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Breakfast with Heroes

Breakfast with Heroes

By: Jennifer Sonco

Waking up at 6am has never been my cup of tea. And preparing for an interview for the first time was definitely shaking up my nerves. Being from a small city in California, only having interviewed my teenage nephew on how he would describe his childhood, definitely does not help when preparing to interview the two amazing ladies from Local Heroes. But little did I know, it was the best interview I’ve had yet. So laid back and fun to talk to. Certainly much more interesting than my nephew.

Waking up at 6am has never been my cup of tea. And preparing for an interview for the first time was definitely shaking up my nerves. Being from a small city in California, only having interviewed my teenage nephew on how he would describe his childhood, definitely does not help when preparing to interview the two amazing ladies from Local Heroes. But little did I know, it was the best interview I’ve had yet. So laid back and fun to talk to. Certainly much more interesting than my nephew. 

Walking into the unique and creative Cereal Killers Cafe could not have been the most perfect place for these two colourful designers to host their launch of their new collection. Sugar filled cereal, a table full of colourful goodies, and an amazing collection to look at, what more could you ask for to enjoy your breakfast.

I was lucky enough to interview one of the designers, the talented Areta Szpura. Having perhaps the best conversation and learning from her stories was a great way to start my day and got a taste at how doing real stuff sucks.

How did you grow your business from your £150 start?
Well it's all going baby steps. And I think just doing what you really believe in doing. And doing it with all your heart. And growing organically. And then doing something good so people will see it and like it and buy it. Because like our first order was like five T-shirts then we got ten T-shirts and twenty and that's how we went to like hundreds. So it's just like baby steps.

How did it evolve from a T-shirt business to what it is now?
Well we never planned to have a clothing line, we just did cool T-shirts to wear and ask our friends. And then the response was so good, that more people wanted to wear it. So first it was T-shirts and sweatshirts, because that was the easiest to make. And now after three years, we are trying to do more. More shirts, denim, lingerie and swimwear. We do as much as we can but then we have too much ideas and we still don't know how to do half of them. So we are learning and that is how we can grow. And then because we never went to school for that. We didn't have an investor or somebody that can help us. It’s all us. But then at the same time that's what's awesome because a lot of times we had an idea and did our research on our own. And we thought it's totally doable. We go to a factory because we are doing everything in Poland. So the technology sometimes is not as high and we go there and we tell them what we want. And they are like, “Oh no we can’t do that, that’s impossible.” And we were like, “Yes you can.” And after like ten hours of talking they finally try and ultimately succeed. And they are like, “oh thanks, because of you we learned something too.” And I think of course school is important, now I go to school and learn. But to be honest, I feel like practice is so much more. We have no buyers, no boxes. It's at the same time bad and good. Because of course it's good to have the knowledge but because we don't have any barriers, sometimes you don't even realise “this should be a problem” because we go and do something and then overthink it. Sometimes it's not something you read in a textbook and know how to do it. We just think and brainstorm and come up with new ideas.

Since you manufacture in Poland, would you consider moving close to London?
Yes of course; it's easier for us to do it in Poland because of language and taxes and paperwork. But we want to keep it under control. We want to support local businesses. So if we find a good manufacture in London, then of course why not? And especially if we will grow in England then that would be awesome too. So we are super open. I think we will get there soon.

Do you work seasonally or have regular drops?
That depends because at first we had no collections at all. It was just like cool stuff that would be available all the time. Every time we had an idea we did that. So now we are trying to get more into collections. Just because if we want to work for stores and trade shows and everything, we just need to do that, but still we are not there yet. We are trying but it takes years and years of practice. But at the same time we don't want to get into a routine. We have to do something to work in the industry but we don't want to be the same as everyone. Because I think seasons are overrated, and not useful anymore. For my generation, it's like I don't care from what season something is, it's just like if I like it I want to buy it. And of course there is stuff like jackets and swimwear, but like T-shirts or sweatshirts, they can be for any season. So as long as I have a cool idea, I don't want to wait a whole year to put it on the market. I just want to do something like next month. So we are trying to do a balance of having some stuff in advance but then we don't want to limit ourselves. Because we are not a big group that has rules, so we just want to make our own rules. And somehow change the market a little bit. That’s our ambition.

How long have you and Karolina been friends, how did you meet?
Nothing would happen without internet. Me and Karolina met on the internet because we are both fashion bloggers. One month she won a competition at a magazine and at the same time I won, so we just emailed and said congratulations. Then we started talking on the internet, for like a year because she wasn't living in my city. So she came one time to meet and then we became friends and things sparkled. It was chemistry. We became best friends. And then when she graduated, she came to my hometown Warsaw, we spent all the time together. And she lived next to my high school, so we started going to school. I just came over to her apartment. The company would have never started if it weren't for the internet, because I had a blog that was called 'Doing real stuff sucks'. And before the company, I was doing styling, blogging and social media. And Karolina was a huge Justin Bieber fan. She was so bored in Poland, she found his address in google maps. Literally by the shape of the pool, going house by house. The possibility that it was actually his house was one in a million. And then the possibility of actually getting the package, that to be honest, I think about it now looked like a bomb. Because it was the cheapest airmail, in a plastic bag, with no stickers or logos. It was like our first month of doing it. And she was a fan and one of our first T-shirts was “Doing Real Stuff Sucks”, so she wanted to send him something. After two weeks, there was paparazzi pictures everywhere of him wearing it. And we were like “OMG, what just happened?”. So suddenly we were like this big brand and big designers, and we are just sitting back in our little room, like “ok what do we do now”. It's fun but like two hundred orders is not as little as five orders. We have to work hard and figure out how to do it, learn from our mistakes, and just leave everything behind and try to do it because we had the chance. Because after that a lot of publicity helped us and the picture was everywhere. It was just a plain T-shirt but it had a motto that a lot of people related to and they wanted to know where they can get it. And of course it also led to a lot of fakes, rip-offs everywhere on the market. But you can't fight with it. The same happened when Cara Delevingne wore our Bad Hair Day beanie because we met here in paris at the fashion week and we just gave her a bag of clothes and she wore it for the whole fashion week so there was a lot of pictures everywhere. The next season, ten high street stores had the same designs as we did, like T-shirts and beanies that we can't fight, like H&M and Zara. It's just a big compliment that they are using it. After Justin, our next goal was Rihanna. We somehow became those crazy teenage girls that were specialist at getting to celebrities like in weird ways. Not like we are a PR agency. Because with Rihanna we did the same. Put her address in google maps and we just sent her a package. Then we met her in London because she started following us on Instagram and it was super weird because we came up to her and she was like, “I know who you are, I follow you on Instagram.” We were like, “What just happened. Just remember to breathe and remember she is just a human too.” But that was awesome. So now we are trying to be a little more professional and keep our spirit of doing crazy stuff but we just know, once we grow we just have more people to work with us, that will be a big step for us. Because it's our baby, how can we trust other people? It's like finding a good babysitter, for our baby, was hard. But we are doing it like baby steps. That's how we want to grow organically. That was my plan for my life. I didn't know what I want to do, but I just knew I wanted to do something I will love. Waking everyday and just knowing you are doing something, not just for yourself, someone else. Just knowing you can do better and have awesome things to work on everyday. So we are super happy.

Where did you study?
I go to school now but when we started, I was 19. So no, but I worked before in the industry, I had some knowledge. But we didn't know anything about manufacturing, we are just learning everything. But I am going to school now, for fashion management. But to be honest, I know more than my professors do, at some point. Because it's not a super good school, it's not LCF. I was thinking about it but then I have to stay in Warsaw. So we are just learning a lot, I am still thinking about doing internships and learning. Because I want to evolve. But yes school is not everything. Because at school they just teach you if you want to be a designer, stylist or a manager. And I'm like ok but I'm both, like I'm everything. I don't want to be put in a box, I want to have someone to push me and I want to learn but I don't want to have any barriers put around me.

What was your inspiration behind the latest collection?
It was all about Grungy look but our own way. I love grunge and 90s but more pastel and rainbow way and girly. So I thought it was a more fresh combination. And that's a nice upgrade for just T-shirts and sweatshirts, having like a pastel check shirt. Adding a plastic, clear transport foil, so we have little details, so that it was a little futuristic. It's hard to do something that wasn't seen before, because we are overflown with clothes, like everywhere. So we thought it was new and fresh, and it was easy to manufacture, which is good for us. So we just thought what we can do with that and and make a a tote bag with some details. We have an awesome sweatshirt with a whole panel of transport foil, it might be weird but it's something new. Like it's weird to wear but you have to have some unsafe pieces also. You know, wearing real stuff sucks. The whole motto is like reality sucks.

What advice do you have for graduates who want to start their own collection?
Having your own ideas and just not being afraid to do what you feel, even if it might be something new. Don't copy others and learn from other mistakes. Just don't copy, because a lot of people do that. And practice and learn and do as much as you can. It's good to go out to people and show your designs. Because you want people to wear it. That's the point of making clothes. So you have to know who are you making them for. Start with your friends. I love going on the street and looking at people in our hometown and different cities. Sometimes I just come up to people, I like how they are dressed, and just start talking to them. Get their opinion, what are they looking for, what they are missing. Especially with internet, it's hard. With Instagram and Facebook, that are also good to see your target, your client. But nothing can replace the real contact.

Lastly, do you take on interns?
We are all the time looking for interns. We have some people helping us. We are still growing, we are looking for new people to join us. It is important to find people who like our stuff and feel the vibe.

Images provided by the talented Sabrina Carder