Hey Emma, tell me a little bit about yourself and what Emma Sofie is all about?
So pretty much it all started when I decided to do fashion at uni and I started the Instagram that I have now, but just on a very small scale. I was posting fashion-related things I was interested in and then gradually, as I noticed that I was getting a bit of a following, I started doing little one-off pieces and sort of just seeing who would want something - just very small-run.
And was this while you were still at uni?
Yeah, this was while I was still studying so just very much on the side and I would share what I was doing at uni as well. Then, when I graduated, I found that jobs were scarce. It was easy enough to find a retail job or whatever, but I didn't really have any jobs lined up. So, I started working hospo and then I one day I decided to just really try and focus on getting a following on Instagram and try to make things here and there and see what would happen. Then over lockdown, it was kind of funny because despite everything going on, it gave me the chance to really focus on it and spend everyday sewing and designing things - so that really helped it take off. After that, it's sort of just been growing more and more and I've found a really good balance. My hours at my hospo job are really good because I just work nights, so I can sew all day and then go to my 'normal' job at night. Recently I have had to reduce my hours and I'm getting closer and closer to selling clothes full time, which is kind of exciting!
Cool, so at the moment you're just doing one-off pieces, do you plan on expanding that eventually to create your own lines?
Well, I kind of like the idea of each piece being a one-off, very small runs, so that whatever piece you have from me is quite unique. Also, I am just a one-man business; I design it, cut it out, make it, press it, and send it out. Everything is just me.
So very labour-intensive!
Yes, very labour-intensive. A lot of hours go into it, so that's all that I can do. I can't really do big runs of things. I mean that's something I would look into as my business expands, but at the moment I feel like that is also a bit of a selling point. There's a big focus these days on slowing down and supporting small businesses and hand-crafted products, so I think that's sort of cool as well. I'm happy with just running with that at the moment and seeing what happens!
Awesome, so that kind of builds into the next question... What are your goals both short-term and long-term?
Well, that's a tough one because originally I had decided to use this as a way to build up my portfolio so that I could perhaps find a job overseas. But now with the attention that I'm getting, I'm thinking about maybe just putting all of my time into this and seeing where it takes me!
Yeah, and I guess it makes it more difficult now that you can't necessarily travel all over the world, haha!
Yeah, exactly, there's definitely that as well, haha!
So, you're Danish - I feel like there is such a demand in the NZ market for Scandinavian style, yet I don't see it around much...
Yeah, it's funny because through Instagram I've noticed I have quite a few followers from Denmark. I have a lot of Danish girls who message me interested in buying my clothing. There is obviously that sort of appeal to that market which is cool. Unfortunately, shipping is just absolutely ridiculous to send it that far across the world! I do have plans to one day move back to Denmark, so I'm hoping to set up shop over there eventually!
Oh, awesome! And would you keep your business in NZ as well?
I mean, I would definitely look at making worldwide shipping available, yeah! It's just a little challenging with the NZ fashion industry because it is really small, there isn't an abundance of pattern-makers and machinists. So it is a little bit challenging to expand your business, it’s costly.
I bet! So, do you plan on continuing this as a solo venture, or would your ultimate goal be to build a team and a business around it?
I would like to do that. I've always been really bad at working for other people. I think I always knew that I needed to work for myself because it's just how I function best. I would really like to do that eventually, but I do want to go out and learn and get some really good experience from someone else first. I also want to have a huge sustainability aspect to my brand. I don't want to just start another standard fashion business; I just don't think there's a place for those kinds of businesses in the world anymore. I think if you start a business, you have to do it the responsible way. I do want to get out and network, meet some people, learn how I can operate sustainability within the business, and then look to start a proper brand.
Awesome! And at the moment you're using some offcuts is that right?
Yeah, at the moment I'm using a lot of deadstock fabric. So, I visit my local fabric shops and buy the remnants from the rolls. I was also lucky enough to have a friend working for Paris Georgia, she was really nice and gave me all of their deadstock fabric which I used. It was also amazing fabric as you can imagine, so that was really cool! At the moment I do just use my local fabric shop and I just buy a few metres and make sure to use every inch of that fabric. So that pre-order basis, or just making something and then selling it, rather than just doing it and being wasteful.
That would actually be a great idea, basing your business model off using offcuts from existing brands!
Yeah definitely! Because there's so much of it, you'd be surprised! In the space of one month, I got about three huge loads of it, massive bags. And there's so much you can do with it! People really seem to like that patchwork look where you mix a lot of different fabrics. I've seen a lot of it on Instagram, people make cute little bags that way, and hats, so there's so much you can do!
So is your main priority at the moment clothing, I see you do some accessories as well?
Yeah, mainly clothing. Because I sell on Instagram I have to make sure I make things that are quite easy- fitting so that it's not a gamble if you buy something from me, you can be sure that it's going to fit. I do easy-fitting tops and dresses, and hats and bags are also quite a good thing to do because there's no real 'fit' risk involved in that.
Yeah, and I guess you can utilise those off-cuts again!
Yeah, definitely! So in summer, I'll definitely start making some more bucket hats!
Cool, I look forward to that!
So, what would you say has been your biggest challenge so far?
Honestly, just the labour-intensive aspect. Everything comes down to me, so right now I've got like 20 tops to make...
And I guess people want things so quickly these days as well!
Yeah, that's the other thing, juggling the attention as well. Obviously, as my following is increasing, I'm getting a lot more requests and people wanting things from me. I sometimes feel a little bit guilty that I can't cater to everyone. It's almost getting a bit out of hand at this point haha, I could really use an extra pair of hands right now!
Yeah, it must be a lot! How do you plan on managing that as it evolves?
It definitely depends on how it goes in the next couple of months, but if it does get to a point where I can't fulfill all of those requests and orders, I will look at getting a few bits and bobs manufactured in NZ. I also want to get a website up and running so people can easily buy it online. Right now, it's people messaging me and me having to go through all my DMs and seeing who messaged first, who's wanting what.
Yes, the pros and the cons of social media!
Yeah exactly, so I have a few goals there. At the moment it's on the cusp of manageable, but we’ll see how it goes.
So, what would you say has been your biggest success so far?
I would say my biggest success would be when I started doing my patchwork tops, the easy-fitting tops with the ties. When I started focusing on those and doing them in heaps of different fabrics, I noticed that got a lot of attention. And then just the increase in followers recently. I feel like it's moved from a little side hobby to being more of a legitimate business. I've now sent a few pieces overseas too. I've sent a few to Denmark, a few to Australia, and I'm getting a few people from New York messaging me as well.
That must be some nice validation!
And do you have any regrets so far?
Probably not, no real regrets. I think if anything I should have just started sooner rather than messing around for a year after uni. I had a retail job that I absolutely hated. I think it is quite intimidating starting your own business, especially in this day and age where it's such a saturated market and everyone is sort of trying to start their own thing. So I think I thought it was quite unrealistic for me, whereas I should I have just done it and believed in myself more from the beginning.
But still early days!
Exactly. I think you learn from all of your mistakes. So, no regrets thus far, I hope there aren't going to be any!
Fingers crossed! Cool, and do you have any advice for anyone ready to do the same?
I would honestly just say marketing is everything. The way that you market yourself on Instagram needs to be super concise and you need to have an angle. If you're not someone who is that good or interested in taking photos, or you don't really have an eye for style, get someone involved who does! Get someone who knows about Instagram, what appeals to people, and what looks good because I honestly think that is everything. Sometimes it’s a shame seeing a product lose its effect through either a bad photo or bad styling because it's honestly really easy!
So, you've managed to do all that yourself?
Yeah, so I literally do everything. I take the photos and style everything. A lot of it is just shot in my house. I just set up a sheet and make it look sort of 'studio-esque' and then take the photos, edit them, and post them. It genuinely is a one-man show!
That's super cool, but it must also be super stressful!
Yeah, well you definitely find yourself enjoying aspects of it more. I love taking the photos and stuff but then when I have to cut something out or sew something, I'm like, can I just do the fun part!
Hopefully, eventually, you'll have someone you can delegate all those tasks to and just do the things you love!
Yeah exactly. I've always said if I'm ever someone's boss, because I've had so many horrible bosses in the past, I'm going to make sure I'm a really good one!