Crossing over with real style

Taking skills learnt as product designers and using them to develop goods for the real world has proved quite an education for the founders of Bang Bang

Our consultancy is all about clever and carefully thought out design. This sounds simple, but as we are both product designers, you might argue that we have no business being in the fashion industry.

We began early last year, while working in different consultancies. We’d found that, when buying clothes, there’s always an item we’d already designed in our heads, but which was impossible to find – a problem many people must have, not just designers.

This frustration led to the creation of Bang Bang.

As product designers, the practice of using interesting materials, split lines and attention to detail were all ingrained in us by training.

It seemed obvious these ideas could be transferred into the fashion industry – to design clothes as products.

We began to sketch clothes and play with ideas of what we wanted them to say and who we thought might wear them.

As these developed we found ourselves getting carried away with the big picture – packaging, branding the Bang Bang family – and so decided, given our relative inexperience, we should begin on a small scale and design, produce and market one garment.

We chose bobble hats as Bang Bang’s first venture.

Neither of us had knitted before, so we began by sourcing someone who could make the products.

We compared pricing and got to understand the constraints of the knitwear manufacturing process – and looking at our sketches it was clear we had a long way to go.

We were lucky that our timings differed from the major clothing lines. We had crept in with potential ordering times far later than the big brands, which wanted their clothes made en masse and early. This meant that UK suppliers which would normally have far bigger fish to fry were willing to talk to us and offer their time to help develop the products.

We were set on making our products in the UK. Our vision for the brand was built on the idea of high-quality British craftsmanship and manufacture. This decision was not cost-driven, but relied on what we thought would be a more ‘wholesome’ process.

Looking back, this was a good decision – it meant we could talk directly with the person who made our products, and could control the outcome and make quick decisions. Our manufacturer, a father-and-son team, is based in Leicestershire. It exports knitwear products globally and, although small, is one of the few specialist large-gauge knitters still in the UK.

Having found the right company, the process began of sampling the hats, as well as working on other garment ideas.

We began to develop a close relationship with our manufacturer and were, step by step, perfecting the bobble hats. We decided not to use stock wools, so we sourced a Yorkshire-based wool-dyer who would apply some of the final custom colours that we had been choosing digitally.

As time passed, we frequently found ourselves among piles of wool in Leicestershire. By spending a lot of time with the manufacturer we were able to prototype our ideas there and then, and make adjustments as and when we needed to.

By September we were happy with the knit pattern, style, colour and fit of our hats, and we were ready to press ‘go’ on the initial manufacturing process. We chose to make a limited-edition run of 250 so we could test the market.

We focused on the bobble hats because they were simple, but as product designers we were concerned to make them comfortable and to offer a different take on a traditional knit in order to make them unique.

The packaging echoes the ‘feel’ of the products, to suggest they’re an investment, products with a ‘soul’.

Packaging design was a familiar challenge to us – it was developed early on, alongside the development of the hats, and helped to create a more cohesive product.

The branding is evolving. We have focused on making everything modest, but functional – a strategy driven mainly by a limited budget. However, an effective route to market can be established at minimal cost, using simple graphic design and a hassle-free customer experience.

Bang Bang remains in its infancy, and we are taking our time in developing a full wardrobe. We launch officially this autumn with a full range of garments made and designed in Britain. All of our garments have been designed with the ethos we are trying to establish.

Our business insight has shown us that, despite being a small outfit, it is possible to transfer skills between creative industries and use this shift to create something different.

A few small tips

  • Find something you yourself would like to buy, but can’t find in the shops
  • Apply the same skills to the task that you’d offer to clients
  • Think small, and get details right before trying to expand
  • Look for suppliers small enough for you to be able to control processes effectively
  • Match the simplicity of the product in your branding
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  • William Brown November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Very interesting story. Where can i find some of their items? Would like to check them out.

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