Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Ten Lessons from a Maker

"Use your nimbleness. Listen to your instinct. 
Have a sense of humour that no legal department would approve."

We stumbled on this fantastic article the other day and thought we'd share some of its insights and solid, feet-on-the-ground advice.

Extracts from David Hieatt's piece : Ten Lessons from a Maker featured on The Holborn Mag.

I) No one knows you exist.

You make a great product. But the world isn’t holding its breath waiting for you. It doesn’t know who you are. It doesn’t know you even exist. Currently, in the pecking order, you are at the bottom. It’s nothing personal. Everyone starts here.

You will have to make your reputation. You have will have to gain peoples attention. You will have to be as good at selling your product as you are making it. It is your job to get people to know you are on the planet.

IV) No one goes to bed at night and dreams of quality.

We make one of the best pairs of jeans on the planet. And we are very proud of that. But that doesn’t mean that is the best way of selling it.

Quality is what we make. It’s what we stand for. It’s what we believe in. But it is not how we will sell our jeans. People have desires and dreams and you have to learn how to make your product fit into them.

People buy a lifestyle, an image, a purpose, a superiority, part of a small elite club, rejection of the norm. Part of your job will be to understand their desires, and make sure what you make appeals to them.

Your customers go to bed each night and dream their dreams. They dream about changing the world, they dream about starting an amazing company, they dream about all sorts of crazy stuff. But they rarely dream about quality.

Don’t ever compromise on quality. But sell the dream.

V) It’s a small club. But a good club.

The makers club is a small club. But, everyone in it wants the club to grow. That’s why there is a culture of trying to help each other. If you need a certain machine, or a particular service, someone in the club will know the answer. So don’t fret, you are not alone.

One example. Chris from Noble Denim asked us if he could come over and learn from us as he wanted to start a denim company. Conventional companies would have said no. Help a rival? Pah. Are you mad? But if you are in the makers club, you want more people to join the club, so you say yes. Noble denim ( is up and running. And we helped in a tiny small way. But we helped.

Right now, we are the only British denim brand making its own jeans in its own factory in Britain. But we had help at the start from Jayesh and his family up in Leicester. They helped us make our prototypes before our factory was going. And I told them I wouldn’t be able to give them any business in return. Why would they help us? It took 3 set of samples before we were happy. And they did each one with a smile. They wouldn’t even take any money from us for doing them. The makers club is like that, you know. We will try and repay that favour one day.

The makers club doesn’t exist in reality. It has no address, it has no business card, it has no website. But even so it is real. And it will help you.

As soon as you start making, the makers club will be in touch.

VI) The more you work in the future, the less competition you will have.

This is a quote from a talk by Richard Seymour. And I think he is right. Our job as makers is to take the skills of the past and apply them to the future.We want to protect our skills from dying out. And the best way to do that is to give them a lead role in the future.

One great example is the DodoCase. They used traditional book making skills that were dying out in San Francisco and they gave them a new life by applying those skills to making iPad cases. The result is a beautiful and super useful product that is in huge demand. Finding a way to marry the luddite skills with geek useage is something more and more companies will have to do if they want to fly.

For us at Hiut Denim, we figured there are more than enough jeans companies out there. The world doesn’t need another one. The question for us was how could we bring some new thinking to it. One insight came to us while staring at an old pair of Levis from 1876. I looked at them and I wondered what stories they could tell us. What was their best day? Did they strike gold? Did they fall in love? How hard were the conditions? But the jeans couldn’t tell me anything. They were born before the internet.

So every pair of our jeans comes with a HistoryTag. A unique number that allows you to sign up to the HistoryTag website and then allows you to update where you went in them and what you got up to in them. Then, if one day, those jeans end up in a second hand shop, their memories will go with them.

We are first jeans maker in the world to do this. We are operating in the future. And that gives us a fighting chance.

VII) It is going to take time.

And it’s going to take some old fashioned hard work. Those who want short cuts, who want to be overnight success are going to be in for a bit of disappointment. There is no substitute for the hard work you will have to put in. Doing the work is rights of passage.

A business has to find its feet. Knowledge has to be learned. Skills have to refined. Reputations have to be earned. Customers have to be found and retained. A business will tell you when it wants to grow, and when it does, let go of the reigns. But not too much. One of the most important aspects to building a business is patience. It is a rare commodity.

IX) Do some silly stuff. Now and again.

I think a sense of humour is important. It sure helps you get through the day. And makes a long journey so much shorter. It will also help you stand out from pretty much everyone else.

For the full article of all ten lessons on The Holborn Mag, please click here.

For more inspiration and to oogle some gorgeous jeans, Hiut Denim Co. is also really worth a visit.

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