As someone who stretches time with endless emailing, writing and blagging, I’m not one for waiting. Like most I hate waiting to get paid, waiting in line and waiting for a package but waiting for Tom’s response regarding this interview, I was pleasantly patient.
With fluff press releases and emails I would never subscribe to, I was quite looking forward to an email from Mr Lipop. Maybe I’ve met too many designers or just fallen in love their work but I have found they can be are pretty truthful and Tom didn’t disappoint.
So firstly, what made this Seaside kid want to become a designer?
‘I’ve always been interested in design whether it be architecture, product, graphics or fashion. I love the whole process from the point of being inspired to producing a final product.’
Growing up in Brighton, with plenty of out-door space, an early fixation of Football and design resulted in hours spent drawing football kits Tom thought he may wear one day. With dreams to become a footballer on the horizon, a snapped leg put a stop to the premier league dream but opened up new goals.
So after a short-lived Sports career, Bournemouth University was next on the agenda; ‘I studied for 3 years specializing in menswear but as far as I can see, I will be studying in this industry for the rest of my life. You’re always learning. I was part of Project Catwalk, Series 3 which was a great adventure and worked solidly for 2.5 years. I also gained experience with designers such as House of Holland, Nathan Jenden, and Griffin Laundry whilst freelancing and building up my own contacts.’
With all the highs and lows of the design world, inspiration is at the forefront of the brands direction. Tom seeks influence from rather unusual sources such as household appliances and furniture but still rather than forcing creative thinking, the designer would rather it would come naturally.
So with a busy schedule and time to work on new collections, it must be hard to watch what the rest of the industry is doing? ‘It’s hard to keep up when you’re an upcoming brand. There is so much to do and organize already and generally you only have a small team, if any, so finding time is difficult. I try to keep up to date and spend most evenings checking out other brands, blogs and website to see what is happening.’ And amazingly, Tom still has time for London Fashion week; ‘It was amazing showing with Vauxhall Fashion Scout. The support they gave was fantastic and although the show went great, probably the best part was the amount of exposure we received afterwards. We have signed with Blow PR since and have been featured in numerous high profile magazines and secured new stockists, all of which came after just showing our second collection. This makes us enthused for the future.’
In regards to exposure, designers can face comments regarding the price of their product. Is it right that the fashion folk have to use their flexible friends for expensive items or can designer items be affordable? ‘I think Fashion as a whole is already affordable, hence the high street. Design on the other hand is for me, a little more thought through. Having a high price point does make it slightly less accessible but of course more desirable in that you are not going to see every Tom, Dick and Harry wearing it. It is difficult as a young designer to keep price points low when you are producing small quantities; it’s trying to balance it all out that’s key.’
Balancing act it can be but then the high street can also abuse designer’s creative ideas to make a quick buck. ‘To be honest, it doesn’t really bother me, its part and parcel and happens in every industry. At the end of the day Skoda will never build a Ferrari, likewise the high street will never create Mister Lipop. Fabrics, cut, quality and finish are impossible to get at a high street price. You get what you pay for and when it comes to fakes and replicas that is a different story!’
Wise words from somebody who has achieved so much from two collections. Maybe the trials of Project Catwalk, Shadowing high profile designers and London fashion week, has taught Tom many things University couldn’t.
So as Menswear is a great success for the Designer, are there plans to expand the brand to a more womanly friendly collection? I think it is definitely something we might think about when we have fully established ourselves in menswear. I would like to collaborate on womenswear with certain designers, which there is a couple in particular which I would love to work with but you will have to watch this space.
Already much greatness is hinted at and touched on but what does the near future bring? ‘The plan is to get over to Paris in June for Menswear Fashion Week with our sales agent in the hope of securing some new stockists. We are looking to break into stores in Japan and Korea following a very successful meeting with our new distributer for those regions. We should be showing during London Fashion Week in September whilst developing our new website and collaborating with a few labels on products such as a shoe line, glasses collection, hats and a new range of bags. We are also going to be launching our black label ‘tailored by’ line, a progressive collection of suiting in luxurious fabrics.
With a packed rest of the year and plans for further expansion in 2012, any advice for budding designers out there?
“Working in the industry is your best stepping stone. Work hard, it always pays off, and know that no effort is ever wasted! Be focused and have your aim very high in your mind but be open as the path may not necessarily be straight.” That’s the best piece of advice I received and I think it’s best to share. Also be intuitive when working for other labels. If you’re thinking of starting your own line, ask them about factories and suppliers and take note, build up a contacts list so that when you go it alone you have somewhere to start. Find a balance between wearable and show, ultimately you are trying to run a company so you have to sell but people want to see something different. Lastly, have confidence in your work and others will have confidence in you!