Blood Orange: the sisterhood of the travelling dungarees
Caitlin8 Feb, 2021
Betting on yourself and your idea isn’t easy. It takes a lot of courage to quit your day job and start building your dream. But this is just what Chanél Carstens did – owner and founder of fashion label, Blood Orange.
When you walk into Blood Orange, you’ll wish these were the clothes that make up your wardrobe. Situated just off Kloof Street in Gardens, it’s central location makes it ideal to pop in and have a look around.
We spoke to Chanél to learn more about her business journey and approach to fashion.
Tell us about your business journey?
Blood Orange started as a side hustle to put a bit more money into my wallet while I was studying. Originally, I was just reselling vintage items at markets around the city.
When I finished studying I felt like I had to get a ‘real job’ and my side hustle was abandoned to the darkness of the garage. But after a few years of sitting in beige offices, dreaming of my 15 days off, I realised that the dream job I craved wasn’t a job title, it was having more freedom.
I dug the old rails out of the garage and started making my own designs over weekends, after work, and sometimes during lunch breaks.
I went back to local markets, but this time with my own designs.
Slowly but surely I started getting my brand out there. But during this time I was spread painfully thin – during the week I still had my full time job and at 5 o’clock I had to rush to a market (that had already started).
It took a bit of time but Blood Orange kept growing.
From pop-ups, to two permanent market spots, to the shop we have today.
Who are the people behind Blood Orange?
Blood Orange is still very much a small business. It’s just four of us doing everything from picking patterns and fabric, making our designs, greeting you at our shop door, answering all your messages, updating our website, and packing up your order to ensure it gets to you ASAP!
What’s nice about our little business is it’s 100% female run. The vast majority of our service providers are also female-owned businesses.
What’s one business lesson you wish you’d learned sooner than you did?
As much as I want to say, “Not taking my business too seriously”, the real lesson I wish I learned sooner was, “Get my paperwork in order”.
The second you commit to your business, make sure you have the paperwork to legitimise it. Register your business, work with your bank, get an accountant, figure out your tax and keep copies of everything!
It’s definitely a big upfront cost, especially for small businesses, but it’s an investment in your business and the sooner you do it the more headaches you’ll avoid.
How is SnapScan part of your business?
What a game changer!
I originally got SnapScan when I had my original vintage shop and it was a life saver. This was before one could buy cheap card machines, so your options were cash or bust, and let’s be honest, who carries that much cash on them?
There was nothing worse than having someone who loved my design open their wallet and find only a R20 inside. SnapScan was a saving grace in this regard. It wasn’t long before my SnapScan payments exceeded my cash payments.
Watching someone download the app right in front of me because they couldn’t leave without my design was such an encouraging reminder that the items we were making were good.
Tell us about your approach to fashion? What inspires you?
Working in fashion is a weird one. There’s a lot more lugging things around than people realise – be it heavy designs or fabric. Not to mention that I still stab myself with a pin on a weekly basis.
What’s special about fashion is that you share these ideas and inspirations with so many people.
I’m constantly inspired by the people that come into our shop or chat to us via our social channels. People have this special way of making their fashion choices speak to their individual tastes, and being able to help people create that voice is such a joy.
Making a lot of our items locally also means we get to really design items for our clientele’s needs. Whether it’s comfy dungarees during lockdown or bringing back every early 2000’s design. We want to create designs that are fun.
Maybe it’s from wearing all those grey corporate looks for so long that I can’t say no to a colourful design?
Why do you have an online store and physical space? What’s it like running both?
During the pandemic we took the time to build our website – which definitely wasn’t without a few bumps in the road.
An invaluable part of running our physical store is the opportunity to speak to our clients. We always listen to feedback and take every single compliment or criticism to heart.
With the website that conversation is gone, so it’s very important to keep your social channels personal and authentic. My online jokes often crash and burn, but I love hearing back from our followers.
An awesome part of the website was reaching people outside of Cape Town. I’m always amazed at where some of our designs end up.
What advice would you give to an entrepreneur that’s starting out?
I think we grew up hearing that we should all desire stable jobs: lawyers, doctors, and teachers. Don’t get me wrong, stability is obviously important, but there are a lot of options out there.
Every time we work with a new service provider it’s the same story: someone finally taking a chance on themselves, and leaving a job they loathed to invest in their own ideas.
There are massive gaps in the market, and they could be perfectly shaped for you. Whether you start on your kitchen table or in your parents’ garage, take a chance on yourself.
But please remember the paperwork!
Next time you’re in the Cape Town CBD pop over to Blood Orange in Gardens on 7 Beckham Street.
If you’d like to share your business’ SnapScan story with us, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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