Style Servings: PolkaPants
I remember the first time I saw a pair of PolkaPants online - the oversized label with a playful font on the back caught my eye. Could it be!? Chef pants especially for women...fun sassy women at that!? It was true...
With one click over to their instagram account I entered a world filled with interesting energetic women that were thriving in the culinary scene. Despite the account's black and white color palette, it was boasting with colorful cheekiness and I had to know more.
Maxine Thompson — Chef and Founder of PolkaPants, was kind enough to give us a BTS look into the brand while even offering some very inspiring advise on how all woman should be handling their business. In a word, this interview is more than just about pants...it's about the potential in all of us.
Who is the PolkaPants woman and where do you pull inspiration from to breathe life into the brand?
The PolkaPants woman is any woman who has a passion and zest for life. She works hard and gets the most out of every experience. I draw inspiration from all the amazing women I see around me, not just women who work in hospitality, but women from all walks of life in various occupations. I love that it all started with a pair of polka dot pants. Tell us about your design/production process. How do you go from conceiving a concept to final piece?
I knew what I DIDN’T want in a pair of trousers, so it started from there. From these first samples, we did a lot of market research and user testing and tweaked the designs based on customer feedback. PolkaPants as they are today, differ slightly from the first pairs that I made myself; as the final product is based on market research and feedback from chefs are wearing our initial samples.
The design of the trousers is inspired by Utility scheme clothing of the 40s - simple, robust and functional. The high waist and slim fit is designed to flatter all shapes and sizes. I’m a lover of all this gold and sparkly, so they also feature a gold side zip detail (for a bit of kitchen glamour) and two large belt loops for tucking in a tea towel.
The name actually plays homage to essentially the first pair of PolkaPants I ever made, they were high waist with a big black polkadots on them. I made them for myself when I was in Fashion College, and then wore them while I was cooking in New York, so in a way the name represents my journey to get to what PolkaPants is today.You are a woman owned, woman focused business...what advise might you give women starting out or looking to make career changes in regards to running an independent creative business?
I had to do this exercise recently for a seminar and was asked the top 10 tips I would give, so here’s my top 10 tips!
1. Find a mentor, someone you can trust, someone who has gone down a similar road, it’s very important to have people to bounce ideas off, someone to tell you when to stop and someone to tell you that you are doing the right thing.
2. Never underestimate research & development and user testing. A fresh set of eyes always picks up something that you may have overlooked. Especially in terms of clothing when bodies are so different, a garment will not fit or look the same on any one, so it is important to get feedback from all shapes and sizes.
3. Know and understand your market. Understand the problem of your market and the need that your product will satisfy. Get to know your competitors, price points and case studies - reschool yourself on your industry and what makes it tick. Find out the ins & outs, you can never stop learning!
4. Budget and keep track of money and everything that you spend. Starting a business costs a lot more than you think it is initially going too. If you aren’t great with numbers, find someone who is and enlist there help. Keeping accurate and correct accounts is tedious but at tax time, you will thank your responsible self!
5. Don’t get disheartened when people speak the truth. Business is a tough world. Fashion is a tough world. You need to have a thick skin and an open mind.
6. Be prepared to take onboard people’s advice but do not compromise on your own vision, ethics, morals or standards. In the end only you know what is right.
7. Slow and steady wins the race. There is no point rushing! Rushing will only cause mistakes. It is better to take your time and do the job properly than launch yourself in to the market with a half finished product.
8. Be your brand. Embody it, talk about it and network. Whether you are on the bus, catching a train or buying coffee. You never know who that person is sitting next to you, what they do, or who they know. One day that business card you swapped over coffee just might be your golden ticket.
9. Exercise. Having a healthy body makes for a healthy mind, and a clear head helps you to stay focused and motivated.
10. There’s no doubt you will have moments along the way where you completely doubt yourself and everything that you are doing, but don’t give up.. work hard, persevere and believe in yourself and what you are doing.
Where’s your favorite spot near your studio to take a creative break? What should we order?
I try and bring pack lunch to work most days, as our office is right by a park, when the weather permits, we go and sit in the sunshine. If not, there is a nice organic shop underneath our building that makes delicious salads, wraps and soups. 5. What's next - any new collaborations or products in the pipeline you can tell us about?
Lots! We have said yes to everything that comes our way at the moment, so working on a few different projects! We have just recently collaborated with US Magazine Cherry Bombe to do a limited-edition Cherry print, and for release in the summer time (June) we have a Floral print coming out, which has been illustrated by Australian Artist Billie Justice Thomson. It’s beautiful (both designs below)! 6. What does "Dine By Design" mean to you and how do you apply that thought into your everyday life?
Dine by design means to me applying innovation and creativity into the daily aspects of your life; whether it be your outfit choice, your running track, breakfast choice or your wine pairing with dinner.
LUCKY YOU! PolkaPants is offering a 10% discount - just use discount code DINEXDESIGN at checkout!
Photo credits: Carey MacArthur