From an early age Charlotte had a keen interest in fashion, poring over the pages of Vogue magazine and sketching ball gowns, ‘…possibly influenced by Disney princesses!’ she quips, and always knew she wanted to have her own fashion brand.
At the age of 17 Charlotte was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and to overcome the negative effects this could, and did have, on her life she rejected her offer to read Classics at St Andrews at the last minute and decided to do something more creative that, literally, got her up in the morning; a college course in Fashion and Pattern Cutting at Hull College of Art and Design.
However, ‘never being a person of any one specific discipline’, and advised by teachers to try something different; something else that would interest and push her, and come back to fashion at a later stage, Charlotte decided to study BA Spanish and Chinese, encouraged by the direction of the consumer market in China.
During her year abroad in Beijing, having the knowledge of the Chinese language, and the confidence in which this gave her, Charlotte applied to the Condé Nast Center of Fashion & Design, from which she received an invitation to attend an interview during the Beijing Graduate Fashion Week. Whilst the outcome of the interview was that she was not quite ready at that time for the advanced fashion course but there would be a place for her, if she chose to go, after University once she had developed the technical skills.
During her studies at the Beijing Capital Normal University as well as primarily focusing on her programme, her fashion interests continued and Charlotte delved into menswear, designing a custom blazer and shirt for a friend to guarantee an impression at interview and sourcing a tailor to manufacture it while in Beijing, later working at Huntsman on Savile Row. On returning to Leeds, and being introduced to SPARK by a friend, she pitched her bespoke menswear businesses idea and was awarded an Enterprise Scholarship.
SPARK were a tremendous help! For me, who didn’t have much of a business background past sales, I was given an introduction to many aspects of business — from contract law to how to perfect an elevator pitch – by industry professionals. For those who have a business background as well as for those who don’t, SPARK can provide a sufficient amount of help and advice relevant to whatever level people are at.
Through SPARK, you [students] can make industry contacts that I don’t think you’d make otherwise. They are there if you need help but also don’t add unnecessary pressure or chase you up on every small detail – which helps you develop self-discipline crucial to entrepreneurship.
Charlotte has used some of the scholarship money for administrative expenses (website hosting, business cards etc) but will be using the majority for research and product development; she is currently investigating 3D printing of suits using ethically sourced materials – allowing bespoke items to be brought to the mass market by keeping the costs low, without compromising on sustainability.
Talk about fingers in lots of pies! As well as her degree and her textile research, Charlotte is also the treasurer of the Leeds Enterprise Society…