Contemporary label Electronic Sheep is made up of creative duo Brenda Aherne and Helen Delany. Brenda is based in Dublin and Helen lives in London, where Electronic Sheep has a design studio in Dalston. The design duo grew up next door to each other, went to art school together and worked in the design industry for several years before setting up their knitwear label, Electronic Sheep. The brand is known for their tapestry-esque designs and their detailed jacquards with contemporary illustrations and bold patterns have gained them stockists in Europe and Japan. Having earned several industry awards and shown during London Fashion Week, this small business is striving for big success. Here, we take five to chat with the designers about the importance of industry training and having optimism ahead of our IMAGE Boutique Awards.
If you could start again, what would you do differently and why?
Brenda: I think I would try to get more experience in sales and build up a network of buyers and contacts before we started. I guess it would be wise to have more things in place first but then our company started quite organically. There was no big decision that we were starting a fashion label, it sort of just happened!
Helen: I would hook up with/become an IT guru. While we have always invested in our website with the relevant experts, there are always updates etc, that need to be done by us. It is one thing being creative, but I have spent hours figuring out the digital side of things and have pestered everyone and anyone who looked like they might have an IT IQ!
What has been your career highlight to date?
B: There have been loads! Our first time exhibiting at LFW was really exciting; there is a tough application process and being accepted gave us the endorsement that we felt we needed at that time. We are also really proud of our recent collaboration with the well known London designer Bobby Abley and were so happy with the collection and the fashion show which closed London Menswear Fashion Week last January.
H: Winning awards is always a good positive thing for a business! We won an award for our ‘Homage to Butchers’ knitwear collection some years back which was great as it was quite experimental and one of our first collections with detailed jacquards (knitted illustrations). We have worked hard to get our drawings to translate into knitting so it’s great when the complexity of the work is recognised and awarded! We also won a digital business award for successfully running Electronic Sheep from two different countries.
Do you use social media for your business? What importance does social media play for modern entrepreneurs?
B&H: Yes we do, it is a big part of how our products are seen. A lot of our direct online sales come from Instagram and Facebook. We have met a lot of our newer stockists via Instagram!
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What has been your biggest challenge?
B&H: As a company, our biggest challenge is cash flow. We are an independent label so the start of each season is always a struggle as we pay for all of our stock before we get paid by our stockists or make new season online sales. We both have young children so the work/life balance is always a challenge. We both feel very lucky that we have the flexibility to work around our children’s schedules so we get to spend lots of time with them.
How do you think you got to where you are today?
B&H: Hard work, industry training, optimism, good ethics and a strong signature design style.
What is your boutique’s USP?
B&H: Electronic Sheep as a brand has a really strong signature design style. Our knitwear is instantly recognisable and our website boutique emulates that. Like our products, our website store is creative, contemporary, fun but also functional.
What does your daily routine look like?
B: It depends on what time of the year it is, we might be designing or selling or working on our website among other things. At the moment I work from home which means I can drop and collect my kids from school. I usually work when they are at school or asleep!
H: I work at our studio space in East London; normally I have a hazelnut coffee to get started, check emails, speak with Brenda about the collections, projects, press and so on. The most urgent work gets done first of course and is rewarded with a massive fluorescent tick in my diary.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
B: Designing and I also love selling.
H: Ideas, drawing and designing.
What’s your least favourite part of the job?
H: Seeing graphic knitwear similar to Electronic Sheep being reproduced. It is very disheartening. The High Street has normalised copying to the point that it’s becoming standard across the industry to imitate other designers’ work.
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