Graduating with both a degree in Accounting and Apparel Design, it is no wonder that Natalie Smith married her love for exactness and passion for fashion and creativity. “Points of Measure” was the result of these converging interests. An online fashion education platform, helping fashion startups how to DIY, and just overall lending support and positivity.
In this interview, we delve into Natalie’s business to reveal what drives her, how she has carved her own way in a tough and competitive industry and how she is making a difference to fashion entrepreneurs worldwide.
How did you get into fashion? Did you always know you were going to work in the fashion industry?
I actually started out my career as a muralist! I had a small, unofficial business doing custom art for businesses and individuals.
After a few years, I decided that my heart just wasn’t in it to create artwork that someone else dreamt up, I wanted to create my own art.
I needed to find a career path that would serve others while also fueling my own passions.
Fashion had always been a hobby of mine, so I decided to go into apparel design where I could marry my need to serve others with my creativity in design. It really became serious when I was accepted to Seattle Pacific University’s prestigious design program.
What is your earliest “fashionista “memory?
I was always into fashion as a kid! I would watch runway shows with my mom and when I was really young would play dress-up with this old chest of crowns, high heels, and silk gowns that my mom had.
Once I was in middle school and high school I started to experiment a lot with altering my own clothes and trying new, unique fashions. I grew up thrifting so I would always be wearing quirky vintage pieces. I learned to sew by making my own dress for Tolo (our version of a Sadie Hawkins).
What is your current job?
I run two fashion companies. The first, Points of Measure, started as a Freelance Technical Design business. While I do still offer custom services, I am transitioning into a different model of free education for Fashion Professionals. The majority of my income comes from custom projects with clients all over the world, but I also make a small amount from my digital products and selling stock illustrations. As I am transitioning away from custom work, all of my income will now come from digital products.
My other company, Nascent, is a demi-couture brand. I create high fashion garments from silk and then dye them with silk dye to create intricate, wearable art pieces. This brand will be launching at the end of 2019.
What gave you the idea and courage to set up “Points of Measure”? Was it a slow process?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to have my own business. I’m not sure when that idea started! The plan had always been to eventually strike out on my own. After some odd experiences, being just slightly removed from some horrific tragedies, I felt that I was being constantly reminded that life is too short.
For example, a school shooting at my University. I knew that I needed to follow my dreams, even if I wasn’t quite ready yet.
So, after getting some experience in the industry, I decided to leave and start my own business. I was able to sustain myself financially because I had been freelancing on the side for quite some time and continued to do so up until this month.
The actual starting of the “Points of Measure” business was actually a pretty easy and quick process. The slowest part has been the growth and transitioning into a work-from-home lifestyle.
What was your biggest challenge when you first worked on launching Points of Measure?
I would say that learning to work alone was one of my biggest challenges. I’m a pretty self-motivated person and I enjoy working alone, but the corporate world teaches you to constantly be looking for validation and permission.
When you start out on your own, those things fall away and you have to make all of the decisions yourself. There’s no one to ask questions to, you just do it and hope that you can learn from your mistakes.
I would say another big challenge for me is learning to be patient. I have so many goals and aspirations for my career, but I have to remember that small steps each day will lead me there and it’s not going to happen overnight.
What are your business challenges now?
I officially, legally started my company in January of 2018, so I will be celebrating my 2 year anniversary in a few months. Right now I would say my biggest challenge is finding collaborations/ways that I can continue to grow my audience.
I would also say that if I do permanently suspend my services (I’m just taking a few months away from them at the moment), that I do need to find an alternative way to financially support the company. Because I offer my education for free, my digital products are now the backbone of the business. I’m not interested in placing ads on my blog, but perhaps getting sponsorships or donations could be a good idea. The money will never be a driving factor for me though, it’s all about supporting my audience and helping them succeed, even if that means I’m making $0.
What are your aspirations for “Points of Measure”?
It has really morphed over the years and I believe it will continue to do so. However, at the moment, my main goal is to provide Fashion Professionals with free education and resources to find success in their fashion brand startups.
I not only want to be there as a resource, but I also want to be a mentor.
I want to encourage my audience to follow their dreams, no matter how big or small.
That’s why I’m committed to answering every single question, showing my audience how to DIY, and just overall lending support and positivity. I’m so happy that I’m following my dreams, even through the hard times, and I want others to experience that same happiness too.
What is your favourite part of what you do – what lights you up and you love doing?
Again, this definitely has changed over time and will probably change again, but my favourite thing at the moment is being able to answer questions before they’ve even been asked.
It’s sort of like my own self-validation! For example, today I got a question about how to create your own size chart for your unique market and I was able to send them a link to a full tutorial that I’ve already created. It’s very satisfying to know that I understand my audience and that I’m able to provide them with information that really helps them.
What is the typical client you work with?
Oh my, I’ve worked with so many! They are all so different! I would say typically for my custom services, I’m working with a fashion startup who is just learning how to produce their own goods.
I’ve worked with hundreds of clients all over the world on thousands of projects. It’s really been a blessing to get to experience so many new ideas and brands.
What is a recurring problem that you see in the industry that somehow doesn’t seem to be getting fixed?
I do see this beginning to change, but I would say that the consumer is focused on price over quality. Rightfully so though! I’m not saying that you have to pay a high price for a quality garment, but it’s what happens behind the scenes when you purchase at a lower price that is the issue.
Fast fashion contributes to unfair, unsafe working conditions, unfair pay, pollution, and so much more.
I’m happy that clothing is so affordable, but I wish it didn’t come at such a high cost. I believe that there is a balance somewhere and I hope we are on our way to finding it.
If you can change one thing only in the fashion industry – what would it be?
I would encourage more people to purchase lower quantity and higher quality from sources that are focused on sustainability.
Doing the research behind the company that produces your goods is really eye-opening. Trends fuel fast fashion purchases, but if we can start to promote timeless, quality pieces we can start to change that.
Finish the sentences:
Fashion is…. certain. Just like death and taxes, fashion will always exist.
Being an entrepreneur means…. being your own biggest cheerleader.
The best thing about working for myself is…. the flexibility to live my life to the fullest by experiencing adventures that I would otherwise not be able to.
My favourite client is someone who… has a passion for what they are creating and why they are creating it.
Success to me is…. happiness.
To contact Natalie and take advantage of the knowledge she freely shares and her invaluable digital products, head over to Points of Measure.