We continue the Sisterhood of the Traveling Riding Jacket with a very special woman, who has been extremely inspirational for my work on REID MILLER Apparel. Taylor Johnston is the founder of Gamine Workwear, high quality, US made workwear for woman. As you might imagine, I couldn’t have been more excited to learn about her company. A woman designing clothing explicitly for the purpose of getting real wear by woman to support the work they do? This is about as far away from a fake pocket and stilettos as you could get. It also means that she has seriously had to chart her own path, since nothing like this existed before she embarked.
For those of you who have been following along since all the way back in September, the name, Taylor Johnston may be familiar. She was the source of my favorite business advice to date: “Know who you are and be that person”, which has become a compass for me in my work. To recap, Taylor advises building a business that allows your strengths to shine into the world – nothing more and nothing less. For Taylor this meant building her business around her passions: gardening/horticulture and beautifully constructed apparel. In doing so, her special love for her work and her unique perspective on what is beautiful in this world manifests into something completely novel and wonderful. The result: high quality, durable, stylish workwear for women. Clothing that is meant to be worn gardening, painting, constructing that could only be so artfully put together by a woman who is passionate about gardening.
It also means that the way she operates her business feeds her passion. For example, she keeps her business small, intentionally growing slowly so she can preserve space for her work gardening at the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum.
As I’m sure I’ve mentioned a few times, building something novel in the apparel industry is no small task. When a friend introduced me to Taylor I thought, “My God, a real live woman who has brought a novel apparel concept to life on her own.” When I talked with her, one image came to mind: this is a true pioneering woman. I felt like I was talking to a real live cowgirl. No nonsense, nothing easy about it, just strength, flexibility and perseverance, and the confidence to chart your own path. She also said wise things to me like, “it doesn’t get easier, you just get tougher.” She is right.
I want to focus in on the courage it takes to chart your own path, especially in the business world. Whether we like it or not, it is still a man’s world, where the vast majority of the start-ups are lean-machine tech companies. We are confronted with conflicting messages that hitting the jackpot has to do with disrupting the status quo and yet there is a way things should be done. There is huge pressure to bring on investors, grow quickly, advertise the hell out of your work, spend your whole life on social media. (Mind you, it is understood that you must somehow be able to focus on the quality and creativity of what you are providing amidst all these conflicting pressures.) Taylor confidently and courageously chooses to go her own direction. How in the world would she find the time to be inspired by her gardening if she was constantly on Twitter? And, thankfully, her true fans also aren’t constantly on Twitter. They’re gardening or painting. They respect the way she operates her business because they love her products and love what she puts together.
And I have huge respect for her for staying true to what feeds her creative light. Does this mean that she is not “iterating”? Hell no. She is constantly testing new ideas, production strategies to wow her customers and meet their demand, while reducing waste and contributing to rebuilding US apparel production. Yeah that’s a lot. But she is a pretty awesome woman.
Thank you, Taylor, for doing what you do!
Hope everyone had a lovely Valentine’s Day. Live it up. You are very special.