This week’s interview is with Christine Haynes, co-founder (along with husband Kent Bell) of the L.A.-based fashion line Twospace. Twospace started as the dream of two art school kids living in an industrial loft above a liquor store in Chicago. The duo relocated to Venice, CA in 2004 and in the years since, their impeccably crafted retro-modernist clothing has gained a dedicated following from Hawaii to London–even earning attention from media outlets like the New York Times, Daily Candy, and NBC’s Today Show. They still create each piece by hand, and you can shop their beautifully designed webstore or meet them in person at shows like this weekend’s Renegade Craft Fair. Read on to find out what doing it yourself really entails.
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Jenny: Do you run your indie business full time, or do you have a “day job” to help keep you afloat? BONUS: If the latter is the case, how do you balance your time/make time for crafting?
Christine: I run Twospace full time. I manage all aspects of the business, in addition to designing and making all the clothing.
Jenny: How did you make the transition to working for yourself? How do you structure your days when you’re the boss?
Christine: Quitting my “real” job was terrifying. Since my husband is also a freelancer, it was very scary to know that there were no real paychecks coming anymore. But once I did it, it was exciting to know that my fate was in my own hands. As for structuring my days, I always treated this as a business with the possibility of growing into bigger and better things. I never considered it just an at-home side craft, so staying in my pajamas all day wasn’t an option, since that is something you’d never do “at work”. So until I moved it out of the house, I got up every day, showered and got dressed, had breakfast, then “went to work” in the dining room from roughly 9-5. Friends would stop by in the middle of the day, and they all knew that even though I was home, I really was “at work”. Now that I have moved into a studio in the garment district, I actually “go to work” for real. I make sure to sew as much as I can at the studio, and save most of my computer work and paper work for evenings at home.
Jenny: How important has the internet been in relation to the growth of your business? Also, would you say the bulk of your business comes from your own website, or from wholesale accounts and/or craft show sales?
Christine: The internet has been essential for my business, both for sales and for networking. I have been able to research events, find suppliers, contact stores, and meet amazing contacts thanks to the internet. It is a priceless resource. In fact, when we were choosing our business name, we ruled out anything that we couldn’t get as name.com, since we knew that having our business name.com was critical for future business. With sales, our total sales are pretty equally split between events, wholesale, and our website. But each year, wholesale pulls a little further ahead, and events a little further behind, as we do less events each year. At first, they were all our income. But as we get more and more retailers, we do less and less events.
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Jenny: Is there anything you wish you’d done differently when starting your business, knowing what you know now? BONUS: Any resources for upstart craft businesses that you’d care to recommend?
Christine: Wow, as always, hindsight is 20/20. But in reality, there is little I would change. Even knowing that we didn’t know as much as we should have, I still wouldn’t change much. Each thing we’ve done has led to something else equally great. Books that helped me a lot at the beginning were very basic business books. As I am an art school kid, I needed most of my help in the area of business. My dad was a banker, and I did learn a lot from him, but I needed California state specific knowledge for our business and those basic “Opening a Business in CA” books were really helpful.
Jenny: How would you compare the challenges of working for yourself with working for “The Man”?
Christine: Well, when I worked for “The Man” I would leave work frustrated and exhausted, and often mad. But I could always just leave work behind. Now, I am way more exhausted, but it is so worth it. One thing no one tells you though, is that you are never really “off the clock”. I’m thinking about work 24-7, 365 days a year. But, I also know that my fate is in my own hands, and that no one will work for my own success as much as I do, so I have to bust it out as much as I can. Life is short, why not try and live your dream? There will always be a job waiting for you with “The Man” somewhere if you fail.
Jenny: Any tips on how to keep your business fresh, thriving and growing?
Christine: Seminars can be really helpful to remind you of your path. And they can be super inspiring. Also, taking a day off, for real, every now and then is essential. I have to allow myself to have a random lazy day now and then. On the flip side, knowing what your competitors and those bigger than you are doing is inspiring. I’m not really competing with Marc Jacobs, but knowing what is new in his world is inspiring and reminds me of why I love what I do so much.
Jenny: Anything other random tips or info you’d like to add on the topic?
Christine: Life is short, don’t be afraid to try something new! The worst you can do is fail, and plenty of successful people have failed many times over and survived just fine. So can you.
Related:
Twospace Webstore – Link.
Craft Biz Q+A: Little Friends of Printmaking – Link.
From the pages of CRAFT:
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CRAFT: 04 – “Restoration Hardware” by Christine Haynes and Kent Bell pgs. 64-71. Digital Subscribers can read the full article here. – Link.
Don’t miss an issue! Subscribe to CRAFT Magazine today and get 4 quarterly issues delivered to your door. – Link.