Well I had a very busy day on Saturday. A couple of months ago I discovered that Liberty London was putting a call out for British based designers to register for another of its open call events. The Open Call is a fantastic opportunity for up and coming designers to try and get their work into Britain’s most iconic design focused department store. Whilst at university studying Fine Art much of my work was influenced and inspired by William Morris, so I have always been very aware and interested in the history and brand that is Liberty London.
I had been unsure initially as to whether or not I should apply to register for the Open Call, but I quickly realised that I should not let my nerves get the better of me. I believe in my product and growing a business often means having to take a leap of faith and plunge into the unknown – if I don’t try I won’t succeed! So I filled in the registration form, included a few images of W&A products and clicked send (there was no going back now).
A few days later I got a confirmation email to say that my registration had been successful and that I was invited to come to Liberty with a few samples of W&A products!
The end of August quickly came around and as it did the weight and importance of this opportunity dawned on me more and more. Each business is allowed to take along up to four samples of their work so I needed to carefully consider these. In the end I decided to take a £32 Badger & Hedgehog cushion, a Hare Lampshade, a Stag Tea Towel and one of the new W&A Fox mugs; this collection demonstrated the range of Whinberry & Antler designs and products nicely. I also did some research into the home ware products and designers Liberty currently stock, taking into account the price points for these. I also looked into some blog posts from other businesses that had attended previous open calls and found a couple of brilliant youtube videos. All this meant that I felt more prepared with what to expect and questions that I might get asked – I would highly recommend doing the same thing to anyone else who may be thinking about going in the future.
A short video about the Open Call, definitely worth a watch – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LJGFNTwDA0
So I made my way to London on Friday afternoon to be able to join the queue nice and early on Saturday. There are no pre booked appointments, you are seen on a first come first serve basis. At 8:15am I arrived at Liberty and joined the back of the queue, which already wrapped its way around two sides of the building!
Doors for the British Design Open Call 2014 opened at 8:30am and the first entrants were seen at 9am. Each pitch was limited to only 4 minutes, so the queue quickly began to move along and we made our way past the front and down the side of the building. I was feeling pretty nervous when I first arrived at Liberty, but quickly made friends with the people queueing with me which was nice and a great way to pass the time. Luckily the sun was shining on Saturday, but I would recommend taking a brolly and wearing smart, but comfortable shoes, as you will be stood up for a long time. It’s also worth taking a bottle of water as it gets pretty warm inside.
Eventually we made our way into the building itself! (Another wave of nerves kicked in at this point, I was one step closer to the all important 4 minute pitch!) Slowly and gradually the queue made its way up the beautiful old wooden stairwell. It was really interesting to see the products other people had brought along, at one point a gentleman came back down the stairs, having done his pitch, with a French Bulldog modelling his range of pet clothing! There really was such an interesting and eclectic range of products – there are a lot of very talented creatives in this country.
Upon reaching the top floor at about 11:30am I wrote my name down on a sheet of paper, took a seat, and waited to be called into the next room to make my pitch. To say that I was very nervous by this point would be an understatement! But again, I chatted with the other designers around me and soon the nerves settled. I think that it is very natural to get nervous in this kind of situation, but I just reminded myself that I would do the best I could and to enjoy the experience more than anything else! All the Liberty staff were very lovely and chatty, helping to make everyone feel a little more at ease. A TV crew were there filming and interviewing different people, so it will be very interesting to watch the documentary when it is shown on channel 4.
After about an hour of waiting my name was called and I got up to go through to make my pitch! I went into the next room and sat at a table with a lady called Andrea and a gentleman called Simon. They were both really friendly, so whilst I was nervous to begin with, they quickly put me at ease and I relaxed into the pitch. I talked them through my designs and how the items are made. They asked questions about production times, costs, care instructions and sales. Having prepared for these questions before hand meant that I was able to answer quickly and confidently. We had a nice chat about the designs and they gave me some really useful feedback. At the end of the pitch Andrea said that she was interested and asked if I could leave her some contact details. I handed over my trade product guide which had been bound and included thumbnail product images, a Dandelion Hedgehog fabric sample and one of my leaflets; I think that they were both pleased that I had more than just a business card to leave with them. And so I shook their hands, thanked them for their time and left.
As I made my way back down the stairs and through the door out of the building I felt so elated! All those nerves in the 5 hours of queueing had turned into a very positive feeling and I was so happy to have taken that gamble and push myself outside of my comfort zone! It would be fantastic to supply Liberty London, and it is great that they offer the opportunity for designers to come and get their products seen. Whatever the eventual outcome may be, I am so so pleased that I went and cannot recommend it enough to any other designer makers. Like I said before, if you don’t try, you won’t succeed!
And so thank you once again to Liberty London and all the staff who helped on Saturday. And thank you to the judges for being kind and friendly. It really was a brilliant day and will go down as a milestone moment in the history of Whinberry & Antler.