We met with Elizabeth and John to talk about their artisanal shop, ForgottenCotton, aftcra’s featured store for May. Get to know the story behind ForgottenCotton, how Elizabeth and John create their incredible fashion pieces, and where they derive their inspiration to make classic, colorful and edgy accessories for ForgottenCotton in our interview. The story behind ForgottenCotton is a classic entrepreneur-on-the-verge-of-awesomeness story … and we can’t get enough of it!
1. Tell us about ForgottenCotton.
We are Elizabeth and John who own ForgottenCotton, where we design and create women’s fashion accessories. We are a full time business and work from our home in Northwestern Wyoming right next to the gorgeous Rocky Mountains. Currently our business is run out of every spare room in our home including, up til last week, our kitchen table. We are working on setting up and moving into our own separate work space on our property.
When we started ForgottenCotton in Fall of 2011 we were living in NYC in a tiny apartment. We feel really lucky that our business has allowed us the opportunity to relocate to such a beautiful state.
2. How did ForgottenCotton get started?
We both were raised in households where creativity was everywhere. I grew up around sewing and creative work as my mother has been sewing, painting, and crafting her whole life. John’s mother is extremely creative and worked in creative fields and was always creating and crafting. Our childhoods were spent surrounded by creative work and people. We both also have backgrounds in the arts. I went to school for theatre, art, and dance and taught art for several years in NYC. John, as well as being an extremely talented guitarist, studied history and philosophy. We started our business as a way to help pay our student loans after we graduated college.
When we saw the potential of what we were doing and the space in the market place we realized this was something we could try. We reinvested our profits into our business as we grew and worked on expanding. We really didn’t have any experience in running a business so each new hurdle was a learning curve. You really don’t know what you don’t know until you have to learn it.
3. How did you come up with the name “ForgottenCotton“?
When we started we were really into the idea of up-cycling fabrics. We spent about two days writing down different words and combinations that we felt would fit that aesthetic.
While we have evolved and grown our business past the ability to upcycle our products the name has stayed.
4. What is the creative process behind ForgottenCotton?
We work as a team so we each have the different parts we do. When it comes to making John does all of the sewing while I do the prep work. We have a smooth running process where we are passing items back and forth for each step. After four years we have a system that flows for us to make the most of our time.
There are so many responsibilities with running a business and we have naturally developed an even division of work. John handles all the business finances while I take care of packing orders, photo editing, and posting products. John does all the photography and I model our products. We each have our own set of skills and have been able to use these skills to create a balance.
5. What is the inspiration for your work?
We really are interested in creating useful and comfortable items. Our items are ones that are worn, so we are very particular about choosing materials that are right for the project. For example, when we were looking for faux leather we had a very particular vision of the quality of faux leather because we wanted to create something that had the touch and feel of a piece that was special. We easily fall in love with a certain pattern scheme or color palates and that will drive our decisions for an entire collection. We are always searching for what is trending, popular, or unique. We have notebook files full of ideas for items we would like to make part of our collection either now or in the future. We also listen to our customers to see what they are looking for as they are the most important part of the equation.
6. As a small business owner, what is one piece of advice you would share with other entrepreneurs or those considering starting a business?
We have said this before in other interviews but the advice is true and something we strongly believe in.
You have to decide early on if you want to create art or make money. They seldom can coexist. Many of the projects which we would consider “passion” driven performed rather poorly. You truly have to find a balance between projects that inspire you and products which are desirable to customers and the current market. Also – as with most things there is no “easy button.” No one gets to wake up one day and have a business. It is countless hours of discussion, planning, decision making, etc. We spend more time working on our business than we did at more traditional jobs. There is no turning it off. We often are answering emails, making orders, or planning new ideas at all hours of the day.
Also remember that there is always room for improvement. You should always be pushing yourself to look at your business and question what can you change, improve, or do differently. Take constructive criticism and see how it applies to you and the vision you have for your business. It can be photo quality or style, product development, or social media. It seems there is never enough time in the day to work on all of the things we have planned or would like to accomplish.
7. What is your next new exciting project?
We are working on developing new hair products for the summer. We have some prototypes we are working on and testing. While we started out selling scarves we have been actively working on expanding our product offerings and this is a part of that goal.
8. What is a quote that you personally live by, or you have shared with others for inspiration?
I just shared this on our Instagram the other day, but I really believe in “Stay Humble, Work Hard, Be Kind.” We really believe in putting our heads down and doing the hard work. We don’t get ahead of ourselves or think we are bigger than we are.
At the end of the day we just want to create products people love, provide the highest quality customer service, and pay our bills. We feel very fortunate that we are able to run our business full time and with that comes the responsibility of working hard. We have had some very real reality checks over the course of four years and that keeps us focused on what is important.
9. Why did you choose to join aftcra, and what do you enjoy about the community?
We really love aftcra and what it stands for. We had been keeping our eye on the site since it started and were really excited to join. Honestly, we have tried more than a few venues since we opened and none of them have the personality or care that aftcra offers. We know that there is a need for a marketplace that is truly handmade.
I have so many customers and friends ask us advice on how to know if a business is really making their items. I knew there had to be a better way because people want a marketplace they can trust. What I love about aftcra is the trust customers can have that in knowing the businesses they are shopping with are handmade. They don’t have to go into “research” mode to find out before they purchase. We are excited to be able to be a part of a real handmade community that restores the trust to the customers.
10. What does “handmade” and “handcrafted” mean to you?
We think handmade is a very simple concept – you and your team are making the items you sell. We have a hard time understanding where the confusion comes from with this concept. Handmade means high quality and attention to detail because an individual or team is crafting each item. When you say your items are handmade your customers expect that you are making your items. Simple.
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