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Going Solo: Starting Your Own Fashion Label

by Carolyn Boyd
Posted: October 14, 2015

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With a bit of know-how and a lot of courage, this Aussie fashion designer turned a difficult crossroads into a successful career. Learn about the value of taking the leap with Sam Jones, founder of Pol Clothing

Sam Jones was almost at breaking point when she took a risky step and branched out on her own. 

The Australian designer had spent her career working for big fashion labels such as David Lawrence and Howard Showers, but when she became a single parent, the Sydneysider realised she simply couldn't do the long hours required anymore. 

“It’s very all-consuming and it’s also very stressful,” she says. “You really do have to work 24/7 and give it your all.

“I worked part-time until my daughter was about three and I realised I wasn’t giving it everything I needed to give it,” she says. “All I’d ever done was designing and all I’d ever loved doing was designing, and you can’t really do these jobs part-time.”

Taking the leap

Fashion was the only thing Jones knew so she set about finding a way to realign her life to fit in both work and motherhood. 

After an agent suggested she put together a range of her own, Jones devised a collection of knits on her kitchen bench. She chose the name Pol, borrowing a friend’s nickname. “Wrongly, I thought ‘it won’t take me very long,” says Jones. “I put out this 12-piece collection, and it just sold and sold and sold. It just became this snowballing machine.”

Ironically, Jones hadn’t yearned for own line. “It wasn’t one of those things I’d longed for,” she says. “I really did want to get experience working for other people.”

And that early experience equipped Jones with what she believes is now her greatest asset. “I can handle most situations because a lot of designing is problem solving and managing time; it really does come down to those two things. I think one of my biggest talents is how to solve a problem, how to get the line out on time.”

Turning point

While Pol Clothing was an instant success Jones was faced with a huge problem. Two years into it, she didn’t really love what she was designing. She was creating what the market seemed to want but not following her heart. 

“When a product is loved it comes through, you can tell that somebody has enjoyed designing it. It becomes really interesting and you want to wear it.”

It took a mentor to point out to Jones that if she wanted to design clothes she really loved, she had the power to take greater control and do that. 

“It seems so easy but sometimes you just have to take a step back,” she says. “Now I’ve got the range that I really want.”

Following her heart turned out to be a good creative and commercial decision. “Sales doubled,” she says. 

Five years later, the look now is more a “low-key, low-colour aesthetic”.

“I put a lot of ideas and love into every garment and I think that’s what has given it an enduring quality,” says Jones. “It really is ‘find your niche, stay true to yourself’ – that’s what I’ve learnt.”

A happy medium

Jones says her product is not mainstream. “We target women who don’t necessarily want to bare all their skin, who just want to look attractive – that 25-55 ageless contemporary woman. If you’re over 40 you want to look contemporary, you want to look modern. You want clothes to look great on you and fit well. To get that nice balance of contemporary dressing is harder than it seems.”

Jones now mixes running her own company with working as a knitwear consultant to other labels. “I have two hats, so I have to juggle them,” she says. “It’s a notoriously tough industry and my motto is ‘spread the risk’.”

Pol Clothing is now produced half in Australia and half overseas using fabrics from Italy, France and Japan. 

Jones has three Australian makers and a local cutter. “They’re like family now,” she says. “It’s a lot more rewarding [than sourcing from overseas] as you work closer to people.”

Three tips for starting your own fashion line:

•    Persevere
•    Stay true to what you’re doing
•    Know when to ask for help

If you've got the passion and drive to put the hours in - that's half the battle won. The fashion industry is not for those without creative vision. Consider these tips from Sam Jones and take your inspiration to the next level. What's your next project? 

Remember, it’s not what you know but what you practice that makes you a great leader. Want to know what else makes a great leader?

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Carolyn Boyd

Carolyn has been a Journalist for 20 years. She holds degrees in communication and business, and enjoys hunting great stories. The human element of stories fascinates Carolyn and she believes everyone has an interesting tale to tell.

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