50. A tailor who wants a positioning statement

When your career is a mission, how do you describe what you do? 👗 In this episode, we connect with Dara Ford, a UK-based tailor who wants women to feel empowered through perfectly fitting clothing. The catch? Dara wants a brand positioning statement that will help her summarize her purpose as well as her vocation. For anyone who feels stumped by the question, “What do you do?” this episode is for you.

Life Phase:

Guest Career:

Brand Work:
Celebrating the female form through precise tailoring


Phil: Oh my gosh, you've missed us haven’t you? Well, there's good news. After much anticipation and a little summer vacation, we are back with brand new episodes of Brand Therapy.

Lauren: And not only is it new episodes, but we have a new website.

Phil: That's true. New website, new brand. It's been a little summer of TLC for us, hasn't it Lauren?

Lauren: Yes, like HGTV, but our version.

Phil: Exactly. Fret not, we know you've missed us but we’re back. New episodes, better than ever, and actually a few other exciting things as well.

Lauren: Every episode now is going to have a dedicated blog post summarizing the episode and additional blog posts with more research on whatever topic our guests were wanting to explore.

Phil: That was supposed to sound cool. You did not make that sound cool.

Lauren: Did I not? Oh my God! Why wasn’t it cool?

Phil: I think it's cool.

Lauren: No, you just said it wasn't cool. What's not cool about organization and a content calendar?

Phil: Before we scare them off we should get to this new episode.

Lauren: We all know that I'm the underdog on this podcast that everyone's rooting for us. I stumble through every episode, so I hope you all loved my blog announcement.

Phil: We are happy you are back right here on Brand Therapy. Let's get to it.

Lauren: Let's do it.

Phil: “Brand Therapy”, that's this podcast! You picked a good one to listen to. I'm Phil.

Lauren: And I'm Lauren.

Phil: Welcome to our podcast where we tackle challenges, branding challenges and business challenges. They're one in the same and we use those words interchangeably because it's all the same. And sometimes a dialogue, conversation around some of these things you're thinking about, is helpful. So we have those conversations, but we let you listen to them because if they're helpful for the person we're talking to, they might be helpful for you.

Lauren: I just came up with something. I just came up with a tagline. You said that you used the words ‘brand’ and ‘business’ interchangeably. I do. I did say that. ‘Brand Therapy... where your brand is our business.’ Oh! Should we get a local tv commercial too? Yes, and I'll do the jingle!

Phil: What are we talking about today? We're talking about Dara. Dara is in the UK and has a lovely British accent. She's got a really cool job. She's a tailor. We've never talked to a tailor before.

Lauren: A savvy tailor with a modern website and really cool understanding of her value.

Phil: But what she's having trouble with, is putting it all into a sentence, where we call in this case a positioning statement. So that kind of folds in her mission, her purpose, the value that she gives others. We help her figure that out today.

Lauren: And I think people will learn that similar to what we've seen in other episodes, really the best positioning statements come straight from you. Honestly. An expert cannot truly replace the value of something that you're naturally saying yourself. An expert can coach you and ask the questions for you to arrive at that point.

Phil: So as much as we're talking and asking questions, we are listening in this episode for those little nuggets of gold, which is what we do on every call with clients. Usually it's in conversation where you say in just a few words very eloquently and conversationally the value. rather than the opposite of that which is sitting in front of a Microsoft Word document staring at your screen empty. Right? Because that's how I am if I have to sit and write something. But if I'm talking I never have a problem with that.

Lauren: Yes it's true.

Phil: All right, so let's do it.

Lauren: Shall we zipper on over!?

Phil: Oh my God.

Lauren: Let's button up this conversation.

Phil: God make it stop. Okay. Here's our conversation with Dara.

Dara: Hi, my name is Dara. I'm a bespoke tailor and dressmaker. And my question is around developing a really clear brand statement and identity. So there's quite a few strands to what I do. I provide bespoke tailoring, but I also do some bridal wear and I have accessories. So I have leather clutch bags and I've just launched a range of silk scarves, which are all around the idea of empowering women and inspiring confidence. And it's really hard for me to kind of see how it all fits into one sort of overarching brand theme.

Phil: Of course it is.

Dara: So that's my main challenge and kind of getting some clarity around that.

Phil: Of course, it is hard because you are the brand. It is hard for everyone when you are the brand and you're so close to it because it's literally you. It's one thing to say it's close to you if it's a product because it's something that you've designed or patented or packaged or created, right? But then when we're talking about a personal brand, a service you, it's literally you. No wonder you have difficulty with this because you are it. It's almost like when you hear someone say other people hear your voice differently to how you hear your own voice because of how it resonates in your body. It's the same idea. So guess what, but you have us on the phone in your in brand therapy, so you're going to get some therapy today.

Dara: Yay, I definitely need it.

Lauren: I guess to start off, it would be helpful to know how you're currently making money with your business. Are people coming to you for tailoring primarily or for creating wedding dresses? How does that work?

Dara: I'd say primarily people come to me for tailoring now, which is great. I think it's kind of come off me creating more content and blogs around that topic. But it is a bit seasonal as well. So I think sometimes over the summer months I'll get more inquiries for bridal. But yes, I would say that tailoring is my main business, but I do sell clutch bags. It's more a sideline, but I do enjoy that too and it’s a kind of steady small income for me.

Lauren: And the people who are buying the clutch bags, are they generally existing clients that find out about the bags and then buy them? Or is it a completely different audience?

Dara: I'd say both. It's partly a completely different audience. People who maybe don't have the money to have a bespoke garment made, they can afford a clutch bag. But then I have existing clients who like to get them as gifts for other people or just to add onto an outfit that I'm making for them. I think my biggest challenge is when I do bespoke clothing. I'm taking into account my client's wishes, so it's a really personal experience. I don't have ready made garments that they try on and I just altered to fit their shape. So it's actually designed from scratch for them. And what I'd like to do more of, I think as well, is just have ready to wear pieces, which are my end design in which people can just buy as they are.

Lauren: Very cool.

Dara: But it's all a bit confusing.

Lauren: Has it been challenging communicating those two different endeavors, the more custom versus premade by you?

Dara: I think there's one element that I haven't spoken about much in which I've done a bit more now because I feel like I want to be more authentically me in my business and in my brand. And so I think a key inspiration for me is instilling confidence in women and having them feel really great in the shapes that they have. And so there's a real strong kind of feminist background that comes to mind.

Phil: Yes, we're getting somewhere. This is interesting.

Lauren: I love it.

Dara: So when I studied fashion at university, my whole graduate collection was inspired by feminist artists, artworks and the vagina monologues. Don't know if you're familiar with that play, which is really powerful. So it was all kind of inspired by those things. But my style is quite timeless and elegant, so quite subversive. I think the way I bring it into my design, it's quite subtle, but it's there as a thread running through it all. And what I've just launched is a range of silk scarves and they're printed with 20 quotes by women in the past. And my idea around that is that you have this scarf you can wear and you feel inspired by these women from history and you feel connected to other women who also wear the scarf. And you're also inspiring the next generation of girls. And there's one quote that is from my daughter, she's seven years old, and she wrote her own quote to add into the mix, which is really sweet.

Lauren: Adorable.

Dara: Yes. So it's kind of bringing in that whole idea of women's empowerment and confidence. I want to bring that through into my design. Not just as the scarves, but I'm having these quotes printed in the lining. So when I make a jacket or a dress, I can add that in as a lining. It's a little bit like wearing a statement t-shirt, except it's not that visible, it's just there for yourself. I have a hashtag around this, which is ‘wearable confidence’.

Lauren: Oh, that's so cute. I love that.

Dara: Yes, but how do I communicate all of that? With tailoring as well, I find it tricky because bespoke is really associated with men's wear and Sabal rose and I'm trying to position myself quite different to that. I think I have managed to do it because the clients that come to me like the fact that I'm not a traditional tailoring house. With everything that that means, I wouldn't make hunting jackets or that kind of thing. I wouldn't even know where to start really. It's just not part of my world. I think of my tailoring as contemporary but timeless with minimalist clean lines. So sort of modern tailoring for amazing women.

Phil: I know you're thinking this is quietest I've ever heard Phil, but this is part of our job to let you discover this. And part of how you discover it, is in conversation with people like us, not because we're a brand strategist, but because we're listening and we're strangers. So you kind of have to start from the beginning to explain who you are and why people should care. That's a challenging thing to do when you're sitting in front of your computer staring at a word document, trying to put it into words where you can put it on your website. But in conversation like this with someone that's not that familiar, you can listen to or record the conversation and have someone else listen without interrupting, then you see how these ideas develop…’wearable confidence.’ What was the one that you just said? I have to list back to the recording.

Lauren: Modern tailoring for amazing women.

Phil: There you go, Lauren Moore was listening. These are very interesting conversational tidbits that could very well live in your brand sentence. Do you have a way now that you sum up all this in one sentence or no? I've tried with different ones. One brand sentence I had was I create perfectly fitting clothes for women in business and beyond. But it feels a bit, I don't know, not that exciting. I try to avoid the word beyond from brand sentences because it reminds me of Toy Story ‘to infinity and beyond’. That's my own personal weirdness. I do think we can come up with something better. And you know what I'm going to do, because I do it every episode when we're working on brand sentences. Pass it like a hot potato to Lauren Moore. The wordsmith genius. She's very good at this though.

Lauren: Thank you. Oh Gosh. Well there are a few things that you said that are amazing. First of all, ‘modern tailoring for amazing woman’, I think that's fantastic and not many tailors would embrace that or be that bold in their perspective. And the other tagline that you came up with ‘wearable confidence’ is just so cool. I don't know if this is the same case for men, Phil you tell me, but every woman is told that their secret weapon for feeling good is a good tailor. At least I've been hearing this for years. Have you heard that?

Phil: Yes, I have.

Lauren: And so I think the angle of you being a tailor for women is a really good place to be in just because it's an area that you can rock. So what I've got so far for your brand sentence that we can workshop together is “I'm a tailor who creates wearable confidence through custom pieces and predesigned lines. It's modern tailoring for amazing women.”

Dara: Oh, I like that. That's really great.

Phil: I like it too. And if you ever have to shorten it, well you can take those two sentences and they can live on their own as well, depending on how you're using them. Modern tailoring for amazing women, that could live on the homepage of a website. There's also something interesting about you as part of this brand, you have a real kind of sophistication in how you speak and how you also speak about your craft and your work and what is a passion for you. Being a feminist or women's rights or being an advocate in that kind of way, there's a real efficiency in your delivery that I like. That's the kind of sophistication and efficiency that I want in a tailor, right? Those are the kinds of qualities you want in someone that has this responsibility. So you are a very important part of this brand because you represent some of those idealistic qualities of your craft. I also just wanted to mention that that's something I've been thinking about in this convo.

Lauren: Yes, I also have a personal experience with tailoring. It can be, at least as a woman, a pretty uncomfortable experience. I remember one time I went to this tailor to get something taken in and she said, “you must have lost weight, you look good”. And I thought, can you please not talk about my body like that! Can you just make the clothes fit my shape now?

Dara: I've just written a blog actually about a compliment we need to stop making, which is you look amazing. Have you lost weight? And I've heard that so many times and I just think, can't we just make a compliment without referencing to someone’s weight?

Lauren: Especially while someone's really close to your body and adding pins and stuff. It's just very uncomfortable. So I would personally, I mean if I lived close to you, you would have a client. If I found that there was a tailor who's specifically worked with women, I would probably only go to them, I think.

Dara: Yes. And I think some women have come to me exactly for that reason because they don't feel comfortable having fittings, with men for personal reasons and they just prefer coming to a woman. And also because I specialize in women's wear. I think there’s quite a few tailors that do men and women's wear and I think it's quite nice knowing that you're working with someone who just does the one area.

Phil: It's another instance where you, saying, expressing your specific market, that narrative towards that targeted audience, which is a gender, focuses on servicing women. It doesn't mean that you won't get men as clients, but you're more likely to get more clients by saying, I specialize in tailoring for women. Men would then be a secondary market. You'll get more clients with that specificity than you would to say I'm a tailor because that's trying to appeal to everyone and no one identifies themselves in that statement. That's exactly what I need. When you're positioning yourself and putting what you do into words, you want your ideal audience to be specific so that specific person sees you and goes, oh my God, this is what I need. If it's too general, then you're among the people that are close to me in proximity. If I'm just looking for a tailor then I'm going to walk down the street, I'm not going to someone's website, you know? It's that and that's not your customer. Your customer is someone who cares about the details, who wants that kind of focus and level of attention and it's unique.

Dara: Yes, and the personal experience. I think so. I kind of have a motto which is “there is no perfect size, there's only the perfect fit.”

Lauren: Oh, Dara, you're so great. I love that.

Dara: I love that too, and it works really for the bespoke. I think, again, I kind of struggle if I offer some ready to wear pieces because it's not going to be the perfect fit for everyone, it just can't be because I have to set a size for it. That's fine. I don't know if I can use that or do I just use that for the bespoke element, but I do like it.

Lauren: We're going to change your brand sentence. You're saying too many good things!

Phil: I do. And I, and I think that's a very specific detail that only you're gonna notice. That's like me looking at our portfolio going, oh, I need to change the color of this thing in the background because it's driving me nuts. Doesn't match this other color. But that's the kind of level of detail that you'll notice as the creator. But the fact that you're saying it, it's more your perspective that it represents. The literal functioning of a ready to wear. So I think the message is more important than the potential for confusion with that literal functioning, if that makes sense. So I think you're fine.

Dara: Yes it does. I guess what I mean by that is that women are perfect the way they are. You know, we don't have to change ourselves. We don't have to lose weight before we can have something made. But I think the high street often makes us feel that way, that we have to be different before we can fit in. So I think to me it is a literal sense that I want things to fit you really well, but I also just want women to feel like they fit into society or whatever. So it sort of has a double meaning, I guess.

Lauren: Yes, yes. And for the brand sentence, or if you're going to put this on your social channels or introduce yourself, it's “modern tailoring and ready made pieces exclusively for women. There's no perfect size, there's only the perfect fit.”

Dara: Yeah, that sounds really great.

Lauren: I mean it's straight from your mouth. These are all gems coming right from you.

Dara: Oh, thank you. But it's kind of just wrapping it all up into, you know, one or two neat sentences. I can go around in circles talking about it.

Phil: The circles are good though. You should go around in circles, but then you have to take that second step to extract the juicy gold from those circles. You know what I mean? You've got to have a way to take inventory of those conversational nuggets and then figure out what to do with them. It could be notes on your iPhone. It could be just using an app like Rev, which records you and then you get it transcribed. Maybe you create a slack channel called caption ideas or something like that, but just make sure you do something in these moments of reflection on what's important to you. Not just what you do, but what your perspective is, what your opinion is. If there's a news story out today and you react to it, then you need to record that reaction in some way so that shares your perspective with your audience. Really important. It feels like you're broadcasting unnecessary racket, but actually you're not. You're just recreating the in person experience. If you and I got coffee today, you might say, ‘I don't know if you saw this, but there's this news story this morning and I can't believe that...”. Right. Any kind of moment that that happens, think about how you can make that same moment happen online. It's just a system you build.

Dara: I think that's great advice. Thanks. I overthink what to post on social media and I think I need to just treat it more as a conversation, like you're saying with just thoughts and opinions that I have and that's kind of my focus for this year. I've set myself this goal to be more authentic and to share more of what I think about on the news and what I see going on around me because I think I've been hiding away with that. It's kind of scary to show up as yourself and invite criticism possibly, especially around women's rights. It feels scary to stick your neck out there where so many people can destroy you when you do that.

Phil: Have you had any criticism or haters?

Dara: I haven't done that much yet, so it's probably more the fear than the actual thing happening.

Phil: It’s still valid.

Dara: I think online is quite a scary space for women. And you know on Twitter there are so many stories of women that just get taken down, you know, and get all kinds of threats and whatever. So I guess, yes, how far do you go talking about things that you care about. But you know, to be fair, I don't have a big following. It's not like I'm going to invite that many comments. But I do feel like I want to do it because it is important and you know, I want to be myself. Otherwise it's just too exhausting trying to put up a kind of corporate front.

Lauren: I think you're on the right track. I mean this may be ironic, but I think this comes down to a confidence issue for you. You're in a really great place. You know what you represent, you know where you want your business to be, and now I think it's just a matter of really rocking it.

Dara: You're right. I just need to own it and talk about what I do.

Lauren: It's so cool. I'm looking at your blog post right now with the analysis of Megan Markel's wedding dress and it's just so refreshing. Everyone was ripping it apart, but you took a positive outlook and really considered all of the little details.

Dara: Oh, thank you. I really enjoyed writing that. I thought the dress was stunning. It felt fresh and modern. I had friends actually ring me up and say oh my god, that just looks like you could have designed it, just really your style.

Lauren: Oh, that's such a compliment.

Dara: It really is.

Lauren: Well, I guess to wrap things up, how are you feeling? What are you going to do next?

Dara: You really nailed it down for me with with the brand sentence. It feels like I'm just overthinking it. I need to just settle into what it is and just do more of it. And I like the idea of this recording myself maybe with thoughts and so on and then listening back. I think that's a great tip. That will sort of help me to steal my own thoughts.

Phil: I think it's confidence and it's not just confidence in your brand or the positioning of your business, it's the confidence that you are legitimate as a content creator or someone that's worthy of putting a message out there for others to respond to. I actually think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the response you get. And also know that even people who are confident, like me when it comes to content creation, I still push publish on Facebook and I stare at it for the first 10 minutes once it's live. I'm thinking about how many likes does it have? Who's paying attention? Does this matter? Should I delete it? I think we all go through that and that never really goes away. If anything, use that for positive in that it does add that extra layer of thought in terms of editing it to make sure it's the way that people can understand or a way that people will pay attention to it. You shouldn't question yourself whether or not you're worthy of posting it and borrowing people's time and attention, it's more just how can you position this in a way that will improve people's day or make them react or make them think. You are the type of person to be able to do that. So I think it's just not being too in your head on taking that step to get it out there.

Dara: Absolutely.

Phil: Exciting. Hopefully you feel clear and you feel confident. Good. We're excited to see more of you online. How about that? We're excited to see some posts. You're gonna get super liked. Next time I see you on Facebook or Linkedin or wherever you decide is a platform of priority for you and,I hope that this inspires you to take that leap forward. I think it will and you've got a really great brand and you've got great soundbites. So just find a way to acquire them, jot them down, get them down and use them for answering captions, for lines of copy on your website, blog post ideas, et cetera.

Dara: Yes. I'll do that. Great. Thank you.

Lauren: And what I can promise you that the next time I come to the UK, is I'll bring an extra suitcase full of stuff I need tailored and then come see you.

Dara: Okay. All right. Thank you so much.

Phil: Our pleasure. The Internet is your Oyster Dara and we will chat with you very soon. Let us know how it all goes.

Dara: I will. Great. Have a wonderful weekend and thank you.

Lauren: There was a lot happening in that conversation, don't you think?

Phil: Definitely. I knew from the beginning when she said, I'm trying to figure out a lot of things I knew she was close to the brand because the brand has her just as I said. And I think having someone not super familiar, not a family member, not a best friend, but somebody who doesn't know you that well, just listen. It was hard for me, I wanted to interrupt because I was excited to share ideas with her. Did you notice how they were just spaces as after what she would say and then she'd add more thoughts she was thinking about. Then she'd add a little more and it was in those afterthoughts where you actually extracted some of the most valuable keywords for that sentence.

Lauren: Yes. Isn't that what Barbara Walters does when she interviews people?

Phil: I guess if that’s what she does, then we're onto something.

Lauren: You do this too actually. You've told me to be comfortable with silence because often when you ask someone a question, it's what they use as filler later where you get to the good stuff. But I think when it comes to clarifying a brand message, what do you find helps?

Phil: Focus on prioritizing the important considerations. Number one, who is your audience? That is more important than anything about you. Like a preference, right? Who is your audience? Who's buying? We need to be crystal clear on what it is they need, not just want, what it is they need so that you can provide that solution to the problem that they have. And the way that you provide it is unique, but it's not more important than the solution. So I think it's being crystal clear on who your audience is, which in itself is a big question, often a daunting one. But I think at some point you just have to make a decision.

Lauren: And drill down until you've maximized that audience.

Phil: Completely! It increases the likelihood that that niche or that specific person that you've outlined, finds you, and then what you offer really resonates. That's that magic moment.

Lauren: To me, selling a product and selling a service are two completely different endeavors and would be really challenging. It would be hard to do both at 100% because they're not quite related. But for Dara, I think if she's trying to sell her products to existing tailoring clients, that would make things a lot easier for her and it would just make the way that she presents her brand a lot more streamlined.

Phil: 100% I agree with that.

Lauren: Great. And then I guess we should talk a little bit about how to write a tagline because she had so many nuggets of wisdom there. So what's your advice?

Phil: You answer that question first. I don't write tag lines. If I do write tag lines, it's because I'm listening. It's not some big fancy idea that I've concocted in my head on my own. Usually I'm just listening. I used to be a terrible listener, terrible listener, and I've made a very conscious effort in this career to improve my listening skills and to listen when people talk. It is essential. So when we're writing tag lines you're more of the writer on this team. But by the way, someone in their review on our podcast called us a couple, like this couple is entertaining. Yeah. I wish we could respond on those. Not a couple but a team, but I think we listen and then you craft something from something they say, right?

Lauren: Yes. I try to ask questions that would solicit an emotional response. So like what challenges are you facing right now? What do you wish you could change about the world? How do you make money? Those types of questions can't be answered with a yes or no. And they get some sort of passion out of the client. And I also find listening really helps. And even listening to yourself. It's like with Marie Condo. You hold the item and you only keep what sparks joy. I kind of listen to the words that they're saying and if something gives me a tingling feeling, then I know that has to stay and Dara was full of them.

Phil: I love that you just referenced Marie Kondo.

Lauren: Well it's true though. Didn't you find that when she said ‘wearable confidence’, I thought that's staying. And when she said ‘modern tailoring for amazing women’, I thought, that has to stay too. But the in between sentences don't matter as much. It's just those nuggets that we have got to find.

Phil: Well not everyone listening is a tailor, but I'm sure everyone listening likely has a brand or they're involved in the building or repositioning or evolving of some kind of brand. So hopefully this episode was useful for you and gave you some questions to ask yourself as you're trying to make some important decisions on crafting that first impression. Just know what you think or what it has you thinking about. I'm @philpallen and I'm @thelaurenmoore #brandtherapy is where we can continue the conversation. If you enjoyed this episode, we'd love if you take just a few extra seconds to leave us a review. Shout out to recent people who've left us a review.

Phil: That actually helps other people discover this podcast that we worked very hard to make for you. Thank you for coming in, hanging out with us for a few minutes today. We'll see you back on another episode. New week, new episode. We'll be back with Brand Therapy. Until then, have a great day and see you next time.

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