Alice Made This talk business!
Clichés are never far from the tip of the tongue at this time of year. It’s so easy to talk about reflection and resolutions and how next year will be different. It’s easy to sit with a glass of mulled wine, both incredibly excited about eating your weight in Quality Streets and simultaneously feeling slightly uneasy that it’s nearly all over for another year. Farewell 2015 – we’re almost finished.
Thankfully the mulled wine (or Gamma Ray beer) induced reminiscing sessions are positive here in the Alice Made This studio. We’ve launched two new collections, Uniformity and Geometry, which have seen us exploring two new processes, working with a military Armoury and an esteemed Atelier, and expanding our offering to include product typologies beyond cufflinks. We’ve shown at Paris and Pitti twice, we’ve won Rise Newcomer at the UKFT awards, we’ve grown our team, collaborated with some wonderful brands and welcomed the arrival of our Alice Made This mascot, the beautiful little Juno Walsh.
I’ve had the joy of interviewing some enviably intelligent, witty and inspiring people this year so, to celebrate the close of a successful 2015, I thought it was only right to turn the Dictaphone back on us. Taking some time out of the Christmas rush, I sat with Alice & Ed over a coffee to compare notes and look back at how we all came to be sitting around the same table.
We were founded in 2012 after Alice and Ed struggled to find cufflinks for their wedding. Alice had wanted to start her own business for a few years and, while on maternity leave with Rocky (the original studio mascot), she set up Alice Made This and produced our Aerospace collection of cufflinks in brass, steel and copper. Ed joined in August 2014 as Sales Director and I came on board in November to work on the digital proposition. This year has been the first full year where Alice has worked alongside a team on Alice Made This, has worked with her husband and, in her words, “relinquished any control.”
“It’s nice that we’re not as much of a newbie anymore” Alice starts off. “I think we’ve grown from a small project into a professional business with growth potential. We’ve launched more than just cufflinks, becoming an accessories brand, but it’s the business side of things that’s been the massive learning curve for me this year. The design element comes very naturally to me so it’s finding that happy medium. Saying that, I’ve really enjoyed learning about the industry and the bigger picture from a statistical point of view. Adapting to juggling Juno and running a business has also been interesting, but we’ve managed to swim.”
“I’ve learnt that no one’s going to give you a pat on the back,” Ed continues. “You’ve just got to keep ploughing on through. In the City I used to work to one specific target, with everything I did working to exceed that one target. Learning to compartmentalise my time and work to self-managed weekly targets, always thinking about the bigger picture, has been a challenge. The rewards are awesome though. When I see our products in the press or on a shop floor, I think wow! We did that!”
“That’s true” Alice says, “but it’s also just as scary that you can spend days, months and years building up an aesthetic and a business that you’re proud of and then one wrong move could alter everything.”
Luckily we’ve got a team with a shared view on what we think Alice Made This should be and what our aesthetic is. We’ve spent a lot of this year putting the infrastructure in place for future years and implementing systems that work for us. As well as precise products, we’ve got to have a skeleton that means we can grow.
You, our customers and readers, are a pivotal part of that growth. Our capsule collection of women’s pendants was a response to requests from you for something that could be gifted to the women in your life for Christmas. Our expansion into belts, bracelets and key rings was solidified by the feedback we received in our annual customer survey. Our Military Hardware cufflinks were for those of you who prefer a link to a solid stem.
“I’m really thankful to our customers for recognising all of our attributes” Alice says. “Please keep letting us know what you think because it genuinely influences what we do and impacts our collections. We are very fortunate to be in that position and have your direct input.”
Back in May, Alice not only spent the night dining next to a Royal Protection Officer, but also accepted the UKFT award for Rise Newcomer. We were privileged to be nominated in the same category as Alex Mullins, Finlay & Co, Hamilton and Hare and L’Estrange London, with winning coming as a genuine surprise.
“Winning the UKFT award was totally unexpected” Alice says. “It gave me confidence that we were recognised for our business acumen as well as our look and feel. We were aligned with some really nice brands and it was a lovely stamp of approval for what we’ve been doing. It’s always nice to be recognised for the hard work we’ve put in."
“There’s a really nice subgenre of British brands that guys are discovering and enjoying” Ed adds. “There’s a really great network of brands doing interesting stuff if you just look under the surface. The continued rise of the modern man means that our customers have confidence making their own shopping decisions and are seeking out new things rather than stumbling across them. The brands in our category are testament to that.”
“The men’s industry is all about collaborating and helping each other succeed,” Alice agrees. “Essentially, if you all have a nice product, then you aren’t necessarily competing directly and you can learn from each others’ networks and experiences. A lot of brands that we are contemporaries with might be much more experienced with business whereas we may be more experienced with production and design. We can then share skills and at least advise each other.”
“I think we proved that with the Wish List” she continues. “That campaign has definitely been one of my highlights of the year. I remember we had a meeting where we said ‘let’s just make the most ridiculous amalgamation of products that we love.’ We didn’t really expect everyone to say yes, but it was amazing that those brands had the confidence in us to affiliate themselves with us, letting us host the competition and art direct everything. Now we just have to figure out what to do next year!"
Probably the biggest and most public change for Alice Made This in 2015 has been the introduction of our Geometry collection, including our expansion into belts, bracelets, key rings and, later, women’s pendants. Although cufflinks remain the foundation of what we do and what we are most well known for, we have listened to your feedback and feel that our paired back, refined approach to design can translate across the accessories spectrum. Here is each of our favourite product selection that we have launched this year.
Maxwell copper bracelet, £140. Lloyd grey & steel belt, £245. Orde solid gold cufflinks, £2,100.
Morris black & steel belt, £175. Campbell lapel pin, £205. Oscar copper bracelet, £125.
Austin steel cufflinks, £85. Lloyd brass key ring, £75. Benedict silver lapel pin, £140.
Shop our collection here.
“Do you ever just wish you could pause time?” Alice asks, Ed and I nodding knowingly.
“I could do with 48 hour days” Ed replies. “It’s very relentless how we come out of one season and start sampling and then the orders are being produced, delivered and before you know it we’re ready to go again.”
Personally, I’d rather go down the Bernard’s watch route, stopping and starting again as the To Do list shrinks. In this lifetime, my Instrmnt watch will have to do, ticking closer and closer to 2016 and reminding me that, once I’ve rolled myself back to London in the New Year, we’ll be ready to go again. Shoot, show, sell, repeat. We wouldn’t change it though and next year is set to be full of surprises.
“Solid silver”, Alice concludes. “It’s going to be all about solid silver, some interesting collaborations and maybe some experimentations with retail. Watch this space, Happy New Year and good luck with 2016!”