Self-promotion – German version here
If you follow me on Instagram, you may already have seen that I am starting my own fair fashion label tiija. For years I have had the dream to bring out my own designs and I already had a very clear idea of what they should look like. But until I got to the point where I was really ready to launch with finished designs, there were some hurdles.
But from the beginning, how it all started:
I started my blog over 10 years ago, back then as a conventional fashion blog, with outfits showing numerous fast fashion brands. In 2013, by chance, I started a shopping ban, just to do a little fashion challenge. At that time I was fed up with my clothing style, felt that despite having a full closet I had “nothing to wear” and I was generally frustrated with my consumerist behavior, but didn’t know what exactly I could change. So for six months I didn’t buy anything, no clothing, not even second hand, no shoes, not even cosmetics! And lo and behold, I hardly ever wore an outfit twice.
After these six months I automatically started to consume more consciously. Quality was now my top priority and I came into contact with fair fashion for the first time. My first shopping haul after the ban were two sweaters made of organic cotton!
There was no radical change overnight from fast fashion to fair fashion, but little by little I changed my shopping behavior and documented this on my blog. Nowadays I call heylilahey a source for everything concerning sustainability: fashion, cosmetics, interior design and more! But heylilahey will always be first and foremost A fashion blog!
From the demand came the idea
As early as 2016, I actually made the first sketches for my own designs. Back then I was desperately looking for a super chic dress for a wedding in New York where the dress code was “Black Tie” – one of the strictest and chicest dress codes, so I couldn’t show up with a generic organic cotton dress with a floral pattern (literally, lol). I really asked EVERYWHERE and looked around on ALL fair fashion platforms that were available in Europe at that time.
My dream dress at that time was a simple long black dress with a super chic design. By the way, I could not find it. Instead, I ordered a second hand Fair Fashion dress in the USA. The whole thing was super stressful, but the good thing: I discovered a need and a niche that I wanted to fill with my own products.
A bumpy road towards my own label
“I will just make my own chic fair fashion dresses” – easier said than done, really!! In 2016 I talked to a lot of people about my idea and I was advised several times NOT to do it. Dresses are too complicated, to design real patterns requires a lot of time and money. And then there are the different sizes. “Start with merchandise t-shirts” or “Start with accessories that don’t need different sizes” was the general recommendation. Merchandise T-Shirts are a very good idea! Almost all YouTubers I follow are very successful with their merchandise t-shirts. Additionally, many young designers start with shirts (at least according to my cousin who is a fashion designer), because they are relatively easy and cheap to produce and you can easily create your own collections based on the success of your t-shirt. And I still think the idea is great! But I simply didn’t have any groundbreaking ideas for shirts at the time, to be honest.
The other recommendation: “Why don’t you start with accessories” – and that was more convincing. Because I also had a few backpack designs in my head!
A small excursion into the world of bag design
Yep, and that’s how I ended up actually working with my cousin in 2018 on a vegan bag label! We even went to a leather fair in Milan (to look for vegan alternatives) and even successfully applied for a start-up grant – complete with business plan, long selection process, prototypes, a pitch in front of a jury, etc…! And it all went very well, but I have to say that at that time the vegan “leather” alternatives were not as up to date as I would like them to be. The proportion of plastic was still too high for me and as a young label it was difficult to trace the production chains very well.
But to get to the point: I am very thankful for this (pretty big) detour, the project, the great cooperation with my cousin, the many brainstorming weekends, the pitch “training” with my uncle, and the nerve-racking final pitch! But then I left the project for several reasons and it is now completely in the hands of my cousin. I’m really excited when he comes out with his collection and I’ll keep you informed about it!
Instagram link to the pic here!
Back to the beginning
One year later (we are now already in 2018/2019 in the timeline) and my original idea just wouldn’t let me go!!! I still had clothing designs in my head, I still saw a great need and I was able to formulate better and better what exactly is important for me with my own label. I was able to get a first taste of what it is like to bring out my own design with Jyoti – Fair Works. Together we brought out a Zero Waste wrap blouse design which was very successful. The original design was included in the ongoing collection of Jyoti – Fair Works and keeps coming out in new colors again and again!
Instagram link to the pic here!
I had tasted blood!
After the launch of the blouse, I now knew 100%: I want to bring out my own designs, preferably casual but chic dresses in sustainable materials. Timeless but modern, comfortable but elegant! But how? I was not a designer or dressmaker. But I had a lot of ideas, already business plan experience, PR and social media experience and I had a great readership that I could inspire with my project!
In the first step I discovered and booked a “Launch Your Own Design” program. To cut it short: I invested a lot of money and it started out as an exciting collaboration, but unfortunately we didn’t come up with final, production-ready samples in the end. Again, for many reasons that would go beyond the scope of this post. This was another setback and slowly I lost my courage and motivation.
Coincidentally, in 2020 an email arrived from an agency that wanted to support me in exactly the areas where I was stuck: finalizing the samples, sourcing the materials and sustainable and fair production in Europe.
Then it really started! And oops…the next setback, which nobody expected, but which has affected all of us: COVID! Again everything was delayed, I couldn’t travel and meet the team and we had to plan, arrange, source, research etc. online and by post. Being digitally networked can save time, but in some areas on-site meetings are simply more time efficient.
But after months of stress, ups and downs and lots of e-mails, the time had come:
I finally had our final samples in my hand!
I have four designs in total, but for the launch we could “only” develop two dress designs:
- A comfortable, but chic wrap dress made out of linen, in the colors beige and green
- And a long-sleeved maxi dress with tiers and a very flattering cut made from TENCEL TM, in the colors rust-red and black
What was important for me with the designs:
- The cut should be comfortable despite the elegant designs. That means that no dress should sit super tight at the waist, unless you tie it yourself with a belt for example.
- Every dress should have pockets, and useable ones at that! This was a feminist concern for me, inspired by Jyoti – Fair Works, who also care a lot about this!
- You should be able to wear every dress with a bra if you want to!
- The fabrics should be as sustainable as possible and the designs as timeless as possible
And now to another exciting subject: the name!
tiija is Serbian, the sentence is actually written “ti i ja” and means “you and I” in English. I think it’s just such a beautiful message that encompasses so much – how to achieve more together, how we stand up for our planet together, how we help each other, love each other, be happy for each other and cheer each other on, and so much more! I love love love the name of our label!
“Our” label? Yes, since 2020 my husband Jesse is also involved as a team member! We made most of the decisions together, he is the house photographer as well as website designer and I couldn’t be more grateful and happy to work with such a talented, patient and calm mind.
Normally I keep my calm, but there are moments when “everything is too much” for me. I have very strong doubts about myself and my work and this uncertainty leads to stress. Jesse is the perfect counterpart, who calms me down in such situations, or sometimes takes over certain things for me.
On the other hand, he is happy about my creative ideas, my decisiveness and determined nature.
If you have read this far:
Hats off! And thanks! When I write it all down and read it again, I get very emotional. It was really an up and down so far and quite honestly: this up and down is not over yet!
We are starting tiija with a pre-order campaign, which is similar to crowdfunding, but with a shorter time frame and limited quantities. Because only we can go into production and officially launch tiija if we sell at least 60 dresses during the pre-order campaign! In addition, the longsleeve dress you see in the pictures above is limited to 100 pieces.
What 2020 brought with it concerning tiija, such as the sourcing process, where we had problems, where we had to make compromises, and where we had success, I’ll write about in another blog post. This post would really get way too long (if its not already) if I wrote about everything here 🙂
But until then I would appreciate your support:
If you want, subscribe to the tiija newsletter to find out when the dresses go live. Or follow tiija here on Instagram. Feel free to share the account so that as many people as possible can learn about our project at the launch 🙂 Because I really hope that our fair fashion label Journey will really start with tiija now!
Thanks in advance! I consider myself very lucky to have such a loyal readership at my side which has accompanied me and heylilahey on my journey for so long! Thank you, thank you, thank you!