Interview with Tina Morgan and Berrin Marsh, founders of slow fashion brand Atelier MorganMarsh
Find out what inspired friends Tina Morgan and Berrin Marsh to set up slow fashion brand Atelier MorganMarsh.
What’s your career background?
TM: After studying Psychology at university, my first job was in PR. Later I specialised in PR for the travel industry. I represented some well known hotels and tour operators around the world and did lots of traveling.
Valerie Singleton was on one of my press trips when she slipped on a boat trip and couldn’t walk for the rest of the journey. The agency was in Knightsbridge. Sometimes I would go out for a sandwich and come back with a suit. When I went freelance after having my daughter, I had a wardrobe full of suits. Business is so much more relaxed these days.
BM: I am a lifetime student, graduated in the Faculty of Communication in Gazi University, Ankara, Turkey. I took further education in UK Southbank Uni and Westminster University Social studies and Cinema.
I love any form of art; attended history of art, drawing and fashion related classes in Bournemouth Art University and at other educational organisations.
I worked for a long time for the Turkish Community in London before setting up my own jewellery business. After having my two boys close together, I devoted my time to them until they started secondary school and I also worked for our family recreational business.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
TM: I have always loved beautiful fabrics and it was becoming increasingly difficult to find clothes made from natural fibres. Even if the outer garment was silk or cotton, often the lining would be man made. Also, I grew up in my mother’s retail clothing business, which specialised in classic children’s wear, then later added classic ladies wear. The clothes were beautifully made and timeless.
BM: When I was a young girl I was always interested in clothes, not only what I wore, but those that I styled for other people in my head. I had an undying love for making my own clothes and longed to realise this dream.
Although I didn’t have an appropriate background in the field, I did have a close friend in Turkey who is one of the leading names in fashion. I mentioned my burning desire to learn more about the fashion world and fabrics, from designing to manufacturing to him some nine years ago.
After that my educational visits to his factory in Turkey began and I was mentored by him and with his help and teaching, I began to understand and learn much more about the fashion world. His immense help continues today.
How did you move from idea to business?
TM: I had wanted to manufacture clothes, rather than just retail, for some time. I had met Berrin on the day our children started at nursery school and we became good friends. We have very similar taste. We even bought exactly the same sun glasses unknowingly. When the children went to university I proposed the idea to her and discovered that it had also been her dream. Coming from Turkey, she had contacts in clothing manufacturing. One of her friends is a big manufacturer there and he has been an invaluable mentor to us.
BM: Tina and I met and became friends when our children started nursery school. Tina and I, over the years, met regularly and talked about our ventures.
She knew of my interest in fashion. Her mother owned a children’s fashion boutique, and throughout her life Tina was involved with her mother’s business. She thought we would bring our strengths together in the fashion business to create a label together. And so, Atelier MorganMarsh was born.
What’s your brand’s USP?
TM: Atelier MorganMarsh champions Slow Fashion, with a range of timeless dresses, ethically made in natural fabrics and delivered in environmentally conscious packaging. Our “Like Mama” range uses the same fabrics, so little ones can coordinate with Mama.
BM: AtMMis truly an advocate is every aspect of sustainable fashion. Not only do we use natural fibres, but our clothes are ethically produced in Turkey.
Transparency is paramount for us in each and every step we take from the source of our fabrics to the manufacturing. We are so dedicated to a greener world; even our business cards are made from recycled t-shirts. Our packing is made entirely from recyclable materials.
Who’s your target audience?
TM: People who care about the environment and like to buy less, but investment pieces. Livia Firth recently wrote, when she shops she asks if she will be wearing it in 10 years time. I have lots of garments I have had for many years including some fabulous vintage garments.
BM: Personally, I worry a great deal for the future of our planet and what we are handing down to the future generations.
We have created a brand for people like us who care about what they are buying and the implications of even a tiny transaction for our beautiful planet.
How do you spread the word about what you do?
TM: We have had to get to grips with social media. Berrin is much better than me. It’s very rewarding when you post a photo and get lots of likes. I have done some PR, but it’s very hard to approach the fashion editors when you’re starting up. So we’ve hired Sally Keeble who has great contacts.
BM: E-commerce is a fairly new way of putting a product on the market and in order to have a successful business you must first be verified. There must be a circle of trust around your brand for people to be able to shop in confidence.
Having an excellent product is not enough in e-commerce because your product is not tangible until it reaches the customer.
We use social media platforms to engage with potential shoppers to reassure them that we are sound and trustworthy. We cover FB, IG, Twitter and Pinterest.
In recent months start we have also started working with Sally at Mercer Keeble PR who coordinate closely with sustainable brands.
What’s been your most successful marketing strategy?
TM: Hiring Sally! We’ve also been shortlisted for Best Eco Children’s Brand by the very glossy Junior Magazine, which is such an amazing endorsement. Our fingers and toes are permanently crossed.
BM: Our most successful marketing strategy so far is working with Mercer Keeble PR. We think Mercer Keeble PR is an effective solution for us to achieve verification.
What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
TM: We found that some fabric manufacturers will only sell vast quantities and we’ve not reached that stage yet. We are also trying to reduce our fabric miles by buying more fabrics in Turkey, where our atelier is based.
BM: When you are new in a business everything can be an obstacle, especially when you are a sourcing eco-friendly, recyclable items, finding them can be a major issue.
Other than that buying in quantity is still a big problem; many companies minimums are so high, but we operate with zero waste policy, so meeting these two points is a big challenge.
And your proudest moment so far?
TM: We did the website ourselves, as we wanted to be able make changes and add new products without having to ask someone else. It was quite challenging, but very satisfying when it went live.
BM: Our proudest moment is the day we turned the website live; our dream at that point became a reality. It was no longer an idea in our head, and I had a little tear followed by a glass of champagne!
My second proudest moment was arriving home after a very arduous journey from Turkey with a torn sole muscle and getting an email from Junior magazine stating that we were shortlisted in Best Children’s Eco Fashion category. It was the best cure for an extremely painful foot.
Why is work so important to you?
TM: My mother always worked, even on Saturdays, so I suppose it was the norm for me. I like to keep busy and keep my brain active. I’m also half way through training to be a counsellor. It’s great to be your own boss and do something you are passionate about.
BM: I can’t imagine life without a challenge. Achieving what you set yourself up to do is the most rewarding feeling; this could be in anything, every task we undertake is important. I personally will work as long as my health allows me, not my age.
Who inspires you?
TM: My mother, who went to the Midland Bank in 1968, with a great business idea only to be told they didn’t lend money to women. She was undeterred and changed banks and went on to be very successful. She’s a great risk taker. Women are still striving for equal pay, but we have come a long way.
BM: I don’t have a particular person who inspires me. All women around the world are a source of inspiration whether they are known or unknown. How hard many works to make a difference is just incredible.
How do you balance your business with your family?
TM: t was the perfect time to launch the business when my daughter had gone to university and my mother had moved into assisted living, aged 90. It seems there are lots of women in their 50s setting up new ventures. I can’t imagine wanting to retire.
BM: I am very lucky that my boys are young adults now. My older son is in University and the younger one has a successful music business.
My husband is my great support. I can manage it quite well, but the reality is different for many women; they have to juggle so many things at the same time young children, career etc., I admire them all.
What’s your advice for someone wanting to do something similar?
TM: Don’t be deterred by technology, if we can do it so can you. You can start small. And don’t cut corners on quality.
BM: First of all, if you want something badly, you must give it a chance; it is never too late to run after your dream.
If you are starting up a business, research the subject and get to know the market before setting up your business. Also know that business is all about risk taking, so be prepared. And finally, focus on the main interest don’t divert don’t lose the vision.
Find out more about Atelier MorganMarsh on their website.