I get goosebumps when I see friends boldly following their creative passions. I imagine it’s like ripping your heart out and putting it on display for everyone to step on, toss around, and ultimately–hopefully–lift up and make successful.
It takes GUTS. And there’s risk.
(Risk is a four-letter word that I tread lightly around.)
So I’ve got goosebumps all over seeing see my friend Clare Marie from college (top right, wearing her shirt The Scout) starting Scout’s Honor Clothing Company for modern tomboys, out of San Francisco.
I love androgyny. I love seeing a woman rock a good “guy’s” look and make it her own. Most of all, I love this scarf.
It was the scarf that inspired me to become a Scout’s Honor backer on Kickstarter. I’ve never backed anything before. But I wanted that scarf. And for $38 I could have the scarf and be one of the founding backers.
(Do you know about Kickstarter? I didn’t. It’s an online way to fund creative projects. The artist creates a campaign and sets a target amount. If the target amount is pledged by the campaign’s end, the project gets its funding: If not, no moolah. Scout’s Honor is in the final week of its Kickstarter campaign, and is 76% funded–just $2,144 to go.)
Although I can appreciate and drool over a kick-ass braided scarf, I have no idea what it takes to start your own fashion line (besides raw talent and creative cojones) so Clare let us into her world to talk about what it’s like being the genius behind an upstart little fashion brand–or as she calls it, her “extremely unpaid internship.”
Me: Starting your own business is brave. I’m scared thinking about it. What pushed you to finally dive in?
Clare Marie: But you do have your own business! [Editor's note: Sort of.] And it is really scary; I think the scariest part of it is how public it is, but sharing my journey with friends, family, and strangers has also been part of the fun.
I’ve wanted to study fashion since I can remember. Almost a decade ago, I was getting set to apply for the Masters in Fashion Journalism at the London College of Fashion, but life happened, so that didn’t. Later I made a new plan: work full-time until 2014, save some money, and if you’re still not happy, go to fashion school full-time.
But, again, life happened.
A couple years ago I lost one of my two part-time jobs (still haven’t managed to get that full-time thing going) and decided to just go for it. I couldn’t afford to go to private design school, and I couldn’t afford to leave my other job, but I could take a ton of evening classes at the local community college–and honestly, while we don’t have as much fancy equipment, the instructors at CCSF [City College of San Francisco] are bar none, and that’s what really matters.
Most of them also teach at those private schools I’d dreamed of attending–often they teach the exact same class. They are industry experts, and are very generous with their skills and knowledge. I feel very lucky to have found the program.
Me: Yes, but classes are one thing. Actually doing it is another beast entirely.
Clare Marie: One of the classes I took was “Creating a Garment Business.” That’s where Scout’s Honor was born. I’d been trying to figure out what I really wanted out this experience. Who did I want to work for? What did I want my role to be? And how was I going to make that happen?
I never thought of myself as a business-oriented person. I’m a creative person; I like to make things. But as I worked my way through the business class, I realized that starting a business is the ultimate creative pursuit, not to mention the ultimate learning experience. You get to do it all! It’s your vision, coming to life!
In the class we had to make timelines: production schedules, projected budgets, plans for growth. I would always title them “Scout’s Honor fantasy timeline.” And then one day I realized, well, the first date on my fantasy timeline hasn’t actually passed yet. What if I followed it? What if I did the thing I said I could do by that date, and then I did the next thing, and the next thing? It wouldn’t be easy, but at least I had a plan.
So I set off. I sometimes like to call it my “extremely unpaid internship.”
I learned to do as much as I could on my own, and I would work with experts when I needed to. Sometimes hiring people–mostly patternmakers and samplemakers, because at the end of the day, the garments need to be perfect.
But a lot of it has involved just picking the brains of friends and acquaintances. You’d be surprised how many people have a connection to the garment industry, or have other skills and knowledge that have helped me find my way. And they’re almost always happy to help.
Me: What was it like to do your first fashion photo shoot? Glamorous, right??
Clare Marie: Oh, of course. No. I don’t know. I over-prepared, but maybe not in all the right ways. My models were all friends, helping me out of the goodness of their hearts, so I wanted to be sure to keep them happy–maybe even happy enough that they’d do it again!
So I wound up bringing a whole bunch of food–cookies, hummus and veggies, sandwich makings–plus all my shirts, plus a whole bunch of other clothes. All this, essentially to the middle of a forest. A city forest, but still. And then once I got there, I sort of had a “What now?” moment.
What I can say from this whole experience–not just the photoshoot but all of it–is, wow, I have amazing friends. Both the photographer and another friend–she became my stylist-slash-director–helped me prep for the shoot.
They encouraged me to come up with a story, and I think that was really helpful. The story: we were old friends, reliving our memories of summer camp together.
The idea was a little, well, campy, but that helped make it fun, and loosened everyone up. Once we started, I was more than happy to let Stephanie (stylist/director) and Liz (photographer) take the reigns. They both had a lot more experience in that sort of situation. My main role was to make sure everyone was happy, to thank them profusely, and occasionally make requests like “Can we get the red Wrangler with those jeans?”
A few days into the Kickstarter campaign, I decided I wanted to supplement the photos we had with something a little more hip and current, and I was fortunate to be able to coordinate with one of my studio-mates and a good friend who has the perfect look. [Editor's note: That's this photo, from the top.]
That shoot was totally different, much more relaxing for me, I think because it was so much less of an unknown. I didn’t bring a picnic, only had one change of pants. It was much more impromptu. At the end of the day, I’m really happy with the results of both, and I learned a ton about what I can do in the future to make it even smoother.
Me: Where do you want Scouts Honor Clothing Company to be in a year?
Clare Marie: Good question! Well, the building where I currently share studio space with nine other people–leatherworkers, printmakers, woodworkers, a photographer–has a funky little storefront [1564 MRKT] that we’ll be bringing to life over the next couple months, so I’m excited that I’ll be able to sell my shirts to folks in person as well as online.
BUT that building is scheduled to be torn down in one to two years (our rent is dirt cheap because of this), so I need to figure out what’s going to come next. I’d love to continue to have access to a storefront, but that may not realistic, financially, so one of my major goals is to find accounts with local boutiques so that I can continue to have a physical presence.
In a perfect world, Scout’s Honor will be self-sustaining in a year. That is to say, it will be my job, and earn me enough to stay afloat in the expensive but magical city [of San Francisco]. In order to make this happen, I’ll need to expand the collection. I have a couple other shirts in the works, and after that I’ll add jeans and shorts, after that a coat. I’d like to partner with other designers who are working on similar projects. I’d like to be making all my own patterns.
Me: Well, it’s happening! Go Clare!
You can get your own scarf, or camp mug, or postcard, or Wrangler shirt, or Scout shirt here.
But don’t feel pressured. Here are some other ways to follow Clare’s journey and show your support for this fledgling fashion line:
Like Scout’s Honor on Facebook
Shout at Scout’s Honor on Twitter (@wearscoutshonor)
Follow Scout’s Honor on Instagram (scoutshonorclothingco)
Or just leave a little love note or smiley face in the comments to tell Clare Marie what you think….