British designer, Catherine Quin began her career as a lawyer in Lincoln’s Inn. A moment of serendipity – realising that Central Saint Martins was a ten minute walk from her law practice, allowed her to enroll in courses at the college and indulge her love of design as well as develop her understanding of the fashion industry as a whole.
Shortly after, Catherine committed to starting her own brand and moved to Los Angeles to gain experience with designers who inspired her. She began working for the American, CFDA award-winning brand, Vena Cava. There she was involved with various aspects of the business, from marketing to sales meetings with the likes of Barney’s and Nordstrom. She then chose to immerse herself in the manufacturing process, working in a factory to learn each step of the production process.
For Catherine it was always incredibly important that she was deeply involved with all aspects of her brand’s production. She is passionate about the details that go into the creation of every garment and the heritage and traditions of the ateliers who undertake the work. For her own designs she found a family owned factory in downtown Los Angeles, run by the founder’s granddaughter. The unique atelier character and the local proximity enabled her to visit the factory on a daily basis, collaborating closely with the team. This relationship has resulted in the exquisite production standards manifest in the detailed, consistent quality of the garments themselves.
So here’s is Catherine’s brilliant day in her life, which I think must be incredibly helpful for both anyone running their own business, and for any young designer.
6:30AM Wake up
I was never a morning person until I moved to LA. Now my body can’t sleep past 7am whatever day of the week it is. LA’s an early-to-rise city, and the mix of blue sky, sunshine and nature makes getting up far easier than most cities. The time zone also means that you’re always playing catch up with the rest of the world so the earlier you’re up, the more time you have to be on the same working day as Europe (8 or 9 hours ahead) and New York (3 hours ahead).
The first thing I do before I’ve even gotten out of bed is check my emails on my phone. The content of my inbox definitely has an impact on my mood when I wake up so it’s a routine I’m trying to break. I’d love to get into the habit of waking up, doing yoga and calmly reading the paper to start my day but that’s just not me. Firstly, I’m not a huge yoga enthusiast, but knowing there’s only a few hours to communicate with Europe means I always wake up eager to be as productive as possible in those early hours and deal with any work issues immediately.
7AM Make coffee and eat breakfast with my computer, answering emails and making calls to Europe.
At the moment the brand is collaborating on a photography art project with an amazing photographer friend of mine who’s based in London. This morning we send mood images back and forth over email, refining the concept and scope of the project and discussing the dates we can shoot. Sample logistics can be an issue when things are going between London and LA but luckily I have a fantastic PR team in London who do most of this organisation for me. They have a set of samples over there and I have a set in LA and then some in NYC so it takes a good inventory system to keep on top of all the logistics.
9AM Runyon Canyon hike
I used to work as a lawyer in a very structured corporate environment in London. Some people really thrive off this high-pressure city environment but I found it suffocating. I also spent far too much of my day crushed in the rush hour tube traveling to and from the office along with the mass of city workers. It made me miserable. Having control over how I spend my day and how I live my life was a huge impetus for me starting my own business. So now I never take for granted the freedom I have to define my day and organise my schedule in a way that suits how I want to live. Of course there are meetings and events that are dictated by others and the aforementioned time zone issues do impact my schedule but ultimately I’m the person who makes the choice about what my priorities are each day and how I allocate my time.
After working for a few hours I enjoy doing something for myself at a time that suits me. Most days I’ll go on a 45 minute hike up Runyon Canyon which is a 5 minute drive from my house. I love that LA has so much nature literally on your doorstep and the weather means there’s very little excuse not to make the most of it. Sometimes I’ll meet some friends and we’ll all hike together which makes it fun and social or I’ll go on my own with my music. Either way the sunshine and the views never fail to make me appreciate the lifestyle LA enables me to live.
10AM Shower and leave for the factory downtown.
The drive normally takes me about 45 minutes and in spite of many people’s complaints about LA traffic I try to embrace the driving culture. The car journey gives me another chance to make any calls, listen to the radio or my music all in the comfort and privacy of my own little bubble. Compared to standing on an over-crowded tube for the same amount of time it seems like a luxury so it’s all about your perspective.
10:45AM Arrive at my factory.
There’s a juice bar nearby so most days I’ll pick up a green juice with kale, cucumber, celery and lemon. There are juice bars on practically every corner in LA so as cliché as it sounds it’s hard not to become a green juice convert once you start living here. It makes me feel like I’m being healthy and virtuous even if I follow it with a biscuit and some sugar-laden tea.
11AM Meeting with my manufacturing team.
If we’re not in a heavy production phase I’ll be developing samples for next season’s collection. But most likely I’ll be juggling both so I’m always in daily contact with my production team wherever I am in the world.
I moved to LA to be as hands on as possible with my manufacturing process so I really value being able to visit my factory every day, speak to my sewers, review the quality of the garments as they’re being made and make sure any issues are dealt with immediately. The quality of the construction is so integral to my brand that it’s imperative that I have a good relationship with all of the team to make sure things run smoothly. It’s amazing how many different steps and people are involved in creating each garment. This hands-on approach also means that ethically I’m able to personally ensure that the people involved with or employed by my brand have a decent wage and a good, safe working environment. So manufacturing in LA makes the most sense to me right now.
The whole team and I will have coffee together and discuss the status updates for different orders and next season’s development, ensuring everything’s on schedule and any issues are being resolved quickly and effectively. The lawyer in me can’t help but impose a lot of organisational structures and timelines on the team so we all have detailed targets and roles to ensure we stay on schedule.
After meeting with my production team the rest of my day depends on what the priorities are for that phase of the season. I’ve received my order confirmations from all my sales meetings at Paris fashion week so I’m currently ordering all the various fabric and trims from my different suppliers. This season we’ve had orders from Japan, Korea, Canada, the UK, the US and Switzerland so it’s exciting to start the manufacturing process so we can have the collection hanging in all these stores around the world as soon as possible.
1PM Visiting my suppliers
Last year I discovered a fantastic leather vendor based in a huge warehouse just outside of downtown LA so I head over to meet with the owner. Every type of leather can be found on his shelves, from bright purple, studded novelty crocodile skin to beautifully rich, black suede that I’ve personally become obsessed with. It’s like a candy shop.
The owner lets me get away with things others won’t because we’ve developed a good relationship. When buying large quantities, leather is generally sold in big bundles of multiple ‘skins’ that you’re not permitted to open. He knows that I’m fanatical about quality and because each skin can vary he lets me secretly open every bundle and select all my favourite skins, discarding the ones that aren’t up to scratch. It can take quite a while but it’s worth it as I always walk away with my own newly formed bundles made up entirely of the highest quality skins.
Sometimes I’ll have a lunch meeting at a nice restaurant but I tend to eat a sandwich or some Mexican tacos on the go. In the warehouse districts around downtown LA and Vernon they have some amazing taco trucks which serve fresh tacos and ceviche on the side of the street. Everyone gathers on the pavement standing against a tree or a wall or sitting on a stoop whilst they eat their food and drinks a can of Tecate beer. I order 3 shrimp tacos and a glass bottle of Mexican coke.
3:30PM Return to my factory studio space.
There’s a private workshop to the side of my factory that I use as a studio. Whilst visiting my various textile vendors to place my orders I also take the time to examine anything new that they have in stock for next season. I’m creating the moodboards for my next collection so this is a great time to brainstorm and be inspired by new fabrications that will inform next season’s direction.
The beautiful, high quality fabrics I use are central to the brand DNA. I only use natural fabrics and my obsession with quality means I only incorporate the most luxurious silks and cashmeres, wools and leather into each collection. Even the linings of all the pieces are 100% silk. My current favourite is a heavy, double-faced silk georgette which I fell in love because of its amazing drape and sumptuous feel against the skin. It’s incredibly flattering, skimming the body and disguising any problem areas whilst creating a beautifully clean silhouette. I’m constantly collecting fabric swatches and even on the weekends I can’t help popping into new fabric shops for inspiration.
5:30PM Meeting with my assistant to go over e-commerce strategy for the website.
Although everything on the website has been made to order, we’re about to offer a selection of the core pieces to buy on the site. This requires a lot of technical back-end know how and organisation, as well as product shots, garment descriptions, size information, shipping policies etc so my assistant has been handling this project and doing an amazing job. We go over the images, her descriptions and the policy wording, amending anything that needs changing. I put my lawyer hat on and construct the terms and conditions but it’s getting late so this will be edited and finished tomorrow.
Another great aspect of running your own business is creating your own company culture. Hiring people that you actually want to be surrounded by every day with the ethics and personality style that you value and mesh with is a massive bonus. My assistant was my first hire and she’s a great asset. She’s incredibly competent with an inspiring work ethic and she’s generally just a joy to have a round. I know as companies grow, so do the managerial duties which can bring it’s own downsides but right now I appreciate this moment of being able to select the personalities I surround myself with in my working environment.
6.45PM Leave downtown to drive back to my home in the Hollywood Hills
7:30PM Watching the sunset
The LA twilights are my favourite part of the day. I like to sit on my terrace and watch the sky go from pink, to red to blue and finally to black. It’s magical and feels like some sort of surrealist painting unfolding when the light turns the sky, the trees and even the buildings pink. Now that the clocks have gone back I can make it home for sunset and watch the metamorphosis with a glass of wine, looking over the twinkling city.
8:30PM Sushi with friends at Matsuhisa.
The sushi is so fresh everywhere in the city that I have a number of go-to spots dotted around town. Sushi and Mexican are my two favourites and LA does them both exceptionally well but sushi normally wins for dinner. I order from the omakase menu and share some sake while we catch up with each other’s news.
11:30PM Emails to Europe for when they wake up.
Invariably after dinner there will be a few more things on my to-do list. Rather than waiting till my morning which is the end of the day in Europe, I like to get a head start and send out any emails so they can be dealt with sooner rather than later. And then I’m off to bed!