I've failed, and that's a tough thing to admit. Not necessarily to you (I probably don't know you). But to myself. No one wants to fail, do they? Especially when you have something you feel passionately about.
I've been putting it off. This admission, to myself. Waiting for inspiration, or a miracle to strike. It hasn't. It's not going to. I have an idea that's dead in the water.
The absolute frustration of not being able to achieve what I want is tiring. The only way I can possibly move forward, is to accept that I can't move my idea forward.
Here's What I Wanted To Do
To bring visibility to women who are under-represented in the media. Those of us who don't fit the 'fresh out of Love Island' stereotype. The ones who aren't seen, aren't marketed to, aren't visible.
My idea was to match our photography business, with a clothing line. Putting these women directly in view. We decided to start with t-shirts, because we knew that these are readily available, and we could print beautiful artwork onto them, easily.
Each item in our range would have a name - of the person featured in the image. Their stories would be on our website, our Facebook page and included with each t-shirt. No nameless models here. Real women, being visible.
I Started With Confidence
Confidence, it turns out, is not always well-placed.
I absolutely knew that this was an achievable aim. At it's core, it's just 'putting images on t-shirts', right? Which is incredibly straightfoward.
1. You buy t-shirts
2. You print on them.
Sure, there's some refining with labels, you need to think about packaging etc. But business large and small do this stuff all of the time, so it definitely couldn't be beyond us.
Here's Where It All Went Wrong
As a brand that was always going to be about inclusivity and visibility, we didn't want our range to stop at a size 18/20. We wanted to offer t-shirts, styled for women, up to (at least) a size 28.
And that's where we ran into trouble.
There are many stock t-shirts you can buy. You'd probably recognise the names of the brands, if you've ever bought a t-shirt featuring your favourite band or tv show.
There are plenty of t-shirts styled for women. Lots of choice, Mind boggling array.
I could find no t-shirts styled for women, above a size 18/20.
Over and over I got told "there's no demand". I firmly believe that there is demand. I think demand for unisex tops is being artificially created, due to a lack of other options.
So The Idea Got Bigger
I'm not a quitter and now, I was also quite annoyed on behalf of plus size women. Because our choice became either:
go unisex (make no mistake, this just means 'men's'
offer one style for women up to a size 20, and then offer 'unisex' items to anyone over that.
This felt wrong, I wanted all women to have the same option.
The obvious answer was to get them manufactured.
I Thought I'd Nailed It
I really did!
We found a manufacturer who had minimum order quantities that weren't too eye-watering.
They could also make the patterns (for a cost) and get everything ready that we needed (for a cost).
All of my costings were based on what they told us, and it started to sound viable to go ahead, when we had the money.
By the time we did have the money, a few months later, our manufacturer told us a completely different price. Considerably more. This meant that, not only did we need more money to place an order, but made the end price we could sell at too high to be a marketable product.
I Didn't Want to Give Up
So I approached other manufacturers. Not one got back to me, I suspect because the quantities we wanted to make were just too small.
One suggested we crowdfunded, which I really did start to think about.
But we have an existing business to run, and we'd gone from 'getting t-shirts printed' to 'getting t-shirts designed and manufactured, probably via crowdfunding' - and, to be clear, I know nothing about the fashion industry.
The time involved in trying to achieve this would be huge. The time I have available, outside of our photography business, is tiny.
And so it has been there, rolling around in my head, as I try to magic a solution into being, for months.
I need my headspace back. I have other problems to solve, because there are always other problems.
So this idea, I have to let go, for the sake of my sanity.
The New Idea
So, ok, we can't make clothing. In that, I have surely failed.
But at the heart of my idea, the point wasn't to make clothes, or even to make money. The point was to give visibility to women who feel they don't have it.
Here's the interview that kicked it all off - Charlie was going to be first to feature on a t-shirt. I owe it to her and to anyone else I've talked to about taking part in this project to use our existing channels and ability to at least attempt to give visibility to women who do not feel seen.
Watch this space.