail you at some point. You can never practise enough.
As I’ve touched on in previous posts, there's no real substitute for experience. Often, simply being aware of something doesn’t commit it fully to your brain - you need to go through the experience firsthand to internalise the lesson. I was aware that I needed to start this collection months in advance, but only until I messed it up did I actually learn.
Whilst it’s not an ideal experience, I'm content with what I got out of it. It’s easier to accept setbacks when you try and squeeze as much insight out of them as possible. Acknowledge the upset and frustration, but don't dwell - it won't move you forward. Instead, try to pinpoint where it went wrong and take detailed notes. This clarity helps to build the roadmap in avoiding future disappointment. In this sense, failures aren’t inherently bad - they’re really just lessons, albeit hard ones. Perhaps my experience may prevent someone else from stumbling into the same pitfalls. Whatever it is you’re engaged in, try to learn from everything you do, especially when you make a mistake. It will be your greatest teacher in moving forward.