At ASV, we’re making it our mission to share as much information with our incredible ASV Collective as we possibly can. BUT we can’t do this alone, so we’ve roped in some amazing female entrepreneurs to help us out, offer advice, and provide some inspiration to all of us. So we reached out to Layla Sargent, founder of fashion alteration and repair giant, The Seam.
Layla conceptualised The Seam in 2019. The brand is designed as a way to connect consumers and tailors with the aim of reducing waste from fast fashion by repairing or altering clothes. With an online network of over 700 makers across Greater London, serving thousands of people who are booking their services, The Seam platform empowers wearers to have a personalised connection with their clothes.
We asked her a few questions about her business journey so far, and to offer some words of advice to our collective of female fashion founders…
I spent my childhood with my Nan, a professional dressmaker, who lovingly tailored my clothes to fit and mended them when they became well worn. In my early teens, as the tallest and curviest in my peer group, my Nan’s skills enabled me to understand that the problem with awkward fit wasn’t my body, but the garment, itself. While my friends were swept up by disposable clothes and the rise of fast-fashion, I saw the hours my Nan put into my clothes and became more emotionally attached. I learned that alterations not only make people more comfortable and confident in their clothes, they form a bond between wearer and garment.
When I moved to London, and didn’t have my Nan’s skills on hand to make clothes fit, I experienced the options available to me – high street dry cleaners that felt impersonal, and savile row tailors that felt male-dominated and exclusive – and I wanted to create something more accessible.
It’s stunning how much a simple act of repairing an item in our wardrobe can have an impact on our environmental footprint. According to WRAP, extending the life of a garment by just nine months decreases its carbon, waste and water footprints by 20-30% each. This fact is a good reminder that repair can go beyond extending the life of the clothes we keep in heavy rotation. We also need to find ways to care and repair for garments before we part ways with them, so that clothing and footwear in a poor state of repair doesn’t enter the waste stream.
Yes! Since founding The Seam, there’s been a surge in interest towards caring and repairing clothes. We’ve continued to see an increase in the number of people using The Seam’s services as well as the frequency at which customers return for other items in their wardrobes. What we see happening in The Seam’s business is just a reflection in a much wider shift towards a whole bunch of circular fashion behaviours, including rental and resale. We see all of these circular fashion behaviours are interconnected. Our Makers help repair garments in between rentals, as well as tailor preloved garments to fit their second and third owners and beyond.
How long a garment is owned for, and remains in active use, is core to how sustainable it can be considered over its lifecycle. With this in mind, designing and making products to last a long time, both from a quality and emotional durability perspective should be a top consideration.
At The Seam, we partner with many brands to offer customers care and repair services, to aid them in making their pieces last. What we find is that we aren’t just able to extend the life of garments, we can also learn about what design elements could’ve been improved to make a longer-lasting product. When the brands we work with are interested in learning about how their pieces can be made more durable, our repair services are suddenly a critical feedback loop for business decision-making.
My advice would be to design for longevity, market your products around longevity in favour of quick trends, and then back up your business model with the services to make products last.
Having founded The Seam just before the Covid pandemic, we shut down operations almost entirely for around 9 months in 2020 – of course it didn’t make sense to be sending people to Makers’ studios during lockdown. It was an uncertain time for a business which for many services required people to meet one another in person, but looking back, it gave me the opportunity to shut out the day-to-day operations and focus on strategy and big-picture thinking.
While the world has returned to normal, I would advise all new founders to really take the time to hone their vision before letting day-today operations come in and dictate priorities. Once you start to get customers, and Makers in the case of our 2-sided marketplace, your work becomes about satisfying expectations and meeting demands. Before you get to this point, it’s so important to carve out a clear vision for who you’re serving, what you stand for, and where you want to be in 1, 2, and 5 years’ time.
One of my proudest aspects of The Seam is how it’s changing the idea of freelance work for people with a variety of making skills. In the last 50 years, as clothing production has scaled up and offshored, the value of clothing has dropped dramatically, and so has the value that we as a society place on making skills. This reality is also interconnected with making skills being traditionally deemed as ‘women’s work’.
Being a Maker on The Seam means having access to well-paid, freelance work, where Makers have control over their hours, prices, and jobs. While I initially ideated The Seam based on my own perspective as a potential customer in need of alterations, I’ve also gotten to build a community that’s changing the opportunities available to tailors, cobblers, menders and all other kinds of talented specialists.
Having launched some exciting brand partnerships already this year, including Net-A-Porter and Mr Porter, we’re working to improve our customer journey, and simplify the logistics surrounding our services, to help people more seamlessly transport their repairs to and from their Maker with little to no effort. We’re working behind the scenes on some further brand partnerships and planning some exciting events for the summer months.
A huge thank you to Layla for taking the time to answer these questions so thoughtfully. We hope you found our interview as inspiring as we did! Learn more about the ASV Collective.
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Your ASV family xx