Post-It Notes -7th October 2011: Supporting Independent Designers & Saying No

Photography Credit: Rachel McCall Photography (Rachel bought her beautiful dress from an independent designer on etsy. More info when I blog the full wedding soon!)

This is a bit of a contentious issue with brides-to-be, but it is something I feel quite strongly about. I know you’re not all going to agree with me on this one, but just hear me out for a sec would ya? I understand how hard it is to plan a wedding on a budget, and I know know know a lot of you would prefer to DIY the majority of your big day than pay someone to do it for you – believe me, I was in your position once. I also love DIY weddings to the MAX and would never want to promote the fact that you need to spend a bomb on your wedding if you can’t/don’t want to.

However what does upset me, is when I see DIY brides copying the design of independent wedding suppliers and making their own version of it. Although you might not think about it (after all it’s your wedding right?…and you’re just one teeny tiny little person, who are you really gonna hurt?) but in the majority of cases that designer will have worked long and hard to come up with that original concept or design… and probably also works their butt off to make a living doing something they love (again, believe me, I know how hard it is to run your own business!) Do you ever wonder what might happen if no one paid them to do the work they were brilliant at?

If everyone did the same and just made copies of the things they saw but maybe couldn’t afford, where would all these amazing designers end up? Quite simply, they’d go out of business and all we’d be left with would be the soulless mass market shit. Boooooo!


These small, independent designers have to work so hard to stay afloat in this over-saturated market, so you know what, if you really love someone’s design and desperately want it for your wedding, why not cut something else that you’re not too fussed about for your wedding and support the little guys? When it came to designing my website for example, I knew exactly which designer I loved and wanted. Sure, maybe I could have got a cheaper designer to knock me up something in a similar style to hers but where’s the love in that!? At the end of the day, I love my designer for who she is – her creative brilliance – and I want to support that.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t be making your own stuff for your wedding, faaaaar from it my loves, but if you do, please think about putting your own stamp on it and coming up with your own designs, not simply copying one you’ve seen elsewhere. Isn’t that what being a Rock n Roll Bride is all about anyway?

So, do you all hate me now?

I don’t know about you, but for me saying ‘no’ has always been quite difficult. Not necessarily in everyday life (I’ve always been strong willed, just ask my Mother!) but more-so with my work. I know I’m a pretty competitive soul when it comes to my career, and in the past I’ve found it easier to simply accept every oppotunity that comes to me without thinking about it. However recently I’ve realised that this attitutde can almost be more detremental than if I had no offers coming in. Let me elaborate…

♥ Not every offer I get is right for me or my brand, therefore just saying ‘yes’ for fear of missing out (because being honest with myself that’s what it is – I don’t want to feel like I’ve let any opportunaties pass me by…or that, god forbid, one of my competitors might get one over on me) might mean that I’m letting something that isn’t quite right for Rock n Roll Bride take up my time or be represented on the site.

Similarly, my time is short and often I have had to stop myself and think ‘Is this really worth my time and effort to do this? And what am I honestly going to get out of it?’ This is nothing to do with money. For me, my time is more precious than earning a quick buck.

In my situation I’m taking about writing magazine articles for free (which I do still do of course as working with many of them is great publicity for me, but it is a fine balance to figure out if the publicity I’ll receive is worth the time I’ve put in) and attending events (I get invited to a lot of them believe me!) However for you this might be something else you’re doing ‘for publicity’. Think about who’s really winning in the situation and cut down on the commitments you have that honestly aren’t worth your time anymore.

I’d do it badly. Last week I was asked by the BBC if they could come and film me and talk to me about how the chancellor’s speech could effect people with small businesses (!) Now clearly being on the BBC would be an AMAZING opportunity, but was the subject matter right for me?

Anyone that knows me in ‘real life’ will know how little I know about politics, current affairs and all that jazz (seriously, it’s scary how terrible my general knowledge is sometimes!)…in fact I don’t think I’ve ever watched a politics programme in my life! Although this opportunity was really hard to turn down, I just knew it wasn’t right for me – I might have got some great exposure by being on the BBC, but ultimately I think I’d have just come across as someone who had no clue what they were talking about!

Being brave an accepting opportunities that come your way is so important when running your own business, however often saying no is even more vital.

21 comments

  1. wow, I totally agree with the wedding note section, i’ve always believed you should save money by putting your own twist on mass produced products and opted for something original but spend some of the money you’ve saved on truly original products sold by small independent designers, they’re the Dysons of the wedding product world!

    Your business section really challenged me also. As a wedding photographer struggling to get established it’s so easy to just say yes to every opportunity to network and earn some much needed cash, but not every event will show case my abilities and my style. I’m currently thinking very hard about an offer, and whether I should accept. Thank you for taking the risk of slapping us round the face with a freshly caught salmon of sense! xxx

  2. LOVE post it notes! Great post Kat, and great to get an insight into the inner workings of what you do behind the scenes. I have trouble saying no also but you’re right – if it isn’t right, don’t do it! You’ve made this blog what it is by doing things YOUR way, why stop that now?! Great post 🙂

  3. Thank you so much for your Wedding Note! It’s so nice to have someone stick up for independent designers, I completely agree with everything you said as I have had this happen to me. This is a really tough (but fab) business to be in and we all work so hard on creating designs we think our couples will love so when it is simply copied it’s kinda disheartening – I would much rather they came direct to me and we can always work on the price for them.

  4. Brilliant post. I agonise about turning anything down. In the early days you tend to say yes to everything, but I’ve learnt something from each project and now feel confident about what I can achieve and what is likely to be beneficial to my business. Its hard work, but you wouldn’t run your own business if you didn’t like hard work!!

  5. Two great notes!

    I totally agree about supporting designers. I am making several things for my wedding but they are entirely my own work (and will probably be a bit ‘rustic’ as a result but that’s fine). The dress, however, is being made by a local seamstress and that is all her own work. It’s fine to be inspired by things you see but I don’t think straight-out copying is fair.

    Also agree about not taking every media opportunity if it doesn’t fit with who you are. Media outlets can be very slippery and I know several people who have been caught out or had their words manipulated.

  6. Abbey warner

    here here here here here here here you get the idea.
    also same message to other designers who are doing the same as the diy clients.
    love you xxxx

  7. Thank You Kat

    Stand up for us Small Designers Thank you.

    You have a clear brand and vision which is perfect for your customers we all have to be honest with ourselves and turn things down because it iss the right thing to do for them and us!

    GO YOU! Say NO!!! you are Right as always and spot on! I hope all businesses are empowered by your post! SAY NO more & Yes less : )

  8. Elizabeth

    No one should hate you for making a statement that is fair and ethical. Stealing is stealing, whether it is intellectual property or a physical product. Stealing the design is just like stealing the damn dress. It isn’t ethical.

  9. Natalie

    I totally agree with your wedding note Kat and agree with BucksWriter’s comment.

    I’m a DIY bride cutting back on the details that all add up, so we can afford a kick-ass photographer. But we are striving to be original I promise and would never dream of copying someone else’s design!

    We do take inspiration from weddings that are featured on here and other blogs but we obviously wouldn’t copy a particular design straight from a designers website. For example, we’re getting inspiration from themes and colours, using similar cool fonts, but mixing this in with non-wedding things/colours/materials around us that we like and reflect us as a couple. I hope that makes sense and hope people agree that’s acceptable?

    It may be worth mentioning that for some of the stuff, I’m DIY’ing not for cost reasons (as I know there are some really reasonbly priced independant designers out there), but sometimes I just can’t find a design that reflects what I can see in my head, and wouldn’t be able to explain it well enough to get it custom-made by someone else! xxxx

  10. Haha….your business notes section came at a very funny time for me because I was thinking about just this very thing this morning. A few months ago we were asked (in an emergency) if we could photograph some dogs for a TV programme. Dogs!

    We took it as a bit of fun and let them know several times that we were not dog photographers but that we were willing to help out. We had some fun on the day, but now I am terrified of all the hate mail I am going to get (it hasn’t aired yet) from real animal photographers out there who think I did it all wrong.

    Plus, they interviewed us with no warning (we were told we were just taking photos) and asked us questions that assumed we were professional animal photographers. I’m sure I will look like a bit of a moron. Sometimes I tell myself that it was all meant in the spirit of fun and to help someone in a pinch – but even now I sometimes worry that I will end up looking a bit stupid. On TV. Forever. Eeep.

    But sometimes I think life is about taking chances – and I just hope people will take our participation in the spirit it was intended.

  11. Great post, thank you so much for this. I’ve just spoken briefly about a similar matter for a guest post and have linked back to this page as a great reference to brides (and basically to anyone). Thank you x

  12. RachyLou

    I agree with everything you put into both post it notes, especially the wedding one! Throughout my planning, many people hear our ideas and say ‘lovely, but can’t you get it cheaper?’ Well, yes, but the people involved I love working with! That matters to me a lot so I’m prepared to pay for it.

    Also, very excited to see the full wedding of the picture above- she looks amazing!! xo

  13. Totally agree with both. Although i made my own wedding dress from my own designs and it ended up costing more in materials then one from an independant designer. I just wanted to wear something me and mum could work on together.
    Buisness note i found very helpful, starting my blog soon and i have been submitted stuff that just won’t fit with my style and i feel terified of turning these people down incase they bad mouth me to others in the industry. I have said no to a few and felt so dreadful for it, even though i know thay won’t work with what i’m trying to achieve.
    I really admire your strength and confidence to turn down the BBC!
    x

  14. Well done you for turning down that BBC thing. I know it must have nagged at you…saying no to Aunty is a big step…but you clearly made the right choice as you wouldn’t just be stepping outside of your comfort zone, but throwing yourself head first off a cliff into the big unknown. Worrying about potentially making a bit of a tit of yourself on the tellybox is far worse than wondering if you would have gotten more readers as a result of doing it. I’m not saying you would make a tit of yourself, you would probably have been bloody marvelous, but if you don’t feel like you’ve got the potential to really rock it, it’s not worth taking a risk on. Horses for courses and all that.

    I’m determined to stand by my decision to only take bookings from couples that I feel a connection with. Yes it may mean turning down money at some point, and since it’s early days that will be a hard thing to do, but I just know in the long run I will be glad I followed my heart and became successful as the quirky lass who shoots weddings that she absolutely loves. 🙂

  15. Teresa Barnes

    Fantastic post. I’d also like to add I had a go at DIYing some of my wedding and failed miserably so after admitting defeat I paid someone else to do it for me and since then struck up fab relationships with some amazing wedding suppliers.
    It is a real shame that there are so many peeps out there who are willing to rip-off somebody elses idea and claim it as their own.
    I’m all for supporting independent businesses, especially when a lot of those in the wedding industry are truly the nicest people you could meet.

  16. Molly

    It’s not that I disagree with the idea behind your wedding note, but I had to laugh at the idea of letting go of something “you’re not too fussed about for your wedding”. Does anyone have that? Why would it be in their wedding in the first place?

    Plenty of so-called ‘independent’ desires copy one another as well – I know you have strong opinions about plagiarism in the creative community, but the boundaries are often pretty blurry. Etsy is awash with many *remarkably* similar products (April at Regretsy has some hilarious posts on the subject, including the infamous Urban Outfitters debacle) and establishing a timeline of who came first would be near impossible. Who are we supposed to go with? If they all copy each other, what is wrong with doing it yourself for less money? Where is the line drawn between invention and adaptation?

    Independent sellers are often a wonderful thing, but a market-based economy often rules out the little guy no matter how much you want to support them. When times are tight, most people simply can’t justify prioritising a seller’s need to keep selling over their own need to buy something at a reasonable price. On the other side, not every designer is the most professional, either. How many times have fellow brides and other clients had someone who a) doesn’t reply to emails b) turn down their order for a whole variety of often valid but insurmountable reasons, c) be simply unaffordable or d) refuses to entertain requests for adaptations/custom details? After a certain point, it would become incredibly frustrating to reject a good idea just because the vendor providing the service can’t or won’t deliver on it.

  17. Hello! I agree loads with the wedding note as a designer I’d hate to see my stuff appear as someone elses credit but I also think you can come a-cropper with trending. For example: moustaches! They have been everywhere in the last few years and there are a lot of similarities from design to design, same with vintage fabric inspired products, cupcakes and tea sets!

    But (and it’s a big one I promise) the breakthrough designers, independent businesses and illustrators can offer something DIY brides can’t always get and that’s innovation. With my designs I tend to hand letter a lot of the aspects, something hard to replicate, and other designers have a style I couldn’t replicate even if I wanted to! The talent is in the eye! I may have rambled on a bit too long here but I think it’s a worthy cause of debate. Inspired DIY is cool, inspired designers are cool too, copy cats? Not so much!

  18. THANK YOU so much for this post! The amount of emails I get asking ‘can you make this dress’ to be preseneted with an image from Vera Wangs collection or even worse another independent designers work.
    Yes I can make it but I won’t and then my usual lecture follows on copying, knock offs and respecting otherc designer work. It’s a real insult even to ask. I’m a small business, I design, pattern cut and make everything in house and am happy that my work is all mine from the inside out.

    I know there are lots of similar things out there, lots of dodgy dressmakers copying gowns on etsy but there are also amazing indie designers and makers trying to make an honest buck too. You’ll be surprised how even a plain white dress can differ with each designers cut, tweaks and fabric choices.

    On the NO item, I’m slowly learning, thank you for making it OK. I’m trusting my gut instinct a lot more now and doing honest work that makes me proud of myself, means way more than my back account.

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