Tibito's World

by Simone Saori Nozaki

Reflective Essay – MACE It!

Time has passed really fast since I started this course in September 2011. And now looking back I realise how much I learned and changed since then, and I can assure the Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship module was the one I learned the most. The reason I chose this course is firstly because I wanted to gain more knowledge in the fashion area, and secondly because I plan to have my own business in the future. As my background is in Graphic Design, I have really good knowledge in the artistic field, but lack of entrepreneurial skills. At first I wasn’t sure if Fashion & the Creative Economy was the right course for me, but when I found out that by their definition, creative industries are “…those industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent which have a potential for job and wealth creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property” (DCMS, 2001), and that “at the heart of the creative economy are the cultural and creative industries that lie at the crossroads of arts, culture, business and technology. (Creative Cities, British Council, 2011), I was sure it was what I was looking for.

 

Learn by Failing!

I tried running my own brand before, but my lack of confidence, knowledge in the business area and this irrational fear of failing, actually were the reasons I failed. And I can say this was one of my first lessons: There’s nothing wrong in failing! Failing is good! “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” (Sir Ken Robinson, 2009). If you don’t fail you don’t know how to succeed. As Salvador Dalí once said: “Mistakes are almost always of a sacred nature. Never try to correct them. On the contrary: rationalize them, understand them thoroughly. After that, it will be possible for you to sublimate them.” In the end, my “sublimation” came to be this MACE course.

 

Think differently!

I must say I was expecting something way different from the course. I have that image of business students dressing suits and seating with good posture in the chair, looking only to the board and the professor, learning boring stuff. Quite a square environment. But what I found out is that the course was dynamic, very practical and fun. The way we learned was exactly the opposite of the way I was thinking it was going to be. Plus, I was expecting to learn how to do business in the traditional way (more or less like “The Apprentice”…), but actually it turned out to be more about collaborative work, sharing experiences, and use a more humanistic approach. In other words, I was taught to think out of the box. Maybe the fact that our class is a mix of different cultures and backgrounds has been a strong influence in this dynamic learning environment. And since “interdisciplinary working is becoming more mainstream” (Martin Kemp, NESTA), why not make use of it for our business benefit? Do things differently than the conventional. Share knowledge and come up with new solutions. Be innovative and creative in business!

 

Conquer me!

The beginning of the course was really fruitful to me. Analysing Prêt-A-Manger gave me the opportunity to have the user experience by putting myself in the place of the customer, and by doing so, I could identify the three user needs – cognitive, emotional and physical, and then I could understand why small details, like an adhesive saying “freshly made”, some nice pictures hanged in the walls, or even the smell of freshly baked goods, are such important elements in a business.

Through the “Prototyping a Shoe” class I learned the importance to have the public’s opinion and how they can give you a new perspective of a product that you actually never thought about, and how their opinion can be enough to come up with a new product that fills their need in a few minutes time.

But, besides all the classes, I think the most important for me was the Storytelling class. By telling a story you share empathy, and suddenly people have an emotional connection with you or with your brand. As it is stated in the Business Model Generation (2010) book, “storytelling will help you effectively communicate what it is all about”. It was important because I realised it was one of the things missing in my brand, and in fact it could have been the most powerful tool to increase my sales. By that time I just couldn’t see why it was important. Fail.

 

Make the world hear you!

Networking was also an important part of my learning. Usually I am not the type of person that just goes and starts talking to a stranger. The same way I don’t like pitching, and introduce yourself to another person is somehow the same as pitching yourself. But during Launch 48, Business Start-Up Show, Bright Ideas Competition and other events, I forced myself to step out of my comfort zone. In the end I think it is just a question of confidence and will, because what I found out is that people are interested in listen to what you have to say, so it is not a big issue at all. Eventually I was able to make good contacts, and for instance one of them turned into a small project. Still, I need to work more on my pitching skills, to the point I start feeling comfortable to do so.

“People do better because they are better connected with other people; they are obligated to support others and are dependent on trusting and exchange with others.” (Ron Burt, NESTA)

The same way, I had to expand my use of social media as part of my network “task”, which demonstrated to be quite relevant, either to my business team or for myself. Construct a wide net of contacts showed being extremely important when it comes to spread the word about your business, when you seek for help or information, or when you need someone with specific skills. In resume, it is a powerful working tool, and we must make the most of it. It was proven by my own blog. I wasn’t expecting much from it at the beginning, especially because I am not a blog follower but when I got some followers, including people outside MACE and who really appreciated some of my point of views, I got really excited. It is really encouraging, and shows how important it is to expose yourself to the world.

 

Curpy!

Besides everything, my biggest achievement in this course was for sure Curpy. Through it we could apply everything we had learned so far (problem solving, prototype, market analysis, storytelling, networking), in a really practical mode. The business team worked similarly to how a real business would work, especially through the Dragon’s Den events, the trade fairs and all the pitching practice, which made the whole experience a valuable lesson for the future.

I consider us quite lucky in a way. We didn’t have any issues to decide on our teammates, since we all live in the same halls of residence. Actually it was even an advantage, because we never had any issue to set up the group meetings. And I think compared to the other groups, our team got along really well during this journey. Of course we had our discussions, ego fights, misunderstandings, but to be sincere I think all these things are necessary, and you have to learn how to deal with. As in my previous experiences working in some companies, you like it or not, you have to pass through this anyway. Sometimes you must be flexible and let things go, and sometimes you must stand still with your opinion. Working in group was never easy, however, at the same time, I see how important it is. I would never be able to get where we got alone, especially because each one of us has some special skill that complements the whole work. And working with people from different backgrounds and different countries is challenging, but at the same time interesting, as you always end up learning something new, and having a new perspective of different cultures and life experiences, which just enrich the whole experience.

We also didn’t have any issues to decide on the products. It came out so naturally that when we realised, we were already producing a prototype (check the process here). I think one of the reasons it was quite easy for us is because we have two people with design backgrounds in the team. Indeed, the design aspect became the strongest characteristic in our brand (check Kanin’s blog). The only challenge we had was with the advert, as nobody had filmmaking background in the team. However, these are the times we have to take the risk and try. In the end it came out well, and for the editing we counted with the help of Abhishek’s friend in India. Again, network and collaboration!

In overall we did very well. We got along well, we have two products selling instead of only one (and there is more to come) and we won as Best Business Team of the day in the Kingston Market Fair. We did our best and we used all our skills acquired during the course. To close the module with a golden key, we were one of the two business teams chosen to represent London in the Young Enterprise Start-Up UK Finals. To step out of the student environment to a real entrepreneurial one was an incredible experience, and to Curpy be in the Top 5 Young Enterprise in UK was my biggest achievement throughout the course. We did the best we could by then and we used all our skills.

 

To the Sky and Beyond!

The Young Enterprise Finals doesn’t mean the end of the line for Curpy. On the contrary, we are planning to keep the business going and even expanding it, in terms of retail stores and number of products. Our future is too promising to be lost.

I also met so many interesting people, from all over the world, and with so much cultural diversity during the course, that I feel I have a solid network for any collaborative projects (or even for an ordinary barbecue!) that may appear in the future.

Now I also feel more prepared to carry my own business. I learned so much and I already had the experience to put them in practise. I also met so many interesting people, from all over the world, and with so much cultural diversity during the course, that I feel I have a solid network for any collaborative projects (or even for a simple barbecue!) that may appear in the future. As Nadiyah (2012) said, “If you really want to start a business, you have absolutely no excuse not to.” Moreover, I’m focusing both my Final Project and my last Fashion Module assignment to my future plans. For the Final Project, I am setting up a social enterprise to work with communities in Brazil in the production of stylish bags. For my Fashion assignment, I am developing a new concept for my brand based in sustainability. In the future, I plan to join both projects in one, and carry them as my own business. Let’s see how it goes!

But, for the first instance, I will try either to find a job in the fashion industry to gain more working experience, or make another course in Surface Design or in Textiles areas. I will go wherever the wind blows me to…

“Having a strong belief in yourself and feeling free to express your ideas are vital if you’re going to go on to be adventurous, and consider setting up a business or social enterprise.” (Elizabeth Chell, NESTA)

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Curpy and the Young Enterprise UK finals

Over 2050 students; 316 teams, from 35 universities. And we are in Top 5!

Last week we participated in the Young Enterprise Start-Up Awards 2012, as one of the five UK finalists, alongside Cuff’d. We have been chosen between other 22 teams from Kingston University in the last Dragon’s Den, on 3 May.

The experience was great. It was way more professional than any other university events we participated. This was business world for real. But in the other hand it was easier than I thought. I was expecting a huge event, with lots of universities competing, then I found out it was just 5 teams: Escalate (a company selling a towel with a special waterproof cover for golfers), Just Jogging (a club proposing a socialization and charity program through jogging), Baggy Blues (a company that produces traditional cricket uniforms), Cuff’d and Curpy.

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We did better than I thought in the presentation (we almost won the Best Presentation award!). The interview is easy when you know the answers, although I think at some points we said more than the necessary, but it’s fine.  It was amazing to see how we progressed since we got together in the beginning of the course, and how my own skills improved. I still hate to speak to an audience, but little by little I’m getting used to it. Also, now I look at Curpy as a real business, and I do believe we have a brilliant future ahead.

I think we had a good chance to be the winners if we could have done better. I just blame the lack of time to both prepare everything and to receive more help from our representatives. Plus, May is the end of the semester, which means it is the deadline for all our uni assignments. Also, in a less extension, we had a few disagreements in the team (yes, we do have disagreements sometimes! It’s part of being a business team and we need to deal with it!), which in a way influence the outcome, and of course, for the sake of Curpy, must be discussed in a future meeting.

So, in the end the chosen team to represent UK was Escalator. At least Cuff’d brought a prize to Kingston University as Best Investment Proposal. Congrats again! Although we didn’t win any prize, all teams won a Certificate of Excellency for getting so far. And this already made me very proud. Furthermore, we don’t plan to stop here. We’re still following the plans to expand the number of retail stores to sell our products, as well as to set a manufacturer for the penholders. We also have more products to come (TOP SECRET). As Martha Mador, head of Enterprise Education at Kingston University, once said during the Bright Ideas Competition, “it’s not because you didn’t win that your business isn’t good. Nothing makes us more proud than you proving we’re wrong”.         Ha. Wait and see then! 😉

Check some news about the Young Enterprise UK finals:

– Waterproof golfing towel wins Young Enterprise Start up Company of the Year

– Newcastle entrepreneurs win national Young Enterprise competition

– LJMU students to represent university at National Start Up Final

 

You can check the slideshow of the presentation in our Facebook page

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Last day

Yesterday was the last day of classes for my MACE course. To me it was quite a sad day, because suddenly I realized that what seemed to be so far away to finish was then over, and that I won’t see all my classmates together anymore. I know now it is the beginning of the end of my MA course. And again, it will be the beginning of a new journey in my life. I just wish I could have had more time to hang out with them, learn more, laugh more and drink more beer (or wine) with everybody. Well…the invitation for a beer (or wine, again) will always be up though. Wherever I will be. 😉

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Speaking of “lost art”…

…I just remembered about Etsy’s Videos, a collection of videos showing handmade techniques, craftwork initiatives, artisans stories, etc. Worth to “lose” some time and take a look. Might be a valuable source of inspiration for you as it is for me.

I’m posting two of my favorites here, so you all can have a sneak preview. This one is about a japanese swordsmiths’ attempt to recover a lost sword forging technique.

And this second video is about a graphic designer inspired by the funky movement, and the craftworks which she “took trash and gave it value”.

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Artisans in Fashion

This was a very fruitful day. On 20 April I went to a seminar called Artisans in Fashion, at the London College of Fashion, run by the Textile Institute and the Society of Dyers & Colourists.   It was a small event, but showed me some perspectives about craftwork in UK.

I have always been passionate about crafts. Something that interests me is the fact that craftwork became a type of “lost art” after the Industrial Revolution completely changed the manufacturing process. Nowadays lots of crafting techniques have been lost, and just a few people have the skills necessary to work with craftwork, which is exactly the special thing about it.

The seminar presented the works of Rose Sharp Jones, an expert in knitting; Melanie Lewiston, a film-maker/photographer passionate about millinery; Dr. Frances Geesin, an interactive textile design researcher; and the impressive Royal School of Needlework.

The choice of speakers and their area of expertise were really appropriate to represent the current market. UK is becoming famous for the knitting, which by the way was one of the hot trends of last winter. Moreover, it is one of the greatest producers of organic wool. The millinery has always been present among the British aristocracy, where hats are an essential part of the garment and also work as indicators of high social status. The same thing with hand embroidery, which is a technique that requires lots of working time, but is still being used to decorate royal garments (including Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen). And, to represent the concern with textile futures, they brought an expertise in interactive textiles, as an example of incentive to experiments with different materials and textures, and the concern of the industry to develop new techniques.

The big question is: are crafts an economically feasible industry? I think nowadays craftwork is seen more as our granny’s hobby than actually a profitable business, and this image is what must change in order to promote its expansion. From all UK’s creative industries, it is the smallest and the least economically influent. It doesn’t mean lack of potential though. I just think it’s an industry with lots of opportunities yet to be explored.

Also visit the Crafts Council website

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Curpy and the Camden Market

Well… We all have good days and bad days. The Camden Market is one of the most known open markets in London, and everyday it receives lots of visitors, especially tourists. So of course we thought it would be a good place to sell our products, and we got high expectations on that. Curpy divided a stall with Flowscarf, so we could share the expenses. It was April 11, a beautiful sunny Wednesday, lots of people walking around… But we just sold one bookpuller! Flowscarf didn’t sell anything! What happened?

After this frustrating result, I started reflecting on what could have gone wrong. We set the stall almost the same way we did in Kingston Market Fair, when we won the grand prize of the day. So I analysed some aspects I have observed in Camden:

– Camden Market isn’t only one market; it is a whole area, involving a several number of streets, alleys, buildings and installations. There are hundreds of different stalls selling thousands of different things. Surely it is hard for buyers to choose what to invest their money in when you have so many options (and probably limited money to spend).

– Around us there were lots of different stalls, one selling t-shirts, other two selling jewellery, another one selling silk scarves, electronics and cute purses and cases. Besides the last one, none of the others sold anything. When we were about to leave, the t-shirt stall sold one or two t-shirts, but that was all.

– I noticed there were lots of visitors, but almost all of them were carrying just small shopping bags, or nothing at all. So I assume people do more browsing than actually shopping, and when they buy it is just one item or two.

– In general, people got really interesting in our products, which is good, but they just browsed, which is bad.

– Some consumers told Flowscarf that their products were quite pricy. I don’t think so, and they set the price according to their finances. Maybe it is too pricy for Camden? I haven’t seen anything too expensive selling there indeed.

After that, I realised that maybe Camden isn’t the right place for our products. Maybe it isn’t the right public as well. But for sure it was a really interesting experience, and will help us define better our sales strategy. At least now we know what doesn’t work for us. And I think it was the biggest lesson of the day.

More about our experience at Curpy’s website

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Curpy and the Kingston Market Fair

The 22nd March was a golden day for Curpy. We won the grand prize of Kingston Market Fair! It was a really good feeling to win our first prize since we started the business group. And it became clear to me why we did so well this time. It was interesting to see how small things do huge differences in business. In the last fair at Penrhyn Road campus we didn’t go well, basically because we didn’t prepare anything for the stall, we just had our products. But this time, we had a table cloth, a logo banner and displays for the products. Also we took advantage of the fair to launch a new product, the bookpuller (hats off to Kanin’s design!), which was a good strategy once it helped increase the sales, and the product was an instant success.

So that’s what I realised this day. You may think a small detail won’t make any difference, and even think it may be a silly idea, or a waist of time to put effort on it, but when everything comes together, all the small and insignificant details become a nice visual appeal (if you do things right, of course. Don’t try to put extremely different things to call attention or it will look like a Carnival! Visual cohesion, please). THE POWER OF DESIGN!!! Hwahahahaha…ahm…ha-am…

Congrats, Curpy Team! 😀

You can check more pics from the fairs here

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London Fashion Week Exhibition

 

On 20 February I had the chance to go to the London Fashion Week Exhibition. The exhibition is a separated part from the runway shows, and basically it is formed by young fashion designers and small brands, looking for business opportunities, or waiting to be discovered by some keen eye. The entrance is controlled, and there’s no place for general public (including students). The exhibition is quite big, with both garments and accessories, especially jewellery. But in general I was quite disappointed. I saw lots of barely made garments, not too many innovative designs, and besides Esthetica, almost no approach to sustainability.

As my tutor was explaining to me, to be able to exhibit your collection, sometimes you must face years in the waiting list and pay a small fortune. To have an idea, some of the designers end up in mortgages just for the one single chance to exhibit their work during the Fashion Week. For the more “fortunate” it isn’t a huge problem. I don’t know if they do a pre-selection of those who can exhibit or not, if they do then I’m not convinced about the criteria reliability. Basically what I observed is that if you can afford it you can enter the exhibition, it doesn’t matter how talented, creative or innovative you are. It’s neither about the quality of your work. It’s all about money. And that’s exactly what disappointed me.

I know it is the same thing around the world and in the whole fashion industry, but considering that UK is known as a place that exports creativity, I was expecting the LFW Exhibition to reflect this image. Lots of talented fashion designers end up out of LFW because they can’t afford it, and there is almost no financial support for those talents. Moreover, there’s no government support at all. The LFW is run by the British Fashion Council (which is not a government organization as it sounds like) and sponsored by private companies (Vodafone and Cannon are main sponsors). The only initiative I saw is the one from the BFC, called NEWGEN, that gives financial support for young designers to make their collection and showcase in the runway.

But not only by bad things the LFW Exhibition is about. Of course in the middle there’s always some talented people to save the day, and those do deserve some recognition. For this reason, I decided to make a list of designers/brands that in my opinion distinguished in the exhibition:

A. F. Vandevorst (designer clothes)

– a.KNACKFUSS (designer clothes)

Alejandro Ingelmo (shoes)

Cedric Jacquemyn (designer clothes)

Christopher Raeburn (designer clothes/sportswear)

Emma J. Shipley (scarves)

Hakes (architectural shoes)

Holly Fulton (designer clothes/surface design)

Lucas Nascimento (designer clothes/knitwear)

The North Circular (sustainable knitwear)

Tomasz Donocik (jewellery)

William Chambers (millinery)

Also, Kingston University and Central Saint Martins students exhibited their work for Esthetica. You can check it out in Kingston University’s website and Ecouterre Blog.

Fashion is a fierce and closed industry, controlled by a small powerful minority (sounds like I’m talking about politics! Hum…). To me the LFW wasn’t that glitter sparkling event. I wish it could be though.

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Stop Human Traffic

We are blind. We just see what we want to see.

On 24 February we had a very interesting class. We left the whereabouts of Kingston Hill campus to go to the more creative and interactive Knights Park campus, for a different subject than basically entrepreneurship (who created such a difficult word by the way?). We went there to discuss about human traffic. To introduce us about the subject, we had the presence of the representative from the NGO Compassion2One, Jerry Leisure, and Nick Sumner, MET of Trafficking division. Do you know what human traffic is? Have you ever thought about it, I mean, deeply? I know you’ll give me some answer, if you squeeze your brain a little bit. But I bet you never went deeply through this issue.

So, that’s why this class was so important, it’s something that surround us, but we never cared about. We know it exists, right? But not in our own little world… right? Human trafficking isn’t only about sex abuse and exploitation but also children’s forced labour, illegal immigrant’s slave work, and even stealing of organs.

For the class we had to split in groups and try to come up with some suggestions and ideas to help stop or prevent the traffic. The first thing we did was ask people in the street what they know about the subject, and it was quite shocking for me to find out that almost all of the interviewers didn’t know anything or knew just a little about it. And it was incredible that people think they need to be like super-heroes to prevent that. No, you don’t need to make donations or to expose yourself to denounce. But if you change some of your habits, boycott some brands known for using any kind of labour work from traffic, you’re already helping.

So the first goal we identified to prevent human trafficking is AWARENESS. People must know more about it. Let’s use social media to spread the word, create Facebook campaigns, distribute posters and leaflets in strategic places. Let’s make people know that it happens around us all the time.

The second goal is to improve EDUCATION. The same way that sex education is compulsory in some schools, human trafficking could be as well. By teaching the potential targets (children and teenagers) how to identify abduction situations and how to proceed in such occasions, we could avoid lots of new cases to happen, especially if focused on countries that are considered hotspots.

We also suggested the use of CCTV images to spread awareness, showing some cases that actually happened. Since the Police have access to these footage to investigate the cases, they might be able to showcase as well. But of course, it may take some time and some policies may require approvals to have this idea going on. The other groups presented lots of great ideas too, inclusive the one chosen by the guest speakers, about making use of artistic interactions to raise awareness. Well done, macers!

This day was really interesting. I really hope our ideas are listened and implemented in the NGOs. I’m no super-hero. But I do hope this afternoon class, somehow, changes the fate of some people’s lives.

Link to the NGOs Compassion2One and Stop The Traffik

Watch the video: 

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2012

Yes, I know I took a long vacation from the blog, but now I really need to keep up with it, especially because we are already in March, and time is flying. So, lots of work to do, lots of things to update. Gambatte!

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