We sat down with Katie Young Gerald, Director of Bespoke Textiles as she attended a session of BoB School, to discuss her journey and her experience with BoB.
Katie Young has over 25 years of experience in luxury fashion, textiles and interiors. Co-creating with high-end heritage and hospitality brands like Soho House, The Ivy Collection and the Hospital Club. Katie specialises in ethical sourcing and the supply globally of luxury textiles, clothes and uniforms. Her brand, Bespoke Textiles was shortlisted as a finalist for The Business Award for Sustainability, BoB was eager to find out her reaction.
What it your definition of success?
Katie Young: Being who you want to be and making a difference
How did it feel having bespoke textiles nominated for the national business award?
KY: I was absolutely amazed because you know when you’re just getting on with your thing and you don’t expect to get recognised in your tiny niche. It showed us that we’re actually valued and people are taking notice, it felt so amazing and just a privilege to be a finalist. We don’t find out until 14th November.
We’re all wishing you luck! Your brand is all about ethical and sustainable fashion, how important is sustainability to you?
KY: Really important because it’s not just about actually using eco fabrics and tailored supply chains that save the waste, it’s also about thinking ‘how can I make that garment last longer and make it designed so it’s made to last and then it be looked after properly?’ So, my personal ethos is find something beautiful that you love and make it last forever.
Also, we do it for our brands that want something unique made for them as a way of them expressing their unique signature through textiles. Then we put it in a tailored supply chain which means they don’t have to keep rebuying different types of things. If they need more, they can have the same consistency made again. It’s maintaining a sustainable supply so they don’t have to dump, waste, and buy something new then dump and waste – I think that’s also part of the curve that we’re creating.
How did you get into this line of business?
KY: So, when I was 11 years old I didn’t have anything to wear for my parents wedding so I was desperately looking in the shops. I grew up in a tiny, seaside Somerset town and I discovered charity shops. Nobody was going in them apart from old ladies volunteering but that’s where I discovered beautiful clothes that were made beautifully and they’d lasted a lifetime. So that’s when I started collecting unique things and then customising them and I knew I wanted to go to fashion school once I did all that.
I learnt how to design properly, pattern cut, all the technical and then eventually after my first job, which was a great learning curve – I was working with a luxury fashion brand when I got an opportunity to live out in Hong Kong and I learnt what it was like to make on a mass scale and work with proper factories. Then I linked the dots between luxury brand needing small niche garments but made beautifully and being able to do that in a manufactured way with more resources available to you. That’s how I’ve built a big business around supplying what people need and making what they really love.
What has been your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur?
KY: Having children, and then continuing to do what you love without compromising. Not always having the finances – all through my career I’ve never had investment so, self-investing, raising money from my own personal resources but not outside investment. It has in a way kept me smaller than I would have liked. Coming through the Greenhouse is going to be blowing the doors off my dreams!
What are you most proud of to date and where do you plan to get to?
KY: I’m really proud that I’m actually making my children become really strong individuals and that their unique individuality matters and how they are going to making a difference in the world. I’m all about empowering people to look different, feel different and stand out and be as great as they can be in their unique way. I think I reflect that through my textile business whether it’s making shirts for a restaurant or whether it’s actually designing a bespoke dress for an individual that’s actually something moved on from something she found originally and wanted for herself. I think what I’m most proud of is being able to pull it altogether and have a successful fulfilling business and have a family as well and then being big on employing women, women are really important because they problem solve in more directions.
What has BoB School done for your business?
KY: It’s helped me really get on top of my greatest asset which is the whole tailored, approach to different manufacturing sources to join up all the product for that particular client and that was incredible to find my asset there inside of my bespoke textiles business but it also helped me see I had a greater asset with a love for British heritage brand, that I’m now coming back through the BoB School to develop it’s bigger picture and leave a legacy that will make people stand out and be inspired by textiles that are really individual, so I’ve ended up creating much more than I expected through BoB School, and also getting my core journey that my client goes on, which is to source, develop and then deliver a product and I do that again and again inside of my systems.
With everyone in the BoB School they tend to have these light bulb moments, what were your favourite light bulb moments?
KY: I think being brave enough to know that I had something bigger that I needed to put on the table and that with the help of BoB School in the future I could actually make this huge transition from working with only small businesses under a million which has been my experience to actually creating another global empire and that I can be part of a unique community that pulled that together with BoB School and that was quite exciting cos it was the people that I met on the journey that I could then work with to bring this dream to reality.
What drives you and keeps you motivated every day?
KY: That I can proudly pay school fees for my children which takes a load off my husband because they have different individual learning difficulties and needs and I wanted to give them the best chance in overcoming them and expressing themselves in the most unique way they could be without struggling. I didn’t have that choice available but I wanted to be able to give that to my children. I do a lot of meditation and it helps me tune into the creative ideas that I have, that sometimes are bigger than me, but it gives me hope for the future, so it keeps me energised and, it’s keeping my creative interests at home.
Also, I think the other thing that drives me enormously – I love people, and so if I can help create partnerships with people and also deliver what people need, with all my restaurant groups that I now work with they’re people I really like to hang out with so we go for coffee and whatever but we’re also planning their ranges or they’re planning their products that they need building so it’s a real co-creation so that keeps me inspired and excited cos there’s always some new brand that wants to do something new with their tech and we need to bring the textile touch to their business.
Lastly, what’s your motto to live by?
KY: I think, be your best, be unique, and be true to yourself.