Every week I share a Behind the Biz interview here on Prettygreentea. If you’re new to the blog, Behind the Biz is my weekly series where I discover the stories behind lots of amazing businesses, how their founders got started and what it’s like to run a business.
In today’s post I chat with Tom, the founder of Tom Cridland – a sustainable fashion brand of trousers, sweatshirts, t-shirts, jackets and shirts all with a 30 year guarantee.
Where did the inspiration for Tom Cridland come from?
I started the Tom Cridland brand because I wanted to do something entrepreneurial. Inspired by American e-commerce companies like Harry’s and Greats Brand, I wanted to make beautiful, simple product and offer it direct to consumer online in an interesting, innovative manner. I started Tom Cridland specialising in men’s trousers and got it off the ground when we had the chance to make them for some big names in the entertainment industry like Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Craig. That initial buzz gave me the confidence to develop my idea for The 30 Year Collection and, when that took off, that gave me the resources and freedom to pursue a number of creative ventures, including focusing on sustainability with the Tom Cridland brand.
How did you decide upon the name of your business?
My business partner is my wonderful girlfriend, Debs Marx. She supported us working at Universal Music when I was first starting the clothing brand, which was founded with just £6,000 in the form of a government start-up loan. Surprisingly, it wasn’t immense vanity on my part that led us to call it Tom Cridland. It was actually Debs’ Mum, Daniela, who suggested it and, as the domain registration was cheap for the website, we decided it was not a bad idea!
Where did your interest in sustainable clothing over fast fashion come from?
Watching the documentary The True Cost by Andrew Morgan first sparked my interest. It is saddening to see governments place such little emphasis on making industries sustainable, given the predicament we find ourselves in with the environment. I honestly believe that the human race is in grave danger if we continue with an attitude of reckless consumption. Not only does focusing on designing our clothing to be sustainable allow us to help reduce the impact of the fashion industry, the world’s second most polluting, on the environment. It also makes sense for us as a business.
What did you do before starting Tom Cridland?
I studied Modern Languages at the University of Bristol. I did not do much work and somehow scraped a good degree but I had a wonderful time. I met Debs in my first year and we had four wonderful years where we both basically grew up, travelled and developed our passion for music, fashion, travel and entrepreneurship.
Did you always plan to set up your own business?
I’ve always been entrepreneurial. When I was 10 years old I had a business at school selling bootleg CDs, which was curtailed by the angry parent of a customer who had requested an Eminem song on his mixtape. I then sold £3,000 worth of “Swine 09” t-shirts in a week of school when I was 18, donating the money to Medicins Sans Frontiers. At University Debs and I ran the phone charging facilities at a big UK music festival called Y Not. We called ourselves Phone Spa and broke even before stopping. These all provided me with valuable experience, not business expertise but a taste of taking initiative and trying to be fearless, rather than always planning and never executing.
What has been the biggest challenge in running your business so far?
I still pinch myself that we turned a £6,000 government start-up loan into the business we have. It is a significant amount of money but when you need to order stock for a clothing business, it is simply insufficient. During the first couple of months, growing organically into a proper business seemed almost impossible and it was only the encouragement we got from Nigel Olsson liking our designs that kept us going against all odd! The money was so tight at the beginning that many people would probably have called it quits.
What has been the highlight of your business journey to date?
Generating enough income to fund our band, The Tomicks, who are about to release their first album. Alongside fashion, music is something I truly feel is a calling in life and a way of us expressing ourselves. We absolutely love writing and playing music, and we had a blast making this first record at The Village in LA, one of the best studios in the world. Simply Red’s Kenji Suzuki played guitar and bass on it. 105 adverts are going up on the London Underground around release day, which is February 22nd and we’re playing the legendary Troubadour in West London on two successive nights to celebrate the launch. A project like this would probably have seemed impossible a couple of years ago but it’s been a joyous business journey and one that just keeps getting better and better.
What role does social media play for your business and do you have a favourite social platform?
It’s easy to feel disillusioned with social media. Tech has given us so many advantages but sometimes I feel like we’d read more books in full and listen to more records, on vinyl from start to finish, take in more films and probably actually talk to each other more, and live in the moment, if it wasn’t for ghastly phenomena like Instagram stories and Snapchat. That said, we do like using Instagram and trying to take interesting photographs. We’ve build up a decent following on the platform for the Tom Cridland brand and it does drive sales.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Avoid getting conceited and look after your money. Maintain a desire to learn and keep trying to improve yourself. Love what you do. Don’t be discouraged by anyone who doesn’t understand your vision and belittles you for not joining the corporate rat race and selling their soul doing something they don’t enjoy.
Where do you hope to take your business in 2018?
We’ll be launching the Half Century Jeans, a collection of womenswear and using blockchain tech to make fashion more ethical and sustainable.
Thank you so much to Tom for getting involved with Behind the Biz. I really enjoyed hearing about his business journey and I hope you did too. If you haven’t watched The True Cost by Andrew Morgan then you really must. It’s a real eye-opener and I can see why it had such an impact on Tom.
I love that Tom and Debs have tried their hands at multiple businesses over the years. They’re true entrepreneurs and I can’t wait to see where they take the Tom Cridland brand and the The Tomicks over the next few years.