Victoria Prew’s Tips for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

After a few months off, I’m back with a brand new instalment of Clothes & The Rest! This week’s episode features Victoria Prew, co-founder of wardrobe rental site Hurr Collective.

Victoria and her co-founder Matthew Gelet spent years prepping and preening the business before its launch in earlier this year. As a result, Hurr entered the market with a flurry of press coverage and now has a growing waiting list.

Here, with Hurr’s launch success in mind, Victoria shares the lessons she learnt when she made the leap from person-with-good-idea to entrepreneur.

“For me, an idea is just an idea. It’s important to prove your concept. Don’t jump ship, don’t leave your job, don’t raise money, don’t do anything until you have proof of concept.

I think that’s what most people shy away from. Saying “I’d love to rent on Hurr,” is very different to actually transacting on Hurr, so until you can prove that people are going to use your product, you don’t have a business. For me, and for the companies I mentor, that’s the most important thing.

Before we started building anything, we spent around eight weeks doing research. In that time, we did some serious focus groups and tested the product in a very un-glamorous, un-sexy way. We were really asking “do people want to rent clothes?” and “how are we going to do it?”. Testing your concept in real life is key.

For us, mentorship has been really helpful. Our mentors and advisors are absolutely crucial to where we are today and, hopefully, our future growth. I have mentees too, and I always think: if I can give someone one piece of advice that changes their path into something more successful, I’ve done my job!

Sara Arnold on Supporting Extinction Rebellion

“The International Rebellion starts on 15th April. The idea is to block streets and major junctions, bringing cities to a halt.

In the UK, everyone is making their way to London – there is currently a 70 year old walking from Cornwall. We’ll stay on the streets until the government negotiates. And we’ll have a party!

“If you think about social movements in the past which have achieved political change, it is through masses of people coming out on the streets… and staying there.

“A huge amount of research goes into the methods we’re using to create these changes. A really important aspect of Extinction Rebellion is that we’re non-violent. Once you have violence, you stop holding the moral high ground.

“We train people in non-violent direct action. The number one piece of advice we give is, if someone’s angry, let them vent their anger – don’t try and fight back. Nod your head and be compassionate. Only once they’ve calmed down should you start saying your point of view.

“Sometimes it gets to the point where we’re sitting in the middle of the road, and the police want to drag us away, so we do practice runs. It’s important to think about what you would do in those situations.

“But you definitely don’t need to be prepared to be arrested to be part of Extinction Rebellion! We need masses of people to do a myriad of other roles – just being there is a great start.

“If you want to help the Rebellion, be there on 15th. Book time off work and help us take action.”

Listen to Sara’s episode of the Clothes and The Rest podcast to hear more about Extinction Rebellion, as well as Sara’s incredible clothing rental company, Higher Studio.

Wardrobe Re-Discovery with Emma Slade Edmondson

On the Clothes & The Rest podcast this week, I chat to Creative Consultant Emma Slade Edmondson. We talk charity shops, freelance life and the accessibility of sustainability – please check out the full episode if you haven’t already!

Here, Emma casts her mind back to her Back of the Wardrobe styling days to share some advice on how to re-discover what we already have in our wardrobes:

“Something I always used to say to my Back of the Wardrobe clients is that you should have a night in with your wardrobe. Treat it like you’re on a date with your wardrobe and you need to get to know it again. Put your favourite pyjamas on, play some good tunes, and pour a glass of wine (or whatever your vice is!). Take the time to get to grips with what is actually in there.

“Do it alone! Would you take your friends along on a date? No. Kick everyone out of the house and spend some one on one time with your wardrobe.

“Try things on and figure out how you feel. It’s really as much about how comfortable and how confident you feel in pieces, as it is about eventually pulling looks together.

“Sometimes, we have items in our wardrobes that we haven’t worn for a long time, and it’s good to discover why we’re not wearing them. Often with my clients, it was down to a fear. They were scared that the reality of what they looked like in a piece wouldn’t live up to their aspiration, but sometimes those negative thoughts were about a body hang up, rather than a reality about how the piece fitted or appeared. Often those sessions were as much therapy as they were styling.

“It’s really helpful to have some knowledge about how to create silhouettes. Often people will let t-shirts hang out because they are concerned about their tummy area, when in reality, having a baggy top is sometimes the thing that will draw attention to an area you may be insecure about. Tucking in instead might actually give you the silhouette you’re looking for. Similarly, nipping in your waist with a belt is sometimes a good idea.

“Ultimately, be confident! All bodies are beautiful bodies and styling is about working with what you’ve got. You’re supposed to have a fun relationship with your clothes, so create one!

Find Emma on Instagram and on her website, emmasladeedmondson.com

Sara Benincasa

On dissent, disruption, and fighting back against the bullshit

Sara Benincasa started Excellent Coats on Irritated Women in December 2018 and since then, she’s gained a healthy following of 26,000 Instagram users. If you’re not already one of Excellent Coats’ fans, it’s definitely time to delve into the account. Spotlighting women who are “all outta fucks in a fabulous coat,” Benincasa’s content is equal parts humour and herstory. This week, I spoke to the woman behind the coats about fashion, politics, and joyful anger.

“I created it because Nancy Pelosi wore this fabulous Max Mara coat for a meeting that she and Chuck Schumer had with Trump. It was really cool to see her claim her throne as someone who’s an effective antidote to the president; both rhetoric-wise and legislation-wise.

“She walked out with that fabulous coat on that everybody loved, and so I tweeted: “This is a great day for excellent coats on irritated women,” and a few people said: “this should be a thing!”

“People say things like: “all politics is personal,” and I think that extends to our purchasing choices, and the way we choose to present ourselves in the world. We live in a capitalist society that runs on commerce, regardless of our feelings about that and how it could, or should, be amended. A lot of people operating in this system are doing really great work to affect change, so I wanted to celebrate them.

“People often think of fashion as being this very superficial thing that only has to do with how you want to represent your status to the world, so I wanted to take these people, who are celebrated (or denigrated) for their beliefs, and look at their fashion; it’s a cool high-low mix. Why don’t we praise them for their presentation and beauty as well? Not to take away from their other accomplishments, but to highlight them in fact. Maybe some people who are most interested in fashion more than anything else will come to the account and learn about some really cool leaders who could help change their lives.

“I’m learning as I go. People send me images of women who I hadn’t heard of or seen before all the time. I don’t always have a credit for the photographers, so people will often research them for me. It’s really important to me to credit the artists I spotlight properly for their work.

Growing up, I loved watching a show on MTV called House of Style. It was hosted by 90s supermodels like Shalom Harlow and Cindy Crawford, they had a rotating list of hosts over the years, and Kevin Aucion, who was a brilliant makeup artist. Watching that show was so much fun because you got to meet the designers and see them in a new light. They were funny and silly and over the top and dramatic. That introduced me to the notion that there were real people who made up the fashion world.

“Obviously, fashion can be, to use an over-used word, toxic. When you only see tiny people in clothes, it can be really limiting, but I think that we’re in a such a fascinating and exciting era for fashion because we are starting to have models of different sizes, shapes and colours of different backgrounds. The internet has empowered them to have their own voice.

“I did, at one time, work as a paralegal for a law firm specialising in immigration for fashion models in New York. They hire extra seasonal help the way retail shops will. I was 26, and just out of graduate school for teaching, and making portfolios where we would have to prove a certain level of excellence or expertise in the field. For the models, we would use recommendations from people like Anna Wintour and Mario Testino. It was like applying to university, but more so. Looking at the way my country treats immigrants of all kinds, I’m really glad I had that experience. It showed me what happens when you get the elite treatment.

“Until recently, I had just been emphasising the women in the clothing, but then I started to think about the clothing that I was showing. I realised that I was inadvertently promoting whatever designer was showing. I want to highlight designers who are using recycled materials, who are trying to be zero-waste, who are local, and who are incorporating designs from their own cultures.

“I can’t control what celebrities or icons of history wear. If it’s Mahalia Jackson singing on the steps of an institution where she was barred from singing because she was a black woman, and she’s wearing fur, I’m not going to put my 2019 values on it, because this is about something much bigger. It’s about this woman’s accomplishments and what she did.

“I want to highlight women who have demonstrated through their actions that they have been irritated. Sometimes there’s a joyful rage that powers activism and powers making a change. They don’t always look angry, but I try to highlight women who have engaged in dissent, disruption and fighting back against the bullshit, and sometimes they look pretty happy.

“I love this quote from Molly Ivins. She’s my role model. She was a brilliant journalist and humorist from Texas, and she wrote amazing columns about politics in the 80s and 90s. She said:

“So keep fighting for freedom and justice beloveds, but don’t forget to have fun doing it. Be outrageous, ridicule the ‘fraid-y cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce, and when you get through kicking ass and celebrating the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.”

Molly Irvins

“It’s guiding principle for myself and a guiding principle for Excellent Coats on Irritated Women too. I will show people who are angry at a protest and who are pissed off, but also people who are joyful in the midst of whatever their struggle, or the struggle of which they’ve chosen to be a part to uplift others. Ultimately, I spotlight dissent, disruption, and fighting back against the bullshit.”

Follow Sara Benincasa on Instagram and Twitter.

Follow Excellent Coats on Irritated Women.