Ask Us Anything V.3
Another round of answers to your questions! We are so grateful to you for taking the time to share your feedback, comments, questions, likes, follows, shares, all of it. You add so much to our brand and fuel us to grow. We are happy to be back with another round of founder insights from Brandy.
What made you want to get into the business of ethical, sustainable clothing?
I worked in the fashion industry for a long time (over a decade) for many different small and large brands. Over the years, I disliked many things about the standard practices in fashion when eventually I realized I wanted to create my own brand that fixed as many of those problems.
What are your plans for expansion?
Currently, I am heavily focused on correcting our supply issues, as we don't want to always be sold out within a day of launch. And for Fall, I plan to add a small collection of our best seller matching male/he/him/partner items - we haven't announced this yet, but it's coming. And then eventually (most likely 2022) add a few more plus sizes to our lineup. Then grow into adding more commodities outside of clothing basics (other basics) and maybe one day figure out a way to offer tall and/or petite sizing (these areas are a lot trickier for small biz).
Do you have any plans to go above 3X?
We do hope and plan to add more plus sizes. We are currently focused on improving our supply and demand with the current sizes, and then (most likely in 2022) we will hope to add some more plus sizes into our size family.
What were the biggest financial challenges to opening this business? Challenges accessing financing, paying yourself, etc.
A big question! For me, everything was a financial challenge when it came to starting this business. I did not start with any money in my pockets, so I had to borrow money. That being said, I was lucky to have access to an entrepreneur enterprise called Futureprenuer that provides financing and support for Canadian entrepreneurs (if you are Canadian, this should be your first stop). They first helped me fine-tune my business plan (which was needed because this was also a challenge) before giving me an entrepreneur loan that allowed me to start the biz. It was super stressful as, at the time, it was a lot of money to borrow on significant new risk without a financial cushion or fall back plan.
As for paying myself, this was also very difficult, and I wasn't able to do this for over a year+, but at some point in the second year, I had no choice and dived in. I started by paying myself a small amount each week (hello, the same amount I made at a part-time job at 16). Once that became normal and low stress, and the business grew, I increased it a year later. And then again, when that became normal and I hit a new milestone, I gave myself a raise. I baby stepped everything, little by bit, and now I strive to follow the Profit First method for how much I pay myself.
Do your employees get benefits, paid sick days, etc.?
I currently don't have any employees other than myself and haven't quite figured out how to take an actual sick day for myself. I work with many partners, consultants and freelancers to keep Franc a well-oiled machine.
What are the challenges of starting and running an ethical clothing company?
The fashion industry is a difficult industry to begin with, it is however even more challenging to do so ethically. Especially when it comes to starting a business as you need to attain a lot of skills, learn quickly, read between a lot of lines and really hunt down your own trusted contacts. Of course, it's a lot more expensive doing things ethically, which for Franc often means we sometimes have to cancel styles/ideas as they ultimately end up being too expensive. But I personally prefer to run things locally and ethically; I actually feel it's easier in many ways than working with overseas factories suppliers (which I have done in the past when working for other brands).
Where is your fabric sourced? How do you demonstrate corporate social responsibility?
Our fabric isn't sourced; we custom knit and dye all our fabric here in Toronto. However, the content for our customer fabric yarns is sourced: Cotton from the US, Tencel from Austria; the yarns are spun in Korea and then shipped to Toronto where they are knit into fabric, dyed and then preshrunk.
As for corporate social responsibility, we are a small business that doesn't currently have any stakeholders outside of customers and suppliers. Our company mantra is to always strive to do better, we take a stance on many issues we are also continually learning (and relearning) and working towards more ways to do better. Our details page outlines a lot of our charitable and environmental practices (and is updated often). As far as labour and diversity practices, we don't currently have any employees. Since we work with partners, consultants and freelancers, we have made it mandatory that future partnerships/new hires are diverse and be owned by BIPOC women whenever possible.
How will you hold yourself accountable to your brand's vision as you continue to grow?
I don't see another way around it, I am not easily swayed, and I will only work with people who hold the same values. Currently, Franc is self-funded, so thankfully, when it comes to financials, I only have myself to answer to; this is often where it gets hard for brands when they have to respond to a board that has many different/polarizing views.
Why is it so hard for other brands to have lower prices when making ethical clothing, where you can offer items more affordably?
I can't speak for other brands, but I know that each brand has its own strategy. Many brands might also sell their items wholesale to boutiques and other stores; this would mean they need to include two margins in their price (one for their profit and the other for a boutiques profit). Whereas we sell only direct to you, so we only have one margin - neither is better, just different. As well, there are many other factors that can affect the price as producing clothing ethically is expensive. Small things add up, subtle details, different fabrications, or finishing can change the price considerably.
Any plans for maternity in the future?
Sorry, we don't currently have plans for this, but we love the idea!
I would like to better understand 'who is hurt' if we buy from fast fashion but choose purposefully? - i.e. if I buy 100% cotton clothes from Joe Fresh and it is a piece I will wear a lot and a long time. Also, do third world countries' need' us to purchase clothes they make to support them (income, employment), or is that a myth?
In general terms, no one is directly injured if you shop in fast fashion. We all need to do this ethical thing our own way in our own time, and even baby steps like buying what you can afford and wearing it a ton and owning it for a long, long time is an excellent step in the right direction. Big brands could still have their clothing made in third-world countries and pay workers appropriately; it doesn't have to be one or the other. But by supporting big fast fashion brands while they don't pay (or treat people) decently, we are voting with our money and telling them it's ok to keep doing business as usual.
What is your favourite go-to piece?
My question is, would you consider making an XXS?
Of course, we will consider it; it isn't a size that's been requested before, but a consideration becomes a goal whenever there is a high enough demand. So consider it added to our running list of great ideas!
Is it still helpful to you when some customers only shop sales? There are times when I can't afford full-price garments, but I still want to support Canadian brands.
Any sale is helpful!! We can't all afford to only buy full-priced items all the time, and there is no shame in sale shopping. We have all 100% been there, speaking from experience!
How do you select colours for collections? Is there a balance between Pantone and timeless?
Colour selection is heavily focused on sales and customer feedback; trends don't really come into play for us. Generally, we start with timeless colours and then add fun "seasonal" colours that won't all of a sudden go out of style, inspired by sales (what does well) and customer feedback.
What are your favourite Canadian brands?
There are many; I will have to think on it and add some more as they come up. But off the top of my head, some current faves would be:
Do you have a question we didn't cover? Chime in on the comments below. We love hearing from you!