"Everything should be made as simple as possible..but not simpler." Albert Einstein

setting up shop

Almost a year ago, I started thinking about setting up an online shop to sell my hand dyed scarves.  I had been making a few colors each season to go with my clothing collections and they were always quite popular.  Customers would inquire about past colors and different sizes and I thought it would be great to have an array of colors, all available in several sizes, and all in one spot.  SCARFSHOP opened this past September and I have to say that despite the huge amount of work that went into the planning and preparing, I have enjoyed every moment.  Since I love documenting process so much, I thought it would be interesting to describe the process of setting up the shop.

The Beginning
One of the first things I did was develop a color palette.  This was probably my favorite part overall.  It might seem strange, but I envisioned early on a mosaic of color to display the collection and settled on 16 as a number that was big enough to have a presence as a mosaic but also a manageable number of colors to develop.  I came up with the initial palette based on colors that were popular scarf colors in past collections of my clothing line, colors that I personally love and colors that seemed to be missing once I put the mosaic together.  I posted this to flickr and twitter for feedback and I also created an online survey asking people to rate their top favorites.  The survey was invaluable, not only at this stage but later in stocking the shop.  It allowed me to see at a glance which colors were most popular to least popular in a graph.  From this I changed a few colors and then came up with the final chart.

Then I started developing the dye recipes.  This was the most time consuming part overall.  I initially ordered a small quantity of dye in many many colors, anticipating what I would need to get the colors I wanted.  But Dyeing is very complex.  Some colors didn’t work out how I expected and I had to order more dye.  I won’t go into the technique, but it took hours and hours (really weeks and weeks) to come up with each color mix.  Each color in the collection is mixed from several dye colors and the temperature of the water, dyeing time and fixative can really alter the results.

From the start I was trying to come up with a name for the line of scarves.  This was probably the hardest part of the whole process.  I didn’t want something too cute, or obtuse or clever.  In the end I settled on SCARFSHOP because it seemed the most direct – a shop to sell scarves.  This would also allow for other types of scarves to be added to the line.

During this time I was also thinking about photography, styling and the overall look of the website and brand.  By nature I like things that are quite minimal and modern.  In graphic design I tend to use a sans serif font and lots of white space.  While this type of design would have worked well, it didn’t seem quite right and maybe a bit too safe.  The scarves themselves while simple, are quite organic.  The color is slightly mottled, the edges are raw, and they have a lot of uneven texture.  I started thinking that a serif font, although still a very cleanly designed one, might be a better fit for the product.  After quite a bit of searching, and asking other designer friends on twitter for suggestions, I settled on Didot.

Originally I had thought the logo would just be the name SCARFSHOP, written in the font I chose.  No “logo” to speak of.  But again, it didn’t seem quite right.  A bit too stark.  I started playing around with some simple ideas of incorporating the name into a logo.  One idea was to have the word SCARFSHOP written on a rectangle or circle of color.  Simple but also something that could easily change by changing the color.  When I integrated it into the site design I had started though, the color seemed to fight with all the colors of the scarves.  Grey was the only one that seemed right.  Then I tried a simple sketchy line drawing of a scarf, very tiny on each side of the scarfshop word.  This seemed too busy, but I liked the idea of somehow incorporating a drawing of a scarf.  I decided to really abstract it, making a simple rectangle that could be viewed as a scarf but really just became a geometric that complemented the simple serif font.  I also like the idea that it could change slightly, by filling it in with a color or multiplying the triangle.

Website Design
The idea I had for the design of the website was to have a gallery of images that would change or be added to seasonally.  The gallery would be the main page.  I didn’t want something that seemed slick or “big company” like, but rather something that was down to earth and a bit quirky.  I imagined some images of people wearing scarves supplemented with still images of the scarves, process shots, sketches and inspiration images.  Overall the gallery is to act like a sketchbook or inspiration board might work.  I wanted the images to be viewed all together as well, rather than as individual images, like an inspiration board.  I tried a mosaic layout at first but the images were quite small.  Then I started thinking about a horizontal scrolling site.  I had seen a few of these types of sites lately and they allow for larger images while also letting several images to be viewed together.  I like the dynamic quality too – it gives you an idea of an overall atmosphere rather than focusing on just the product.

I designed what I wanted the site to look like in illustrator, adding a simple collection and about page to the main gallery page, and then asked my friend Mari Huertas to code it for me.  She took this on as a freelance project and was a dream to work with.  Even though the site was simple, I had a not so simple thing I wanted it to do: I wanted the logo to always be centered on differently sized screens, while the images scrolled beneath.  I love how it turned out -simple and dynamic at the same time.

For the main photographs on the website I didn’t want model shots, but rather real people wearing the scarves in different situations.  I have a number of friends who have my scarves and one friend in particular has many of the different colors. I particularly like the fact that she and her boyfriend both wear them.  He happens to be an architect and the two of them travel quite a bit, often taking quirky photos of themselves in different locations.  I asked her if she would be game for taking some photos in different locations wearing the scarves and she agreed.  I supplemented these with still product shots, sketches and inspiration photos.  Since the site launch in the fall I have added a few winter photos and I plan to keep updating each season.

Shop and payment services
Initially I chose Big Cartel to use for my online shop.  I had been using Big Cartel for my clothing line and liked how simple it was to set up and add products to.  It also has a clean design aesthetic that appeals to me.  I looked briefly at another shopping cart platform called Vendr, which has now changed it’s name to Wazala.  I really liked Wazala for the simple fact that the shop page can be integrated as an overlay to your own website.  At that time I decided not to use Wazala for a number of reasons, mainly because I was more familiar with Big Cartel.

Recently I switched to Wazala as they have some features that Big Cartel doesn’t have that I really like: They automatically categorize all your orders into an exportable page, w/ customer name and contact information, they allow multiple options on products (for instance you can offer a product w/ different sizes AND colors, and you can input a change in price for each option) and they offer multiple types of coupons: percentage off, dollar off, coupons for just one product, etc.  The design is also quite simple and easy to integrate into your own website.  I imagine as they grow they will also offer more options for customizing the way the shop looks as well.

I chose Paypal for my payment service provider as customers have the option of paying with a paypal account, a credit card or an e-check.  Paypal also makes it easy to manage and ship orders.

All the extras
Before launching the site I had to make sure I had all of the little details taken care of.  I designed tags that had the logo on one size and fabric content and care on the other and had them printed.  I ordered string and small safety pins to attach the tags to the scarves.  I ordered recycled tissue paper to wrap the scarves in and designed and printed stickers w/ the SCARFSHOP logo on them to fasten the tissue.  I did alot of research into mailing envelopes until finally finding ones that I liked and were relatively economical.  Shipping labels were another research project.  And I chose the good old US post office for shipping, as they are the most economical, will pick up at my door (except international) and you can easily pay and print labels using Paypal.

Once the site was ready to launch, and I had the shop stocked, I set up a mailing list on Mailchimp and started a twitter account.  Then I wrote a simple press release.  This was just one page describing the scarves, the process of how they are made and a few images of the collection.  I sent this out to a few friends and a few design bloggers and then I launched the site.  The response was pretty incredible.  A few design blogs wrote about it and from there word just spread around the internet.  People started signing up for the mailing list and following @scarf_shop on twitter.

To make sure that it doesn’t become stagnant I plan to add to the collection as time goes on.  Over the winter holiday I introduced a wool jersey scarf and that will return next winter.  I recently introduced the “color of the month” which is a special color inspired by that particular month and only available for that time period.  Linen scarves will be coming soon, as well as a line of very light, square sized printed scarves.

Thank You
I have been steadily busy with orders since the site opened in September and I have to say I have loved every minute.  I really enjoy the dyeing process, I love getting emails from customers telling me how they wear their scarves and I smile as I pack up orders going to places all over the world.  I am really grateful to everyone who has purchased a scarf, loved it and told their friends about SCARFSHOP.