When in the fashion business, originality is key but there are many who do copy.
Check out an interview with accessory designer, Alisha Heglund (now Carlin) on how to stay original and what to do when someone does copy you. There is a fine line between being inspired and copying someone’s idea as Alisha encourages us all, “…if someone did try to knock them off they cannot knock off the meaning or the mission behind them…”
Remember to follow Carpenter’s Daughter on instagram! @carpentersdaughter
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INTERVIEW: Alisha Heglund Carlin, Carpenter’s Daughter (Founder)
1. How did you get started in the headband & jewelry business?
I started in the accessory business because I needed money to go back to school. I was in a really unique space having left my job in Corporate America to go back to school full-time. I was desperate to chase a long time dream of becoming a Fashion Designer and not having a consistent paycheck every 2 weeks forced me to get creative. I had three months worth of pay saved up in the bank and had to create a source of income fast as I transitioned back into a full time, commuting student.
When I was at my job I would constantly get compliments on the headbands I wore. I was in a sales position so my headbands were my way of creating conversation or breaking the ice with my customers. My headbands were very basic and I would hot glue them together – so tacky – because I had zero sewing skills at the time. I didn’t even know how to thread a sewing machine! It was walking around Nordstrom’s Semi-Annual Sale where 7 different ladies asked me where in the store I got my headband that I had my light bulb moment and realized “hey I should sell these I think people like them!”.
Being a full time student left little time outside of class so I had to create a product that was not only low cost but was also efficient with my spare time. Hence headbands and Necklaces!! I have a BA in Business and Economics so I would like to say that helped me launch head on into my crazy dreams
2. Would you ever launch a clothing line?
I absolutely cannot wait to launch a clothing line. That is my next big goal to accomplish. I know I have a lot to learn so realistically I would like to work in the industry, soak up as much as I can and build a broad network! I also got married less than 3 weeks ago and we will be moving to Australia as he pursues a Professional Basketball career so I’m not quite sure this is the right timing to launch. I’m not complaining though, I love Australia and there are so many amazing designers that I would love to work under!
When I do launch a clothing line it will be directed towards a very niche market, tall women. At age 11 I was 6’1” and clothes shopping was always a dreaded event. Countless tears in dressing rooms to say the least! Over the year there have been a few brands who have helped my cause but are usually WAY overpriced or just plain ugly. I feel bad saying that about someone else’s design but as a 15 year old you don’t want to feel like a Grandma in the new tall girl line that is available online. Ideally as a designer I would want to be that voice for young, tall women. The ones who struggle with self image like I did growing up. Reminding them that it’s not their body that is the issue, it’s who the clothes are designed for. Having an internship at a private label company last year in a design room for tweens really opened my eyes and in a really weird way helped me heal. My body type has never been what big companies design for and I want to be that company who makes my tall ladies feel confident and more importantly comfortable in their clothing.
3. How do you manage the being both a business owner and a designer to execute your vision?
I would say practice makes perfect and listen to what your customers want.
Luckily for me time management comes easy to me. I haven’t known a season in my life where I haven’t been juggling multiple commitments and obligations. I wouldn’t say I am a Type A personality because I can be a total procrastinator at times but I do know exactly what I want by having a clear vision and I make sure I do the work to make it happen, even its it’s trial and error. Like I said earlier venturing into sewing was a whole new world for me so I definitely have been learning as I go. As I was pursuing my Fashion Design Degree I was juggling commuting (150 miles roundtrip), business orders and school assignments. What got me through my shipping deadlines and school deadlines was focusing on my most urgent task and then delegating my time from there.
I would also say don’t ever deviate from your vision just to get a sale. I have been tempted multiple times as I was doing market research looking at other popular companies and compared – especially in the beginning when times were slow but staying true to my vision has what has separated me from other shops. It has given me my own voice and my customers take note of that. What has also set me apart and helped me to be efficient with my time and designing is listening to my customers. I take polls on my instagram before I bought my fabric to see what got the most likes. I take notice of what pictures and styles are getting the most likes. When it comes to my actual shop I stalk my google analytics religiously. Always looking at where my views are coming from, how many are new buyers, how many are repeat buyers, how many . There are so many tools out there to help you hone in and show you whats working and what isn’t.
Being my own boss has been really fun but also really hard. Not only do I personally source my fabric and necklace materials, but I also cut them, sew them, package them, ship them, market them, photograph them. In the beginning I even modeled them! My dad is the Carpenter, behind Carpenter’s Daughter so he does get some credit – like stamping my nail necklace orders. But usually I am a one woman shop. I handle customer service, my instagram, my online store, my emails. Everything. It’s not easy at all. I can easily work 14-16 hour days when orders are crazy or I have big events coming up, but I remember why I am doing and that takes me through the day. It is so rewarding when my customers acknowledge my handwork. When I get a 5 star review on Etsy or am tagged on instagram by a customer and I see their faces. It’s an awesome feeling knowing someone loves what you have created and I love when they take what I have made and make it their own by their unique styling.
4. What’s the most critical lesson you learned as a designer building your own brand?
Don’t give up. Continue to stay true to your vision even though others may laugh and even worse others may copy! I would also say be weary of who you are giving freebies to! I gifted a popular instagram personality/blogger some headbands as a collaboration type thing. She turned around and sold a similar version of the things I gifted her. I was shocked but you live, learn and keep moving forward.
5. How does a Carpenter’s Daughter differentiate itself when tons of online shops are popping up everyday?
I have a couple of items that are truly unique to my shop so although tons of different headband shops may open, my ESTablished Nail Necklaces are uniquely mine and if someone did try to knock them off they cannot knock off the meaning or the mission behind them. I continue to share our story on social media and am in constant contact with my customers through social media so I’d like to think I have a real community with my CD Lovelies that keep them invested and involved.
6. Can you describe your daily routine as a designer for Carpenter’s Daughter?
To be honest every day is different. I always check my emails in the morning. Then I focus on the orders that are set to ship within the next few days. My packaging is very unique and my customers always comment on those personal touches so I wrap up orders and hand write love notes to each CD customer. Then I head out to the post office. Some days I am sourcing fabric in the garment district and other days I am out at events that I get invited to interacting with my customers. That’s what I love the most. Every day is different and always presents new experiences and opportunities.
7. When people wear your pieces how do you want them to feel?
When they are wearing my headbands I want them to feel comfortable. Like I said earlier I played basketball in college and professionally and I hated store bought headbands. They always fell off or were way too tight or stretched out way too fast.
With my necklaces my hope is that people would celebrate what has been or is being established in their lives. You see nails were such a rare commodity back in the day that people would burn down old buildings just to salvage the nails. Nails would literally survive the “flames of life” and were able to be repurposed in a new establishment. This is why you see EST on each nail and a year like 2011 for example. Maybe it’s a relationship with Jesus Christ or a husband/wife or a close friend. Maybe it’s an established freedom from addiction or another self-harm. Maybe it’s the establishment of a new outlook on life. Maybe it’s the establishment of forgiveness, self-love or grace. Maybe its the establishment and celebration of good news – freedom from cancer or another devastating circumstance. Whatever it is I want my customers to stand firm in what is being built in their lives. Plus my company’s name is Carpenter’s Daughter so nails really seemed fitting!
8. What is one advice you would give to someone wanting to start their own business in fashion?
I would say go for it!! Constantly learn as you go and keep pushing the boundaries. Stay true to you and your story and don’t get discouraged when others don’t get it, like it and especially when they copy it!
9. What is the craziest thing you have had to do on a photoshoot?
There hasn’t really been anything super crazy that has happened on one of our shoots. Usually I am the photographers third hand. Styling the hair, holding the reflector, cracking silly jokes to get genuine laughs out of the models.I did get stuck on top of a chain link fence at one of our shoots. There is a back gate outside of my hometown and it was locked when it shouldn’t have been but it decided to swing open when my model was on top. I would say that was more scary than crazy!! I also lent the skirt I was wearing to my model and put on her denim shorts (that totally didn’t fit me) so we could get the right look.
10. Since you are planning to move to Australia, what are your future plans in growing this business in a different country?
This is a hard question to answer. I wish I could look into a glass ball and say I know which direction CD will be going but with the nature of my husband’s new profession we could end up in one of four cities at this point. He won’t be able to sign a contract for the next few weeks so without being able to know where we are going to land, it’s hard to know or get an idea of what our surroundings and new hometown will be like. I do plan on shipping my fabrics over and buying a sewing machine in Australia. Luckily with the products I offer I can work from any where so I imagine a lot won’t change, we will just keep expanding! The only big change will be my new shipping address and a lot more Aussie women wearing CD! That’s exciting to think about!