Today, we interview the founder of Bear Love clothing.
This is a unique clothing line providing a fun and affordable alternative to the usual brands on the market.
Hello, how are you doing?
I’m good thanks, very tired but well, excited about this interview!
Nice Nice, So am I
Can you give us brief background information about yourself, what’s your name? How old are you? Where are you from?
My names Ahjara
24 years old
Located in the South East of London
I go to Brunel University (currently on a gap year)
Studying Multimedia Technology and Design
When was Bear Love clothing born?
You could say it was born on the 1/1/09 as this is the day I started the public promotions for it. The concept actually came about some time last year.
Talk about starting off the year with a BANG!!!
What is Bear Love clothing about?
Bear Love is about LOVE (Laughter). It’s a line born out of love, I am a Christian and the foundation for this is love, the unconditional love of God and it is through this love we are able to find redemption. Christians strive to “be like Christ” and Christ is “love”. So the clothing is about portraying love.
At what age did you get into fashion?
Fashion is not a recent thought for me. When I was younger I was always drawing, writing etc. I have always been in the creative industry as a designer and recording artist (I am also a garage mc). Instead of fashion I decided to go into graphics and web design as this was a “safe” option(Laughter). Every now and then I would doodle ideas and concepts for a fashion range but nothing ever left the paper. When the concept for Bear Love came to me last year I decided to run with it because it was the first idea I had that actually looked like it could work and be successful. So hmm, you could say I’ve been into fashion for a while but only recently taken it seriously.
Talk about being multi-talented, Umm, I'm Jealous now (Laughter)
But Yeah, Timing for Everything is very Important and being able to spot an opportunity with timing is more important.
What makes your designs unique?
Wow, there are many clothing lines out there but Bear Love is one of the few with a fully marketable concept, name and branding that make sense together; although there is another clothing line with a bear (head) for their logo. Bear Love Clothing is currently the only line with a full blown mascot! Also Bear Love is not about just simply printing designs on a t-shirt and selling it... anyone can do this and it seems EVERYONE is doing this. We are actually a clothing line; planning to release a full range of clothing DESIGNED by us not just printed by us (Laughter). Our current range of kicks, due to be launched soon, is just the start of the MANY unique designs we have in store. These are NOT customised kicks. They are made from scratch in a factory.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
My inspiration comes from the visuals in life, sound and movement. It might sound funny but that’s how it is. I get mad ideas from the strangest situations and places. At the moment I am heavily inspired by street dance, the circus and cheerleading, hence why Bear Love has a mascot. I also get inspired by friends and family around me. My mother always said, show me your friends and I’ll show you who you are! I am lucky to have good and ambitious friends. Most of them would never know it, but they push me to succeed! When I see my friends passing their degree’s, getting good jobs, setting up businesses etc it excites me! I’m just like WOW, I can do this too.
Yes, I agree with you on that one, we should definitely surround ourselves with people that can motivate, inspire and assist us in our ambition.
When did you decide to go into the fashion business, now started your own fashion Line?
I decided last year when this concept came to me, so in 2008. I was always going to go into fashion at some point in my life but I didn’t want to just rush into it and be just another person printing t-shirts and calling it a clothing line. I wanted something that could last and grow and not something that was just for the moment. I never told anyone about my plans for a fashion range until I had a solid concept and vision.
Yes, Planning is key in business.
What makes your clothing line relevant to today’s society?
LOVE! EVERYONE needs love. If today’s society could just hold on to this for just one day, 24hours, there would be dramatic changes in all aspects of life; the world would be a better place! Bear Love Clothing is about making this statement.
LOVE, LOVE, That's the word now, Hopefully your clothing line can make that change
Would you have done anything differently, if you could go back in time?
No, I have had a crazy life to say the least, crazy experiences, ups and downs. If I was to change anything I would not have the knowledge I have now. You learn from your mistakes and the people you come into contact with etc. It is up to the individual to use life’s lessons to their advantage.
Yes, we definitely learn from our mistakes.
How did you raise money for your business?
OVERTIME, OVERTIME & MORE OVERTIME! I have been, and am currently working some crazy hours in a call centre (Laughter). Some of my student loan is invested in the business and the rest is money earned through working for someone else. In order to get to the top you need to start at the bottom. I have also been approached by many investors (praise God!) I am currently working this out and plan to bring in these investors in the near future.
You Heard it, OVERTIME, OVERTIME, OVERTIME.
You know what i wouldn't mind a hook-up for the call-centre job myself, but i warn you, i'm a workaholic, so beware, you might not have no overtime left(Laughter)
Who are your competitors? (Customer profile)
Hmm, I like to think big so I only see the BIG labels such as Baby Phat, Nike etc as ‘competition’. These brands are already established worldwide and have been for many years and have a lot of money behind them; I have my work cut out to make my label a ‘designer brand’. Many will say that ‘The Teddy Bear Club’ is my competition because they also use a bear. Unfortunately, my market research was not in-depth enough to know about these guys before I launched the marketing for Bear Love. I have not looked at this as a setback though as our brands and signatures are very different. It’s funny that you have previously interviewed them and are now interviewing ‘Bear Love Clothing’. I think people can see these brands are totally different which is why Bear Love is getting ALOT of positive feedback.
I'm excited haven interviewed two competitors, it's got my adrenaline pumping (Laughter)
Who are your target markets?
Currently we target 12-25 year olds although older and younger can wear our clothes/footwear. We have a baby/kids range in the pipe line and are very excited about this.
What are your advertising strategies? (Do you use any social networking sites to promote your brand).
We currently do a lot of advertising on the internet. We are in full force on Facebook, our Myspace is currently being built, the Website is due to officially launch soon and we are building our mailing list. Our advertising will not be limited to this though. When we officially launch the brand we will release a press pack to various magazines and newspapers. Get posters and billboards put up, the full works. Obviously all this costs so it is a work in progress.
What fabrics do you mostly deal with?
At the moment our main range are the kicks and t-shirts. So we are dealing in Canvas, Rubber and Cotton. We will then move into Denim and Satin for the female range due to release at the end of the year.
Describe your collection in ten words?
A fun and fresh alternative with a lot of LOVE.
Do you make your collection to season?
No, but we will do. When the line is grounded and established, our collection will become seasonal, Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter.
What was the most important lesson you have learnt so far?
The most important thing I have learned is patience. One of the members of the team keeps saying, ‘slow and steady wins the race’. There is no point in rushing. Make sure everything is on point and up to standards, don’t compromise. When you feel things are taking long, just pray and have faith. Pay attention to detail and cover all bases possible so when you finally pick up speed, you have a support system and you do not fall flat on your face! Also, ‘no man is an island’, any business is a risk. You cannot do it on your own; you need a team if you plan to expand. You need to bring in the right people and trust them.
I totally agree with you, I wouldn't have said it any better (Laughter)
You start trading in June, how is the preparation going? You must be so excited and waiting for the date to arrive?
Yes! This is the planned release month for the line. If all goes according to plan, people can start buying from June. Preparation is tiring and scary but fun. We had a model recruitment in January and have some fantastic models! The photo shoot is going to be ‘off the chain’! We are building up our street team. The paper work is intense (Laughter) Making sure we don’t get fined as the company is officially registered, making sure we import correctly - there is a lot of behind the scene work going on.
When your suppliers are located across the other side of the world, are 8 hours ahead and speak basic English, it can be emotional. At the moment for me, it’s a bit nuts. I could be up all night researching and promoting and then have work the next morning. My eye bags are extreme but praise God for makeup (Laughter).
Umm...Even though i'm not a fan of make-up, but don't worry you're an exception (Laughter)
It’s all a lot of fun though and I love it, so I don’t complain too much. I’ll work hard now so I can relax later!
Who is your role model/influence?
I look up to people like Kimora Lee-Simmons, Kunle Oyedji, My friend Danielle Bianchi (another fashion designer), my mum who is always encouraging and supportive, but most of all I am influenced by what the bible says. I CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me!
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
The samples! When you see something move from concept on paper to a real life prototype you really do feel proud! No one on the underground seems to have achieved this yet. Many people have customised kicks but to have my own kicks made fresh from scratch and to see my company branding on it is amazing! It makes me feel like I’m going places, it makes me feel like YES! I can contend with Converse and Nike! (Laughter)
YES, YOU CAN
What are your advices for Aspiring young entrepreneurs looking to break in the Fashion industry or other industries?
My advice would be, have patience, learn as much as you can before hand, watch others and gain tips, learn from their past mistakes as well as your own and make sure you come with a solid idea! Build good business relationships even if you do not yet have a business because they all come in handy at some point. Do as much research as possible about your chosen field and develop a solid business plan. Remember any business is a risk you need to be willing to take; you need to have faith in your ideas and believe it will be successful. Know your target audience.
YES, YES, I Always say Networking is key.
So what’s next for BEAR LOVE CLOTHING?
Next is the first release, look out for it! You can bookmark our website: www.bearloveclothing.com and sign up to our mailing list. Also join our Fan page on Facebook and stay up to date, search “Bear Love Clothing”. Our first release is going to be the kicks and they will be released alongside T-shirts and hoodies. We are still debating about the colour combination to release first. After this we will be working on the release of our female range.
So finally, before I leave you, I need to ask for your secret, come on, why have you been so successful, what’s your secret weapon?
The response has been amazing! I think this is because the brand is fun and appealing and the promotion and marketing have been on point! You need to have a solid team! My team currently consists of four members; Taffat Jama who is the assistant manager, Sarah Walsh who is promotions officer, Wande Alugo who is the marketing director and me. I oversee everything – I’m also the designer. A solid team + solid idea’s + faith + prayer = Success!
WOW, WHAT AN INTERVIEW !!!
We will definitely catch up with you to give everyone an update on your company.
Thank you for your time.
Thank you! It’s been a pleasure!
I wish you the best in the future.
Thank you and till next time.