The Gift Cartel sat down with Caitlin Parry founder of Half Soaked , the South London based small run clothing and homeware brand on a mission to make beautiful things. The brand launched a little under a year ago debuting with the Self Love Shirt. As Caitlin readies herself to launch Half Soaked’s second collection in June. We discussed the creative freedom that running your own brand can bring, the challenges of starting your own business, what advice she would give to anyone starting out, and what makes the perfect gift.
The Gift Cartel: What was your main drive behind starting Half Soaked?
Half Soaked: I studied Fine Art and although my day job is creative, I was really missing not having my own creative projects to work on. I'd say the drive just comes from the urge to make things. I also find it rewarding seeing the products come to life after developing them for months, it inspires me to make more!
GC: Has this changed since the launch of Half soaked?
HS: Yes definitely, I feel more invested and want to keep going and keep doing more.
GC: Are you flying solo or does anyone else work for Half soaked?
HS: Just me at the moment although I do harass my parents and friends sending photos and ideas - they help with decisions.
GC: How would you describe your brand?
HS: It sounds like an absolute cliche but I guess wearable art would describe the clothing well. A lot of the designs in development could work as paintings just as well.
GC: What would you say is the most important thing you have learned since starting Half Soaked?
HS: You'll make mistakes but everyone does! You just need to make sure you learn from them. Not everyone will like your stuff. Feedback is important but don't let negative criticism hold you back.
GC: What do you enjoy most about running your own brand?
HS: Having total creative freedom and not having to get ideas signed off by someone else. And understanding the pattern development side of things has been interesting.
GC: How do you edit your designs and collections: how do you know what to keep and what to throw away?
HS: I'm quite decisive so always find it pretty easy making decisions. I tend to have a strong gut feeling about stuff so know pretty early on if something is worth pursuing or not. If I'm not excited to show people photos then that's a sign for me that I shouldn't progress. There is a dress I was planning on launching this Summer but I've had issues getting the fabric right. Sometimes it can be frustrating when things turn out different to what you'd imagined in your head. There are definitely things I think could sell or would be fairly easy to make but they just don't feel right for the brand. For me, it's important I feel excited about what I'm making and love it - that is more important to me than making easy money.
GC: What has been your biggest success to date, what are most you most proud of? Have you had any failures along the way and if so what did you learn from it?
HS: I'd say just starting in the first place, I can sometimes fall into a lazy mode so feel proud that I've managed to organise everything whilst working full time. I'd say my biggest failure has been not doing enough research at the start. I've since realised I paid through the nose on a few development related things that should cost half the price. I've learned to speak to a few different people to get a better idea of how much things should cost. If you’re new to the industry you’re starting in then it's easy to end up paying more than you should - get lots of quotes to compare! It’s easier said than done to deal with failures but just try not to get disheartened when things go wrong.
GC: What are your favourite free resources you use for your brand? What would you recommend for anyone starting out?
HS: Instagram! It's amazing for spotting trends, getting inspiration, etc. I also love Procreate for Ipad Pro, it's great for digital drawings and sketching out ideas.
GC: How important has having a budget/money been to starting your brand?
HS: I've only just started so I am just investing money as and when currently but I imagine this will change as time goes on. I don’t have a big budget to work with so I just work with what I can afford. Annoyingly money always has a big part to play as you need it for materials. If I had more money I'd definitely be launching more products. The biggest expense is buying the actual materials to make the products. Half Soaked collections are small runs and all made in the UK ensuring zero-waste manufacturing. A lot of the stuff I'm working on at the moment is custom print fabric or woven so this tends to cost more than off-shelf stock.
GC: How do you manage your time? Is it tricky running Half Soaked and working full time at your day job?
HS: It's just me working on the brand at the moment so I have to wear all the hats! I also work as a Product Developer for gift products during the day. I don't have much of a structure at the moment. I'll just work on the brand when needed or when I have inspiration or a new idea. I don't really set aside time, I'll just work on it when needed. Early mornings on weekends are a good time for me. I try not to work on it more than necessary as it's important to switch off and relax.
GC: Where, when, and what helps with your creative process?
HS: Idea wise just before bed. My mind always starts racing thinking about the brand and new projects just as I'm wanting to go to sleep - typical. I'll always have a rough idea in my head of the end product but it tends to change along the way. I'll start with a rough sketch and will know pretty early on if I like it or not. If I like it, I'll start work on patterns, ordering in fabric samples, etc. If it's just sketching and drawing patterns then I quite enjoy having some music on in the background. If it's important emails with suppliers then silence is better.
GC: How do you deal with a creative block, what’s your advice?
HS: Don't force it. If it's not happening then I just allow myself rest time and don't try to work through it. I also find mood boards help - I'll pull together images I like or have saved on Instagram and it's usually easy to see a vibe forming that inspires the next drawing or range idea.
GC: What part of the process do you enjoy the most and why? what do you enjoy the least and why?
HS: Favourite part of the process is when you see the ideas come to life. Enjoy the least would be waiting - development takes time so I can get impatient when making stuff - I like to see progress and results fast but this isn't always possible.
GC: Is there anything you wish you knew before you started? What would be your advice to you now?
HS: Things take time, you can't rush stuff and can't expect overnight success. My advice would be don't expect an instant customer base or sales and order small. I make small runs anyway but would have gone even smaller in the beginning.
GC: Who would be your dream store to be stocked in and why?
HS: Liberty London! They stock some amazing brands and It's probably the only store I can think of in the UK that feels special when you walk around it.
GC: If you could collaborate with anyone (ANYONE) who and why?
HS: Matisse! His cut-outs would look amazing on clothing.
GC: What is the biggest hurdle you have overcome to date?
HS: Natural laziness and a love of lounging around.
GC: What’s next for Half Soaked?
HS: The launch of the second collection in June and homewares in the not so distant future, watch this space.
GC: The Gift Cartel is all about gifting and the pure joy they can encapsulate so with this in mind what is the best gift you have ever received and why?
HS: It was a huge custom stamp from my boyfriend. He secretly got one made of my own artwork. It was super thoughtful of him and made me want to get back into the flow of making art again.
GC: What’s the worst gift you have ever received and why? What was it?
HS: The worst gift was a turtle beanie baby that my best friends got as a last-minute gift from the service station on the way to visit me as a joke. I actually grew to love it and ended up buying a mini version.
GC: What’s the best gift you have ever bought yourself?
HS: A huge Danish lounging chair that can be taken apart and stored away. It felt like I'd spent loads of money at the time but looking back it was a bargain!
GC: Is the value of the gift more important than the thought?
HS: No thought is more important
GC: What gift do you remember most? What was is it and why do you remember it? How did you feel when you saw it?
HS: I remember a surfboard my parents got me for Christmas one year. I had no idea I was getting it and was so excited and happy when I saw it - I couldn't believe my luck.
GC: How important are gifts to you? And would you prefer one big gift or lots of little ones (be honest!)
HS: I'd love to say no but I'd be lying. Yes they are important to me. Tiny gifts, more to open.
GC: If you could only have Christmas Presents or Birthday presents what would you choose? Why?
HS: I'd choose Birthday, I think people make more effort with the gift.
GC: What does a gift mean to you?
HS: It's just a nice knowing that someone has gone out of their way to buy you something that they think you'll like and will bring you happiness.
GC: If I was to give you a gift right now, anything at all, what would you want it to be? (it cant be world peace)
HS: I'd probably choose a mini Jacquemus bag - I'd never buy one for myself as it's so teeny and impractical so it would feel like a real treat.
GC: Finally is it better to give or to receive?
Cut and Shut collection launches in June. Check out www.halfsoaked.com for details.