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A conversation with Etta Lathan-Pons: Founder of Etta Studio, the company re-working unwanted garments to transform them into forever pieces!

Welcome Etta! We’re very excited to have the opportunity to chat with you here at FEM-START. Can you share what inspired your journey into entrepreneurship and the driving force behind the creation of Etta Studio?

Etta Studio was born from the realisation that the world already has enough clothes to dress the next six generations! Our obsession with creating and consuming new products has only increased over the years. We do not need more stuff, but our desire for new keeps growing. By providing a chic alternative to extractive fashion, and reframing the concept of waste as an easy entry point to the upcycled revolution, I set out to create and advocate for an upcycling movement. 

Since I was very young, my dad would take me to carboot sales (British fleamarkets) every Sunday. This is where my passion for upcycling began,  I was exposed to the vast amount of possibility to redesign and reconstruct garments. This passion continued into my studies, as my collections were always based on pre-existing fabrics and garments, much to my tutor’s dismay. I love problem-solving and finding innovative ways to manipulate seams and get the most out of a garment.

I truly believe that clothing is only a waste if not reconsidered correctly. I am motivated to invite individuals to see the worth of what already exists and scale an alternative business model to reconfigure a broken system. Etta Studio is trying to create a cool closet for a cooler planet. The brand is based on the simple motto ‘Nothing New Here’. I hope this extends to the materials used to create the pieces and also to the increased popularity of upcycled fashion, removing the idea that the concept of upcycling is anything new. We are neither a brand simply selling sustainable clothing nor an educational platform, we are instead building a movement.

What are some of the most essential things you did to get your business off the ground?

I had to practise patience and persistence to get my business off the ground. Starting a brand with a business model that has yet to really be tried and tested means that there are a lot of learnings along the way. Not to say that you don’t learn a lot in all startups (You certainly do!), but trying to stay true to our motto ‘Nothing New Here’ definitely has it’s limitations and requires an innovative approach.

In addition, investing time in learning more about marketing and selling: Having a great product means something if you can get it in front of your customer base and build a relationship with them. It was about 20% creativity, and 80% marketing. Lastly, surround yourself with supportive people. I could not have gotten this far without my super supportive friends and family. 

How did you build your customer base and grow your business?

I grow my customer base predominantly through Instagram. I do this through sharing both beautiful images of upcycled clothing, but also through tips and tricks. These include how you can fix things yourself and also there is footage of the process of creating the garments, which I currently produce.

In addition, I host mending and upcycling workshops. It’s a great way to connect to my customer base and also provide a way to interact with the brand if you are still working up to purchasing something upcycled. Building my customer base has always been about building trust. Upcycling brands are still seen as quite a novelty and it’s a matter of building trust and awareness. 

What are some of the biggest mistakes you made along the way, and what did you learn from them?

Don’t quit your day job cold turkey. Having the pressure of paying your bills doesn’t make for strategic business decisions. It also took a lot of the joy out of creating and instead, made everything feel much heavier. Having financial security and allowing your business to grow more organically would be a key bit of advice I would give. It gives you the flexibility to hone in on your mission and make decisions based on what is best for your business, not just what makes the quickest income.

What is your biggest achievement since founding the company, and how did you get there?

My biggest and proudest achievement so far is seeing people in Etta Studio pieces. It’s very fulfilling! Seeing people look great in upcycled clothes brings me so much joy.

What advice do you have for other women who want to start their own business?

My advice is: Just start! There are people out there with half your talents, a quarter of your brains, but they have buckets of confidence and arrogance. As women, we are conditioned to think, ‘Oh we aren’t smart enough to do this, other people with much more talent than me have tried and failed, so why should I even bother?’ If you are brave enough to start it, you’ve already fought half the battle. I won’t pretend starting and running a business is easy, but you never know if you’ll be successful unless you try.

What’s next for Etta Studio? Anything we can expect in 2024?

Hopefully, we develop more retail partnerships. We are currently available in BOAS and ABCnD in Amsterdam and Infinite Goods in NYC. We hope to broaden this to raise awareness of the upcycling movement and to build more trust within our customer base, as people can physically touch our products. 

If you are a retailer looking for your next bestseller, get in touch with us! We also aim to extend our offering of workshops. We host workshops independently, but also for corporate events and team building. If you are interested in hosting a workshop, we would love to hear from you!

If you want to know more about Etta’s company Etta Studio, click here!

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