By Shope Delano
ventually, I stopped making pitch decks and took myself to the desert. Not Coachella, Silicon Valley, or Burning Man, but to a barren place, absent of any resources, but charged with potential.
Eventually, I stopped making pitch decks and took myself to the desert. Not Coachella, Silicon Valley, or Burning Man, but to a barren place, absent of any resources, but charged with potential.
I swivel away from my laptop, apathetic about the reality that ‘pre-launch’ investment doesn’t quite exist for individuals like me, businesses like mine. I press pause on the doing, and give myself a moment to dream.
I’m walking down the street. It’s Spring - sticky yet fresh. A woman walks past me, late 30’s. She’s helplessly animated, mid-voice note to her business partner. There’s a tote bag slung over one shoulder, Birkenstocks or Camper’s on her feet, in one-hand a caffeinated drink and in the other, a child’s school folder.
She’s wearing what looks like a jumpsuit-suit situation. Styled with an (unironed) white tee underneath, and a vintage waistcoat thrown on top. The fabric is a little crinkled, worn-in.
Already knowing the answer, I stop her and ask “I love your outfit! Where’s the set from?”
She responds “Kind Regards.”
For so long, I’ve obsessed over the way women work. It’s so sprawling, so secretive, so business-as-usual. So much of it goes unregistered. I read a tweet the other day ‘Everyone has the same 24 hours, except men, they have 39’. Where did this time go? (No - the answer is not as simple as “children”). How do we get this time back?
I started to think about all the different kinds of things all the women around me were holding in tension every day.
It was all work, it is all work, created and acknowledged unequally but valid, hard and time-consuming all the same.
Money-making work. Creative work. Familial work. Domestic work. Beauty work. Caring work.
Hearing and talking about the universality of this messy work kept me going when I couldn’t synthesise what Kind Regards wanted to be. When I felt paralysed by the expectation of how a business Should be launched.
In the autumn of 2020 - the height of the pandemic, when it wasn’t sunny anymore - I wrote an open letter about all of this. It was viewed, liked, or shared >100,000 times. In keeping with my pre-ordained habit to analyse, pick apart, and find the ‘what’s underneath’, I have a theory for why the letter resonated so.
Many of us were tired of being at war.
“Girl boss”, “lean in”, “she can” are all helplessly tethered to an ideal, a system, that hasn’t served us for many years. It puts us in the continual mode of pushing back, of proving, of being in defence, being at war. Any notoriety built in such close proximity to (and in reliance of) narrow, unforgiving ideals around success, would be short-lived, painfully so, as we’ve seen time and time again.
Whilst girl boss fatigue is well-worn territory now, when I wrote the letter, the idea of girlresting was only just making its way into the mainstream.
Self-definition as an organising principle of work and life was the call-to-arms of the letter, and feels like the only palpable alternative to me.
Alongside this, I knew workwear for the multiple ‘self-defined’ contexts we moved through didn’t exist. Sartorially, we were still being siloed, as if our working life wasn’t sprawling and bleeding, all-inclusive. What do you wear to be busy and always moving and multifaceted? Comfortable and chic?
And so it began: Clothes and conversations for self-defined working women.
I started iterating, asking for help, coming face to face with the reality of building in a desert, leaning into the constraints and freedom that came with self-funding. I had such tiny margins for error, let’s face it no margins, and well, I made a lot of errors. I am in debt.
I made two jump(suit)s, painfully, slowly, they took me months each and they were bad. I got grittier, more determined, and forced myself back inside the process deeper and deeper each time. I learnt a whole new language, partnered with a brilliant designer, and met the best (and worst) people in London’s factory scene.
Finally, we nail our first unit - a (jump)suit - is a jumpsuit-suit hybrid made from deadstock Italian fabrics, that can be styled 6 ways for every work-life event. Our model uses deposits - half upfront, half when the garment is ready - to minimise waste and allow customers to spread the investment. Every customer that shops during the soft launch becomes a Friend of KR, and through that, is gifted a small piece of ownership in the brand.
Getting to this point has everything and nothing to do with italian fabrics, tapered cuts, and a “soft launch” strategy.
It has more to do with my quiet desire to untether myself from the (unexamined) desires of the world around me.
Those which encourage you to “find your purpose” and “be true to yourself” in the same breath as telling you to take that promotion, and marry the man who looks good on paper.
Those which may have come from the world around me to begin with, but now come from within me, my internal voice and the voice of “authority” being somewhat indistinguishable.
On the heels of any enthusiasm I hear in response to an act of self-definition, is a steady trickle of ‘shoulds’ that will put you in the same emotional space you seek to escape, in 5-10 years time. But perhaps with nicer shoes.
Throughout this comically difficult journey of me “starting something my way”, I’ve found that the phrase “God loves a trier’ jumps out of my throat whenever discussing my efforts, or describing the latest setback.
It’s a cute, insincere cover. One that lifts the mood that I’m accidentally bringing down with my startup woes, that no one cares about. But what I really mean is “I love a trier”. I love to try. I can’t help but to try. To apply myself, in pursuit of doing something that I want to do.
Perhaps it’s because those things come rarely. Untethered, self-directed desires, that is. (As mentioned, the scales are tipped, and we’ll fall into the done thing without even realising it). I’ve let a fair few of them come and go in my time. But for whatever reason Kind Regards is one that I hung onto (and hang on to) for dear life.
Maybe it was the pandemic, reaching my late twenties, the mortifying speed with which the glee of an Achievement turns into apathy. (Tracking at about 3 minutes)
I’m not sure. But either way, I not only hung on, but I grabbed it with both hands, dragged it down, and wrestled with it in the mud, until I got to this point. Day 0. I worked when Instagram told me to rest, I trusted when my intuition told me to turn right, even though people who ‘knew more than me’ told me to turn left.
As I soft launch our very first product with my nervous system wildly dysregulated, I realise the desert of my mind, now exists in reality, and in ways I will never understand, I love it.
I love the grit, the accountability, the fear, my friends, my community. The badgering ways in which I ask “but why?”, the bravery and freedom I’ve found in asking people to help me, and the compassion I’ve experienced from all the women in every corner of my life.
Maybe I’ll build a home here. In self-definition.
Kind Regards, Shope
Getting to Day 0: The Shift from Dreaming to Doing - Shope Delano
By Shope Delano
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