Interview with Nicky from likemary and a travel lookbook
In my blogging journey, especially since I quit my corporate job, I am meeting so many wonderful and inspiring people. So, I decided to tell you more in depth about their entrepreneurial journey and their businesses in an interview series.
likemary is one of the blog’s partners and one of my favourite clothing brands.
It’s a brand for travelers made by a traveler: Nicky Taylor East. You know it was designed by a traveler when you find pockets in your fashionable maxi dresses… along with breezy, natural and wrinkle-free fabrics that stands the test of time. likemary embodies all what I love in fashion: style, comfort and fair-trade. A brand for the modern bohemian, the traveler who wanders the world, attend festivals while looking her best. Without further due, discover how travel led Nicky to her dream career. You will also find my favourites from the brand (that will travel around the world with me) shot during my last trip:
Nicky Taylor East, traveler & lady boss
1. likemary is inspired by your travels and made for travelers, can you tell us more about that?
Most of my travels were in Asia. Like most other travelers I picked up Asia-style clothing along the way, such as harem pants, fisherman pants and as many sarongs, scarves and blanket scarves as I could squeeze into my backpack. It was mainly in India that I learnt about how to test for real wool and real silk (and real saffron). I found myself buying scarves and blankets that were labelled as 100% wool, but were actually acrylic and not warm at all…
Learning how to distinguish real from fake became a big interest of mine.
Learning how to distinguish real from fake became a big interest of mine, so when I discovered the social cooperative that likemary now works very closely with, I fell in love with their genuine handloom products. I didn’t think to work with scarves until years later, when I wanted a plan for my own business. I realised as I sat wrapped in the Takhi scarf that had traveled the world with me on numerous planes, trains, night buses that here I was sitting in London wrapped in the same scarf still looking and feeling as good as new. That’s how likemary started. With some of the likemary travel clothes ranges I will often try to update patterns for typical comfy traveler-clothing by adding pockets and making sure the fabric is colour fast, 100% cotton or good quality rayon so they look similar but will last a lot longer.
2. Correct me if I am wrong, you are originally from Malta but currently living in London. What are the countries you visited so far? And what are the ones that you consider as a second home?
So many countries not visited yet! Till now, I’ve been to New Zealand and Australia, most countries in Asia, only Peru, Bolivia, Chile in South America, only Uganda in Africa, Israel in the Middle East, and many countries in Europe. Not yet visited North America or Canada so hopefully on the list for 2018. Definitely a Morocco road trip is on the list since following your blog. I’d say India, specifically Delhi and the region in the Himalayas where likemary blanket scarves are are woven, feel like a second home as I visit at least twice a year.
3. What made you take the leap of entrepreneurship? Was there a turning point that made you realise that this is what you want? Or was it a long process that led to that?
It was a process I suppose…
Trading started in my travel years. I used to buy little pieces of mainly jewellery and accessories from Asia and then and sell them on the road or at festivals in Australia to keep going. Or else take them home to Malta and sell them to fund my next trip. Finally when I moved to London and worked in the fashion industry for a while; it quickly became clear that for me:
Going solo was the only option.
4. Who are likemary customers? How do you define or imagine their profiles when you design your lines?
Good question! Even though we sell our oversize scarves to men as well, likemary is mainly a women’s label with a small kids range. I always think of likemary customers as women of all ages who appreciate non-mass produced, are savvy about fabric and hopefully socially conscious as well. When designing new styles, besides thinking of what I would wear and how I’d like something to fit I usually think of all the women in my family.
My family members are my best customers and always give the most honest feedback.
I’m lucky to have a huge family with many women of varied ages and sizes who love likemary clothes, I think about my sisters, my mother, a cousin or an aunt and I choose a print and develop a style for them. In fact, I often name my styles after my family members names or nicknames.
5. “Buy now, wear forever” is likemary‘s defining value. In an era of planned obsolescence and fast changing trends, how do you make a difference? How are you still profitable as a business?
‘Buy now wear for ever’ is what we say for our handloom scarves. The concept of planned obsolescence has not yet reached the Himalayan handloom industry. The weavers still create scarves that, with the right care should really last forever. Our customers usually will return to shop for another scarf. Once they love their first one they will want one in a different colour or design or they’ll come back to buy a “wear-forever” gift.
6. Your project has also a women-empowerment backstory in India, we want to hear the whole story from you. What social impact do you think likemary has on women like Shivani?
The women-empowerment project is our handknits. The social cooperative of weavers that we work with, employs and gives housing to over a thousand people (men and women). The hand knits project that started with Shivani, gives work to women mainly from remote villages, some of which are not yet accessible by road. These women hand spin wool which they then use for knitting hats, gloves, snoods and other accessories. For most of them this project is their only source of income, as they all have husbands who either cannot work or have passed away. Quite often these women will find themselves living in poverty, unable to provide adequately for their families.
Since having been given the opportunity to earn an income, their lives have changed, their confidence and sense of self worth has increased.
They are able to support their families, ensure that their children can go to school, while still managing regular household tasks. They work solely from home.
7. How challenging are the cultural differences when you have an International business? Whether it’s with workers, providers, vendors or customers?
Travel helps you adapt better to cultural differences. How to be considerate about what you wear in different countries, or how to speak slowly and less idiomatically. You learn to avoid sharing strong opinions about sensitive topics. In some cultures, people may not be as used to hear diverse opinions like in London.
9. It’s time for a well deserved ego boost: What’s your greatest entrepreneurial achievement?
Every time a new collection lands it is quite an achievement. So many stars have to align from the early stages! Design, fabric, wool selection, dyeing, printing process to the final stages of shooting. When it is ready for online launch, it feels almost miraculous.
10. Any advice for those who want to pursue their dreams but are afraid to quit a conventional life?
Go with your gut and follow your nose! You don’t always need a typical ‘business plan’ or a lot of money to start something. Don’t knock conventional life either! It might be an easier path to take, but not necessarily the happiest.
xo xo Dalal
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