This week’s blog is from TJ Neal, co-founder of House of Legends Threads, the Savannah-based retail platform that helps young creatives launch new fashion and lifestyle products while using profits to support educational growth in creative fields. You got to love this guy. Launching a business. Helping aspiring designers and creatives get a start in their careers. Paying it forward in education. Right here in Savannah. Read on and you’ll be inspired to hire a recent grad…for brain work, not grunt work! FYI – The Creative Coast’s blogspot is Savannah’s sounding board for local thinkers, innovators, wanderers and wonders. Guest bloggers share their thoughts, opinions and creative noodling from all over the map…..
I was once told that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Well for our brand it was “a journey to serve an infinite amount of creatives, began with one.” Now we are a new brand and admittedly have made some mistakes, but isn’t that the fun of the journey? You fail, try again, fail, try again and eventually it pops.
When we developed the concept of a retail platform that put the creative first, we never knew that college creatives would drive us to new heights and be the cornerstone of our brand. The first creative we met on a Black Friday family shopping excursion ironically led to House of Legends Threads and provided the fuel to launch a brand that believes in changing the world through young creatives and retail.
Now we have a growing community of talented creatives that we challenge daily to design inspiring and fun casual apparel, headwear, accessories and other lifestyle products while improving their abilities and starting their personal brands on our platform.
As college creatives have sparked our brand, I believe a deeper consideration of the innovation and desire to learn which these young creatives bring to projects can take a company’s creative juices to the next level.
Pairing Classroom with Real World Experiences
We’ve all sat in those cold classrooms with the teacher in front of us and we see their lips moving while we wonder “is this really going to help me.” The answer is yes, because our experience tells us that when we take a creative and give them a canvas to design on, they reach back to the exercises they have been trained on in school and this is where the magic happens. We see elevation in style frames, decreased communication issues and better prepared drafts as we collaborate with our college creatives. Our goal of creating retail ready products in collaboration with college creatives is made easy when these young minds realize the parallel that can exist between classroom and producing retail items that inspire.
One of our largest concentrations of creative students come from the quaint, but super talented city of Savannah and Savannah College of Art and Design. SCAD has presented us with awesome photographers, film students, designers and even models. Who could ask for more? It’s like a creative paradise for our brand and we get so excited to help these young creatives.
Pushing College Creatives to Think Outside of the Box
Creatives are made different: they see the world in different ways and many live outside of the “normal” box. In environments where status quo is the norm, the injection of college creatives could be necessary. These creatives are exposed to idea overload through social media, project work or continued self-experimentation, which in turn drives their abilities to combine multiple concepts into design work. This ability has helped keep our team out of places of complacency and made our design philosophy one of always asking WHY.
We start every new designer by taking the predisposed chains off and push for our creatives to design outside of their comfort zone. Whether that means using new colors, trying type-based design for the first time or using an unfamiliar canvas like embroidery stitch mediums.
Stretching their norm has challenged our team to consistently bring new and different projects to the design field. If you are struggling to see the world differently or need an idea center for your project or brand, then what are you waiting for? College creatives have been the difference maker for our brand; they are our driving force behind thinking of possibilities and not limits.
College Creatives Your Hub for New Ideas
All brands run off of ideas, no matter whether they stick or end up in File 13 (aka garbage), we start with one idea and work it through. College creatives are the idea universe for us. A year ago, we had one or two people making most of the design choices, but now we leverage at least five or six creatives before we pass go on a design. It’s about better design management, but more importantly allowing creatives to fully immerse themselves into launching new products and learning. The best part about this is their idea influencers are coming from a ton of sources – – social media, friends, movies, magazines and most importantly, their own personal life experiences.
A good deal of our first collection was nothing more than creatives expressing their inspiration and hunger to be legendary. I recommend finding a home for this idea nucleus in your company and allow college creatives to start working with you to drive product creation and not just buying from you.
They Tell The True Story of Your Brand and It’s Authentic
If you want to hear the truth, just step right up and ask a kid. That politically correct filter we have as adults flies right out of the window with kids. There is significant value in genuine feedback, whether kid or creative. We consider the straightforward conversation presented by our college creatives our jackpot. They don’t hold back. As a result, we’ve been hit with some really positive thoughts and some not so great feedback, both of which have made us so much better.
Fostering this environment has created advocates for our brand and offers us the best form of a compliment and that’s talking about the cool things they are doing with our brand daily. We’ve seen our story shared on social media, through referrals and in meet-and-greets and all of this has been done with minimal asking.
This type of love from creatives can help you stay focused on your mission and committed to your brand’s goals. If your organization isn’t building plans around these highly intelligent end-users who dominate on social channels, are really transparent in their choices and are one of the largest buying groups based on their percentage of disposable income, then I ask you to reconsider and allow them to help curate your next slate of services or products.
Find Your Fuel and Power Your Brand’s Car
Like a car, your organization will run for a while, only to need more fuel at various stops along the road to success. The ride may be bumpy, the radio may get repetitive and the kids may cry all the way there, but without fuel your car won’t putter along. As critical as gas may be to the car, such is true for our brand and many brands like ours: college creatives are fueling our movement. They bring an element of breaking the rules, going outside of the box and the empowerment to do the “new” that can elevate your brand.
For our team, SCAD and Savannah has been a true blessing and we hope that large and small brands see the trend and motivation from this group that is helping House of Legends Threads create, retail and give back for a better tomorrow.