Lorraine and Paul White, both 32, are from London, England. They started their luxury fashion business, Hashtag Collective, in 2012. Hashtag Collective entered the fashion industry with an aim of breathing a fresh lease of life into menswear clothing. Hashtag Collective caters for the male who takes pride in his appearance. Hashtag Collective and its collective of young energetic founders infuse a quality product and personal service with a touch of fun and a feel of luxury.
Starting the Business
Q: Where did the idea for your business come from? Where were you in your life and career?
A: At the time, we were newly engaged and perhaps the excitement of the change in our personal lives triggered a desire to change our working lives. We were both working in the Corporate world, Lorraine as a qualified accountant and Paul in the IT industry. We had seen a flurry of new business start-ups arising and decided it was our time to shine.
Fashion and quality was something that we inherently loved and it seemed like a natural step for us to take. Our inspiration to start in the menswear arena, and with t-shirts more specifically, was initially born out of the great t-shirt designs by Alexander McQueen, ACNE and LANVIN. We were keen for our first collection to incorporate something that inspired and influenced us and we felt the best way to portray this was via a debut t-shirt collection., “Essence of London”
Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced when starting out?
A: Invisibility i.e. people not knowing our brand or what we were about. Overcoming that has been a challenge, but an enjoyable one and one we have relished.
Q: What is the one thing you know now that you wish you knew when you started the business?
A: That we can’t do everything all at once. Rome was not built in a day and we realise now this business is going to be a long winding road full of highs and lows. At the beginning we were burning ourselves out, working all day and night, thinking we could get to where we wanted to be within a year. We quickly realised that wasn’t sustainable! We still work hard but now we take each day as it comes and have realistic achievable goals. Life is to be enjoyed as well.
Q: What would you consider your first big success in the business?
A: Our features in GQ! We have been featured in the GQ Style file pages of the print magazine over 3 editions (May – July), and we were also offered the opportunity to run our own competition online with GQ throughout the month of June. We teamed up with Red Letter Days to offer a great prize; a super car raving experience (Aston Martin and a Lamborghini experience) as well as our full debut collection, “Essence of London”. It’s a real accomplishment for us to be recognised by such a prestigious brand in the industry and has led to many more opportunities for Hashtag Collective since.
Q: What is the toughest thing about getting to the top / staying on top in your industry specifically?
A: Fashion and trends are constantly changing and evolving. You have to continually be creative and flexible to stay relevant and interesting, whilst maintaining quality and individuality.
Q: Where do you see your industry heading in the next 5 years?
A: Men are becoming more fashion savvy and are looking for high quality garments and customer service. The shift to online and mobile shopping will become more established and the industry will need to cater for this.
Q: What do you plan on doing / changing in order to keep growing in this time period?
A: We will keep evolving our online site to keep it customer friendly and maintain the Hashtag Collective customer experience. It is important to us to maintain our individuality and stay close to our customers.
Q: What does ultimate success look like to you? How will you know when you’ve achieved it?
A: We consider ultimate success as being recognised as a leading, quality menswear brand and being able to bring through the young creative talent from the UK whilst supporting British business.
Q: What do you think will be the biggest challenge facing entrepreneurs in the near future?
A: With the pace of change in business being rapid at the moment, staying business, technology and social media relevant is crucial. Competition is rife, keeping savvy customers interested and happy will be a big challenge in the future.
Q: What one piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in your industry and wanting to make it to the top?
A: Know your customer and create a product that your customer will love. Work on something you’re passionate about; success is linked to the effort you are willing to invest.
Most importantly keep going!