Bonnie Bling - has in the past year has went from relative obscurity to being the name on everyone's lips. The Scottish slang jewellery company set up by friends Mhari Mackenzie and Sarah Richardson in 2010 has went from strength to strength, picking up awards from best product design as well as a collaboration with Obscure Couture, I popped in to the Hidden Lane to chat with Mhari about Bonnie Bling, starting your own business and her latest collaboration Sheeps Clothing.
Bee Waits: So Mhari, let's start with the basics...how did Bonnie Bling all get started?
Mhari Mackenzie: A bottle of wine. It always starts with a bottle of wine. My friend Sarah (Richardson) and I were sitting up one night and we start slagging each other off with all these slang words. We laughed about it and joked about getting it on the necklace. We woke up the next day and were like "that's not actually a bad idea." We got in touch with the product design department at Strathclyde University - and decided to develop the idea with a bit of help from the folk down the lane. We started doing markets like Made in the Shade and developed it on from there.
BW: Bonnie Bling's been very quick to grow - how difficult do you feel it is for young designers to set up shop?
MM: Yeah - it's very difficult. I don't think Bonnie Bling would have grown as quickly as it has if it hadn't been for my experience with Mucky Puddle (Mhari's web and graphic design company). Having that basic business knowledge really helped us figure out how we could grow. We've been very lucky. We started with markets and make a bit of money -took the plunge and put the money back in to getting a stall at a trade show. It was a huge gamble but we won Best New Product and we now have over 13 stockings off the back of it including GOMA, The Transport Museum and Shop of Interests.BW: How important do you feel it is for young brands to have an online presence?
MM: Absolutely essential. People are looking for it these days. There is not a day where I'm not interacting with social media like facebook or twitter, blogging or updating the website. It's so key for designers to have good photos of their products online - the quality has risen to high in how we present ourselves to a market. You'll get lovely products but if they've not got good quality photographs people will pass over them. ASOS marketplace has been great for young designers, especially with street style pictures where you see clothes in real environments. With stuff like being online there are all these programmes like google analytics (which is free and easy to add to your site) that allows you to see how people found you and where your traffic is coming from. The printed media is still important but online promotion and presence for young designers is just invaluable. Things like twitter can just expand you audience with retweets and our newsletter that goes out once a month features events, products and discount codes we have.
BW: You recently used QR codes in a collaborative project - would love to hear more about that.
MM: I work on a side project called Dead Man's Clothes. It's a monthly market with different sellers. We decided we wanted to make the market mobile and interactive so we created temporary tattoos of QR codes for models so people could scan codes with their smart phones and it would take them to a website where they could find out about what the girl was wearing, who it was from and how much it costs. We're doing something similar again for Dead Man's Clothes Halloween event at the Berkley Suite, with a market the next day at the Glue Factory.
BW: Any plans on expanding Bonnie Bling?
MM: Well we do out limited edition designs every season - our winter "Baltic" will be coming back and maybe a few words. I'm going to look in to doing more regional slang - "Quine" "Loony" and "Manny" as well as eventually doing some cockney and yorkshire phrases. I'm working on some "Och Aye" hoodies at the mo - seems like Och Aye has become part of the brand - as well as working on a horror inspired collection for "In the Company of Wolves." BW: You're ITCOW collection is a collaborative piece with your friend Jo Netherey...Sheeps clothing - how did this come about?
MM: Another bottle of wine actually. I've known Jo from Ivy across the road and I loved the horror theme of ITCOW. Jo's always been making clothes - and I asked her if she'd be up for working on a themed collection inspired by 70's horror using organic and recycled fabrics. We're really excited about some of the pieces as we get to go wild with the theme, but we've got this gorgeous reversible dresses we're working on that will be available for sale after.
BW: You've worked on a few collaborations - do you feel that there is a real community spirit in Glasgow?
MM: Definitely. I love collaborating and the exchange of ideas. I've worked with Emily Muir and Obscure Couture, and it's nice to work together and share the spotlight. There is a real community vibe in Glasgow and it does work best for everyone when we all work together. It's a real positive environment to work in.
So yeah - pretty stoked to be working with Mhari & Jo for ITCOW. Tickets are on sale at Ticket-Scotland now and her horror collection will go on sale in La La Land the 27th.