Continuing the new series of interviews with sorted twenty-somethings is Nicole Blair, a wedding dress designer who owns her own bespoke design company, Blair Designs.
Despite only being 22, Nicole has managed to transform her passion into a profitable business venture and is living her dream. I spoke to her about the design world and the joys (and perils) of being self-employed.
How did you get interested in fashion?
Through the family. My gran and my aunt had their own business making bridal gowns but my gran and my aunt don’t do it anymore. I went to college and got my HNC then went to Australia and got my degree. My gran’s my biggest influence.
My parents lived over there so thought it would be a good opportunity to study something in a different country. I applied for Uni in Scotland but I just wanted to travel a bit. It was interesting seeing a different cultural perpective.
A lot of people get quite nervous when they graduate about getting a job. How did you feel as soon as you graduated?
I didn’t want to work under the name of anyone and I didn’t want to put my time and effort into someone else who would then get credit for my work. I’ve always wanted to go out for myself which is why I’ve done it this way. It made more sense to me than to work for someone else.
One of Nicole’s designs
So tell me a little bit about your business.
(The designs are) all based on Scotland- I love where I come from! At Blair Designs we are bespoke, British fashion designs. So what we do is we have the client come to me with idea of what they want made and we go through Sketches, decide on what the client wants then the client will have a dress no-one else has. My collection for January 2016 is tartan-based but not all my pieces are patterned.
How do you find being self-employed? What are the challenges or bonuses?
It’s difficult when you’re doing it yourself. I do all the design and production myself so that is extremely stressful. I’ve had to take someone else to help me. You do run into brick walls but you’ve just got to pick yourself back up and shake it off. For example, I did a show a while back where some of the collections weren’t the ‘desired taste’ so you’ve got to just not take it personally.
“I didn’t want to work under the name of anyone and I didn’t want to put my time and effort into someone else”
Do you have any advise for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps and set up their own design company?
I would tell them that it’s hard work .You need to have every sort of skill. But if you want to do this you can definitely do it. It costs a lot of money at the start but you’ve got to spend the money to make the money. I would just tell them to jump in.
Ideally where would you like to see your business in five years time?
I would like to have my gowns in Harrods or Selfridges, a boutique somewhere in London. I’d like to sell my patterned gowns overseas. New York and Canada have a big market for tartan so I would like to distribute over there. However it’s going to be a Scottish-based company no matter what.
When I was growing up this was a dream but now it’s becoming more than a dream. Looking at people like Alexander McQueen and Chanel and thinking, I want to do what you do. It’s tough but I’m getting there.
You can find out more about Blair Designs here.