Caitlin Charles-Jones is the Founder and Creative Director of her eponymous knitwear label. The brand specializes in premium British knitwear, designed and made in the United Kingdom.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
When I graduated from my MA, I was all set to go after the ‘dream job.’ I even moved to Italy and began work at a major luxury fashion house. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, but I didn’t love it like I’d expected to.
I also had this nagging feeling that what I really wanted was to work for myself. I have a strong creative vision that I really wanted to express and I felt I couldn’t truly do this unless I was working on my own brand.
There are also a lot of things about the culture of major fashion brands that I just don’t agree with and I wanted to cultivate a working philosophy within my own brand that was in line with my values.
Tell us about your business.
Caitlin Charles-Jones is a premium British knitwear brand. I produce innovative knitwear grounded in craftsmanship and ethical practice. I’ve always felt very strongly that clothes should be wearable and accessible, so everything I design can be easily mixed into the customers individual style. The pieces are produced in a small production studio in London as well as by skilled craftspeople in Scotland.
- We just completed a successful Kickstarter Campaign to raise £10000 in order to develop our new range and relaunch as a direct to consumer brand
- Boden / BFC Future British Award Winner
- Cockpit Arts / Framework Knitters Award
- Fashion Scout / London Fashion Week
- Awarded Freedom of The Livery for The Worshipful Company of Framework Knitters
- Masters Degree from Royal College of Art
- Knitwear Collection of the Year / Kingston University
- Visionary Knitwear Award / Graduate Fashion Week
Where is your business based?
My studio is in Bloomsbury, London.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
Once I realized that working for a big brand wasn’t for me, I decided to move back to my parents home in Cotswolds. From there I picked up with any contacts I had made during my studies and spent a lot of time listening and a bit of time talking.
I met up with anyone who had advice to offer and this proved incredible valuable. It gave me a really clear idea of what I wanted from my business and I even picked up some freelance work to kickstart things financially.
I decided that I wanted to start a brand that was grounded in the roots of my craft, I had no interest in producing hundreds of pieces at the lowest price so I started by investing in machinery and producing my collections by hand.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
After my first collection, I was selected for the British Fashion Council ‘Future British’ program and this really helped raise awareness in the beginning. I am currently on the verge of relaunching the brand as a direct to consumer brand.
I recently finished a Kickstarter Campaign which really created a buzz around the business and introduced my brand to lots of new customers. I use Instagram a lot and my following is slowly growing. My aim this year is to do some Pop Up events which will increase the brands’ exposure.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
I think one of the biggest challenges has been having a small business in an industry that really caters to big businesses. When I started the brand, there was a lot of pressure to keep up with the big brands, producing a new collection every season and spending lots of money on exhibiting them.
How did you overcome these challenges?
I am still in the process of overcoming this challenge! I realized that the traditional fashion business model wasn’t going to work for my business, so this year I’ve taken a step back from the fashion calendar and have really been planning a structure that works for me.
I’m working on a range which will be available all year round with fresh pieces dropping a few times a year – and this will only be available directly through my website.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
I always remind myself that even if times are tough I am lucky to get up in the morning and do something I love.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
The pieces I create are really grounded in craft and demonstrate the highest level of skill in knitting. I only make small quantities of each garment and every one is created by an individual and finished by hand.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
If in doubt, keep it simple.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Don’t be afraid to take your own path. There is a lot of advice to be had on starting your own business which is great and (mostly!) all worth listening to, but you don’t have to act on all of it.
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
Lists are a complete lifesaver and I’ve recently started using Trello which has kept me really organized.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
I recently read “Get Your Sh*t Together” by Sarah Knight which is definitely worth a look at.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
This year I’m hoping to get some help with my social media, I’m not very consistent with it!
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
The next few months will be spent sampling my new collection and giving my website a make over ready for my brand re launch in April. From April there will be a new range available to buy straight away rather than having to order and wait for pieces to be made.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.