#OHGjournal 'Finding Our Feet'
The inspiration behind Oh Hey Girl, initially came from Jade’s interest in different style tribes. Japan stood out for her for its creative diversity and how the different sub cultures completely embodied a particular way of life, whether that be harajuku, Hawaii or Lolita. She also had a soft spot for designers like Yohji Yamamoto for their asymmetric cuts, layering and oversized fits, and Commes Des Garcons for their extravagant and eye catching designs. These designers remind you that fashion is an art and a way of expressing yourself. It’s these qualities, she felt, were lacking in mainstream fashion.
Jade searched for brands with an Asian influence, but often found that they wouldn’t ship to the UK. Realising the gap in the market, it became a challenge to fuse all her creative influences into a brand that would fit well in the UK market.
Conversely, Symone’s driving force came from a strong desire to be her own boss and a passion for business. There was something about the concept of starting and creating a business that fired her up. Overcoming challenges and striving for personal growth is where she knew she felt happiest. Secondly, she always noticed the lack of diversity in the workplace. Whilst going through her entrepreneurial journey, she always found it difficult to find female role models in business and even harder to find women of colour. She felt a responsibility to seek out these people, not only for her own benefit but so that others just like herself had someone relatable and inspirational to learn from and look up to.
Interestingly, although we are seemingly completely different, where we met in the middle was the sweet spot and was what formed Oh Hey Girls core values. We both agreed that fashion today has a responsibility to be depicted and represented by women and for women. Far too many companies we see today are run by middle aged white men who project their image of what a female should look like and what she should wear which we just felt was just straight up WRONG.
We had decided quite early on about where we wanted to sit in the market and what exactly we wanted to be. We asked ourselves who did we want to be most similar to in terms of positioning and brand strategy. Ultimately, we were deciding whether we wanted to chase a mass market or a niche market. We bounced around different ideas on what it meant to be either one. Doing something more niche, even if it meant making less money in the long run, was the clear winner. We knew we did not want to become mainstream as this went against the very reason OHG was created in the first place. It meant much more to us to create something that we were proud of that reflected our own values.
It was clear to us that the single most important thing that would sell our pieces are the visuals, so it was really important for us to establish a clear and strong aesthetic. Jade knew that we needed to level up and instead of buying random pieces, she now started to focus on creating full looks with the samples we were buying. She would troll through hundreds and hundreds of pieces from different suppliers selecting some to buy as samples.
Once the samples arrived she would then select the strongest looks. There was no trend prediction whatsoever it was just what we thought could sell and what we thought looked good. We would then shoot them and put the pictures up on Depop or Instagram and see how they’d sell. The initial cost of buying samples and shooting them came to just under £1500. We had no extra money to buy stock and so came to an arrangement with our suppliers to buy single pieces (as we were doing with the samples). This meant that we would only buy an item if we had sold it (commonly known as drop-shipping). It also limited the suppliers we could use….but we thought this was the most cost effective way to go about things.
The next challenge was to find someone who could speak Mandarin and was competent enough to help us deal with the suppliers in China. Most spoke English but very badly and some things were just literally getting lost in translation. Through her research Symone came across a number of international freelancer websites where you could hire people virtually. We used Upwork.com and posted a job ad for someone who was based in China. We needed them to:
1. Place the orders with our suppliers
2. Receive the items
3. Quality check them
4. Send to our customer
Crucially, upwork had an internal system where the freelancer would log their hours and invoice us after a specified period of time (Eg 1 week). We would then pay upwork and then upwork would pay the freelancer. This protected us from any scam artists who would just take the money and run. We also paid for things as much as possible through Paypal as they have a very good complaints system and will in most cases refund your money if you do not receive the expected goods or services. After a few skype interviews we found a girl who we were happy with, created a whatsapp group for the 3 of us and began work!
Our next goal was to move off Depop and grow our following online. We built our first website with 35 pieces on a platform called Big Kartel as it was cheap and easily customisable and sent out an email to all our Depop customers to use the website from now on.
Shout out to all the OG customers who remember this moment!
Now that we had everything kind of set up we just waited for the sales to roll in…..
Not so surprisingly we barely made our costs back.
Most of our sales were still coming from Depop and we just couldn’t seem to make everything come together. On top of this we weren’t even managing the sales we did have. Our Chinese freelancer would just disappear for hours at a time, not return our messages, send customers the incorrect items and then try to bump up her hours to get more pay! Arguments soon became a regular part of our working day and lets just say it didn’t end well.
Frustrated and annoyed, Symone turned to the Internet once again. We needed to not only find a replacement Chinese freelancer but also find a way of making some sales. It was on Youtube where she discovered a platform called Shopify (a complete e-commerce solution which has literally every damn thing you need to start an online store) and started learning about social media ads and how to utilise the two to sell products online. She researched others doing similar things on forums and social media groups, went to networking events and even invested in some courses, in order to come back with a game plan.
Within a few months, we had changed our website over to Shopify, secured a new Chinese freelancer, and developed the beginning stages of a marketing plan.