Ever wonder what we are up to on Mondays when the shop is closed? Often, we are dropping off orders at the post office, responding to emails, working on marketing tasks, and meeting with designers. That's what owning a small business is - you never really stop working - but you love it, so you keep going. In the late-afternoon, on one sunny Monday, I picked up the Lujo Dress from Haley of Only Child which gave me the opportunity to see her Jack London studio and ask a few questions.
Haley tells us a little bit about herself and how she juggles running a small business that includes designing and making the products. Did I mention that Haley is amazing?! Also real work spaces aren't instagram perfect, but Haley has created a lovely yet practical and functional space. This is where and how Only Child is made:
What is your design background?
I don't have a traditional design background per se but I did focus on studio art in college and got my MFA in photography. Even though I wasn't learning about all of the techniques I'm using now, I still draw on a lot of those basic skills that I learned in school. All of my painting classes forced me to think about color in a new way, how they go together and how certain undertones can either make or break something. And so much of photography is about shapes, lines and textures much like clothing design is.
What made you decide to launch your own brand?
I was feeling a little bit stuck in my 9-5 and unsure of what to do with myself. Photography had been my focus for so long but when I'd get home from work it would be too late for me to take my camera out. I've always needed something outside of a job to make me feel useful and I've been obsessed with clothes for as long as I can remember so I decided to teach myself how to sew. It kind of snowballed from there. I put up a terrible picture of a dress I made in an etsy shop just so I could hold the store name and somehow it sold. That was such a crazy feeling! After that I started putting together more concrete ideas and toyed around with the idea of launching a brand.
How do you describe the Only Child style?
The three words I like to use are simple, versatile, and unexpected. I like taking classic silhouettes and adding a few details here and there to make it interesting and unique.
Tell us about your design process.
My process has definitely evolved over time. At first, I was trying to identify the holes in my own closet and going from there. Now I find myself focusing more on the details or getting stuck on one line and trying to adapt that into different silhouettes. I've recently been drawn to diagonal lines (that's the most annoyingly hipster thing I've ever said) and incorporated them into the design of the Lujo Dress, Vista Jumpsuit, and Cedros Pant. I get really excited about the idea of taking something simple like a pair of linen pants and adding more visual interest in that way.
My photography professors used to have us pin all of our images up on a wall at home and leave them there for months, then afterwards we would pick out the ones that our eye was consistently drawn to. I still do that now, I have a running list of pieces pinned up next to my sewing machine that I'm forced to look at every day. Those that jump out consistently are the pieces that I know I need to dive into further.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Street style is definitely my favorite source of inspiration. I've never been able to look at a high fashion runway show and see how those pieces could apply to my real life. I like seeing how people wear things when they're running off to work or out on a Friday night. I'm also really drawn to past decades, the 60s are my favorite right now. Everything was just the right amount of sassy.
How do you manage all the tasks associated with designing, making, and promoting your brand? Do you ever sleep?
I'm definitely in an awkward growth spurt right now, all of my emails usually start with apologizing for my delayed response, whoops! But I recently hired my first studio assistant and am in the process of finding someone to help me sew. It was nice being a one woman show for a little while but now the extra hands are definitely much appreciated.
Most of my time is spent making orders and promoting. I think a lot of aspiring designers imagine that their whole day will be spent cooking up new ideas but in reality that's usually a very small piece of the pie. I am pretty much thinking about work 24/7 but I'm also okay with that, it doesn't feel like work but more like something I have a deep need to do. I also have a strange obsession with planners, my most recent one is the Passion Planner and so far I'm loving it! If I don't have a place to write a daily to do list I would definitely unravel.
What’s your favorite eatery in Oakland?
Oh man, there are so many. My current favorites are Grand Lake Kitchen because it makes me feel fancy and Portal, they have an amazing eggs benedict on grilled polenta that I have actually had dreams about. I also have a secret sushi spot that I'll share, it's called Kakui and it's tucked away in the Oakland hills. It's one of the best sushi places in the Bay Area as far as I'm concerned!
How do you spend your free time?
Usually if I have a free day I try to sneak in a meal with a friend or spend some time by Lake Merritt. One of my favorite things to do is rent the little pedal boats that you can take out onto the lake. My boyfriend and I have also mastered the art of cooking the perfect shrimp taco (it involves caramelized onions and a little bit of manchego cheese!), so we normally cook and watch Bob's Burgers or Seinfeld on a free night.
What is your favorite piece in your collection right now?
I'd say the Alta Top in denim is my favorite piece. I like things that I can easily throw on and run out the door, plus denim is such a clean and classic fabric. I've always loved the look of the casual front tucked top into a pair of pants but could never get the proportions right. That top was my solution, I can get the silhouette without all of the effort!
Do you want to give any shout outs to other makers/designers you are loving at the moment?
Definitely! Some of my favorite makers include The Small + Savage Wild
, they make unique and affordable shelves that I love. Also WKNDLA
makes these beautiful wall hangings that are unlike any that I've ever seen. I'm also really into Natalie Joy
's jewelry and Kate Taylor Design
, she and I are working on some exclusive pieces of jewelry that I'll have in my shop this Fall!