If you hadn’t read any previous information about me, I came to China in 2015 to study acrobatics in Beijing. I stayed here for 8 months focusing on multi Hula Hoop. My dream was to become a Hula Hoop Artist and travel the world. It still is my dream, but continue to learn more about this discipline, So far I have travelled through many provinces of China,I split my time between China and Ireland where I am originally from. Over the past 3 years I developed a passion for costume design, I don’t think it came from nowhere as I always loved creating and cutting up clothes as a child. It was something I needed as a performer, Its not just the skill but the entire look you need to succeed as a performer. I could never find anything that matched my personal taste, So that’s how it started.
At the beginning of starting my business venture, I was a little bit terrified to tell people that I make my clothing in China. Sometimes I would contact influencers to see if they were interested in promoting my brand, Although they would be super happy I contacted them and absolutely loved my designs, I think nowadays a lot of people want to know the story behind their clothing and how it was manufactured, customers are looking for authenticity and transparency in their purchases.
So here comes the dreaded question - “Where are they made?” I reply “China”. And that’s it -I never hear from them again. "But....wait...come back!??"
I couldn't understand this reaction I was getting from people. It was never my intention to start my own label that would end up being apart of my career, It is just something I love doing and was/is in line with my passion for performing, so it just feels right to pursue it.
I think we all know Chinas label “Made in China” has got a bad reputation for low cost and poor quality. While I am not saying this isn’t true, China is known as a world factory and you can certainly find a lot of poor quality, but as the saying goes – "you get what you pay for" is very true. As for finding poor quality items, you can certainly find a lot of high quality items, you just need to pay a premium price. People don’t want to spend money, and when they do spend their money on ‘cheap shit’ they receive low quality, then they complain about it - Well what do you expect?! People need to be paid for their time, because high quality items have higher requirements and higher standards, which adds time, if you want something decent then don’t expect to pay a cheap price.
I too once had this perception of China as I never had a personal or direct experience with this country. Media may provide a certain type of experience for people, like any messages from the media until you find out for yourself. We accumulate this message with our experience of buying this "crap" and the two together form this image.
Its not the makers behind the brand who sets the standard of the quality, it’s the brand itself. And a lot of these western brands come to China to make their cheap affordable product, and China then gets slayed for it because of its poor quality. A lot of companies try to hide the fact that their product was made in China. The “Made in …” label refers usually to the country where happened the last most significant step of manufacturing. So even though the product was made in China, the final touches are done in another country, therefore winning that country of origin "Made in...." label. China gets no credit for it whatsoever, what a shame!
With my latest playsuit collection I wanted to create something with cultural value, not only am I super proud my clothing is made in China but I also wanted my customer to be proud wearing it. I wanted to represent chinese ancient traditions and heritage by taking influences from the "Qipao dress". l I remember as a kid I was obsessed with these traditional Chinese style dresses, I bought one when I was 11 on a family holiday in Spain and insisted we eat at a chinese restaurant. A "Qipao" is a one-piece dress that has its origins in Manchu-ruled China back in the 17th century. ‘Til this day, people are still wearing these Qipao dresses all over the world.
I live in a place where it is famously known for ‘The Home of Acrobats’ Some Tailors here specialize in stretch clothing for all types of movement and performance. The people I work with have over 30 years experience in the industry making costumes for acrobatic troupes that travel all over China.
This year my goal is to make more connections so I can branch out a little more. I currently working with a new lady designing my new kids collection called “Little Bubble Bum’s”. We have made some samples but still is a work in a progress. I am happy with her expertise and love her attitude.
It is very important for me to have a personal relationship with anyone I do business with. Otherwise it just doesn’t feel right. I am very intuitive and I always trust that gut feeling. If I didn’t I wouldn’t of ended up where I am today.
I certainly do not believe in fast fashion or waste, I never really followed trends but I always loved finding unique clothing of high quality that made me feel good while wearing it. I try my best to think of new ideas to cut out any fabric waste, though sometimes I feel like I am only a drop in the bucket in comparison to another massive companies who are not making any changes to their practices. But I can certainly improve and make better choices for my business even if it prompts others to be more aware of where their clothing is coming from. I am currently collecting all the scraps of my fabric so I can upcycle this and become zero waste.
Being a small business owner myself, I understand the struggles of running it, It is very important for me to support other local busineses. All of my fabric suppliers are people I met in person while traveling in China. They all own small local busineses and I have built a relationship with them over the last 2 years. I trust they always meet my high standard expectations.
Since starting I never really had an end goal, and to be honest I still dont have an end goal, I just enjoy what I am doing and I have come to a point in my life where I truly feel satisfied. I continue to keep learning and growing, I dont think there will ever be an end to it no matter what route I decide to take.
If you want to read more about me, head over to my performance page where I blog more about my journey in China. www.jessicadoolin.com