Launching a business can be stressful. For Stephen Skeete, the pressure was doubled.
The day after Stephen launched Tress Clothing, his first child was born. He’s had to juggle being a father to a newborn daughter with being the father of a newly-founded business.
“Being an entrepreneur is brutal,” says Stephen. “I’d be lying if I said I was able to emotionally shut myself off, and then come home and be the most cheerful and jumpy partner and dad. I’d be lying, because that’s how much the brand means to me.”
But in his view, fatherhood only makes him more determined to make Tress a success.
“I want do it for her, and the people around me. I need to show her that we all need to follow our dreams.”
It’s early days, but it looks like his passion is paying off. Tress is a year old, and Stephen has launched his first collection – a premium range of ready-to-wear cashmere and cotton menswear, that straddles smart office-wear and casual. The style is sleek and under-stated. No big logos. Classic cuts and dark colours only.
“It’s a ten-piece collection, with no more than 40 of each piece. No sales, no restocks. So when people see it, they go and get it, otherwise it’s gone.”
I know exactly which mill every material is made in. I know exactly what blend of colours is used.
He’s been meticulous in every detail, including sourcing materials. “I know exactly which mill every material is made in. I know exactly what blend of colours is used – and none of them are standard.”
The ethical side – so important to fashion buyers – is also a huge priority. Stephen has researched suppliers to ensure all workers, down to the machinists, are paid fairly for their work.
And Stephen is now fine-tuning the marketing: “Product placement is the future of the fashion industry. If you give your clothes away, and flood social media, people are less trusting of the brand. But get the right person, and the right placement, and it does all the hard work for you. I’m trying to be more strategic.”
His methods are resonating. Stephen recently got an exhibition at the well-connected YKK showroom in Shoreditch, and he’s collaborating with a Soho brand that shares his ethos. “I stepped in to their store and it was like an emotion. I wanted my stuff in there. I contacted the brand and we’ve had a chat back and forth about working together in the future.”
He’s got goals galore. The next steps are to open a boutique and expand the collection into womenswear and accessories.
Fashion can be volatile. When a brand is hot, it can go stratospheric in an instant. Can Stephen handle success, if it comes fast? He’s got the experience. Tress Clothing is his second venture, after a financial services start-up. He chooses Tide for his business banking, so he has an account that’s tailor-made for rapidly evolving companies.
For me, it’s always been about that entrepreneurial side.
Above all, this fashion brand is a chance to show his family – and himself – what he’s capable of. “For me, it’s always been about that entrepreneurial side. Always wanting more, and the hunger to do whatever it takes to hit the goal that you can’t stop thinking about it.”
He reflects for a moment on this most extraordinary year of his life so far. “It’s just been a whirlwind.”