Courage is a big word. If you say to someone ‘you’re brave’ it often carries the unspoken sense that what you really mean is ‘you’re nuts’. ‘That’s a brave decision’ usually means I wouldn’t do that if I were you’. But courage still carries respect. If we say someone is courageous, we’re probably more likely to mean it. Courage means the strength to do something at great personal risk, so it deserves our respect and admiration.
I have so much respect and admiration for what Mel is setting out to do, and she is definitely courageous. Not just because she’s made the decision to run her company the right way (not the easy way), for all the right reasons, but also because she’s prepared to put her name on it too.
There’s an awful lot of waffle written about brands but, for centuries, branding has simply been the act of putting your personal stamp on your work to say ‘I made this’. 'This carries my name and my reputation so I stand by its quality'. Putting your name to things you create is a statement of trust that says ‘this is my best work’. As is often quoted, it’s not just artists who sign their work, but they always do.
This has always been the norm in the fashion industry and you don’t need me to list the surnames that have become global shorthand for style and chic, but nearly all of them have lost their way in a frenzy of scale and speed. Seasons have blurred into weeks, burning up new lines and new ranges and new styles and new colours and new must have essentials, and the artist’s precious imprint has long gone. More than that, their care has gone.
The fashion industry is (very slowly) waking up to its colossal negative impact but it’s almost impossible to change your legacy when you’re leaving destruction in your wake. A lot of labels are talking a good sustainability game, but very, very few are actually walking the walk; slowing it right down and thinking more about the people and the planet than about the price-point and the margins.
It takes real courage to make commercial decisions that challenge the status quo, contrary to the way your industry normally goes about its business, because it is a very real risk. Doing the right thing, maintaining your integrity, even though it is so very hard is truly brave, and we should reward that courage with our custom.
Putting your own name on your brand in the 21st century is back to being a powerful statement of intent about where you want to go, and how you want your legacy to be viewed. ‘Start a company that you’d never want to sell’ is far easier to say than to do, but giving your business your name gives you a clarity of purpose far more empathic than any expertly crafted mission, vision and values, ever will.
I know that I’ve learnt more from working with Mel than she has from me, and I know that if a garment carries the NASON brand, it carries everything that matters. We have her word for it. She’s put her name to it.
Counsel | Advisor | Coach