Last summer, for our milestone 150th edition, we named Notts designer Suzanne Ford as one of our ones to watch, a name we predicted we’ll be talking about for years to come. And, boy, do we love it when we’re right. Since we last spoke, Suzanne’s eye-catching sustainable fashion brand has been turning heads across the nation. Fresh off the back of the launch of her first physical store, which opened its striking pink doors in Beeston last month, we catch up with the fashionista to see what she’s been up to…
It seems like you’ve been really busy since we last caught up, so what have you been up to?
Since we last spoke, our orders seemed to spike, which was really nice - with the hand-painted pieces, particularly. That was probably around the time that we chatted last year, and it's just been growing since then. The more consistent it got, the more I felt that I could maybe start opening my own space. My seamstress, Molly, and I were just really struggling for space sewing in our homes, and we needed extra room - so we thought now is the time to take the plunge and find a place.
We were looking at a number of spots and hoping to have space for our studio in the back to do workshops, but also for us to make clothes in. But we also wanted a shop at the front so we could make sure our income is diversified, but also to support other local makers. It took a little journey, but we found this place through word-of-mouth and we had to do a little Dragons' Den-style application. We put our case forward with graphs and projections, and thankfully they picked us. That was a huge confidence boost for me, as no one had ever seen the vision before. It felt amazing to have that validation.
How has the shop been received by people since you opened?
Oh my gosh, since opening the shop, people have just been so friendly, so kind, and so supportive. We get comments from people saying, “I love what you're doing.” Or, “I love the sustainability and the creativity.” And many of them seem to love that they can see the sewing machines and where the items are made as well as sold - there’s that complete transparency in the supply chain. That's exactly what I was hoping for, because I was a bit worried about whether people just wouldn't get it. I'm just really grateful because it could have been a flop.
So, have you quit the day job now? I know when we spoke last you were still doing it…
I quit in September, as it all really took off in August when we went to Mexico and everything exploded online. I was trying to have a relaxing holiday and all my notifications were pinging, and I gained 4,000 followers in a week or two. I felt like I needed another holiday because we had so many orders to get back on top of! It was insane, but that was when we decided to get a shop. So, I quit the job. Again, it was kind of risky, because I didn't know if that was just a blip. But I’ve been riding the wave ever since, and the day job is no more. This is my full-time now, but I do work on Thursdays as a psychotherapist - as I still love that.
I was trying to have a relaxing holiday and all my notifications were pinging, and I gained 4,000 followers in a week or two. I felt like I needed another holiday because we had so many orders to get back on top of!
What was the inspiration for the striking pink shop? Is it touching on the colour palette of your clothing?
Obviously, I dye my own fabric, so the pink you see outside is a mixture of three of the dye colours I use for my clothing. And I just took that colour into Dulux to match for the paint. We wanted the shop to be loud and proud. We could have just done a normal storefront that’s not vibrant, but I want people to notice it and come in. And it just makes sense to me, as it’s very fun. A constant reminder that I've had to give myself is that it could just go tits-up at any time. I want to not take it too seriously and just have fun. And, if it does end, then I have at least given it a go, I’ve enjoyed it and done it in my way - which is vibrant, fun, and pink. Besides, pink is such a strong colour - it’s just so powerful.
What do you think about Beeston as a spot for your shop?
For me, opening here was based on the fact that of all the markets that I've done, The Garage Chilwell was the most consistent. All the people that turn up there are just repeatedly positive. They love hand-crafted stuff and they seem to value sustainability quite a lot here. I just feel like they’re my kind of audience. They’re very positive people. I’d also particularly looked at the street because there are a lot of cafés and restaurants here that use local and in-season produce, and there’s a zero-waste shop just at the end as well as arts and crafts and a fabric shop on the other side. So it feels like this is a good creative place.
What are your plans for the future and what can people expect from the brand over the next few months?
Over the next few months, there’ll be an increase in the range of affordable garments. That's because I'm going to start getting some of my prints printed for me. I will keep doing the hand-painted pieces, because I know some people really value that. However, some people I’ve noticed just want the piece, and don’t mind so much about it being specifically hand-painted. So if I can make that more affordable for them by getting that sorted - still sustainably, of course - and using organic cotton, for example, then that also frees me up to make more items.
You can find Ford & Guy at 96 Chilwell Road, Beeston NG9 1ES and online
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