Supplier Spotlight: Clare Simpson Designs

It’s this weeks supplier spot light and I am chatting to the lovely Clare Simpson Designs, now me & Clare actually went to secondary school together all them many moons ago, its funny where life leads you as back then I don’t think either of us thought we would end up working on weddings! Clare creates gorgeous stationary and greetings cards & here she is to tell you about Clare Simpson Designs….

Can you tell us why you became a stationer and your previous career experience which let you into it?

I’ve always been a creative person. I always make instead of buying what I think I can. From fancy dress outfits (although some phenomenal disasters) to full on matching papier-mâché head masks, to simple Christmas present tags. I began my love affair with stationery in my teens when I paid a whopping five pounds for a really average Mother’s Day card. Of course, I didn’t  begrudge my wonderful mum a penny of it (despite my pitiful pocket-money budget) but I did feel cheated paying over the odds for something that, quite frankly, I could make better myself. The rest as they say is history. In 2002 I began selling my small collection of handmade cards to family, friends and a few local shops.  I’m  sure at the time, the lady in Paper Lane on Chislehurst High Street just felt sorry for me. I stood unannounced at her till point (I still cringe that I didn’t  even make an appointment) clutching my box of ten designs and boldly asked “Would you like to buy some of my greetings cards?  I’ve  made them all myself”. She made an order for five. Not multiples of five designs. Just five cards. But I was over the moon!  It was a hobby I kept up throughout my A-levels, Drama degree and first full time job in advertising, but I always knew I wanted to enter the gorgeous and beautiful world of wedding stationery. At the beginning of August 2010, after a year of business planning, redundancy from my then TV advertising job, encouragement from Dan and a rather healthy dipping into our “house fund”, I gave Clara’s Cards a bloody good makeover and Clara Lou Designs (now Clare Simpson Designs) was born – a wonderful hub of all things stationery and alike.

Set in Stone Collection

Set in Stone Collection

What is it you love the most about what you do?

This is a tough one because as cheesy as it sounds I’m lucky enough to love it all – except the inconsistent cash flow that goes hand in hand with running your own business, of course! I love designing. Thinking up new ideas and bringing them to life. I also equally love a challenging bespoke order. When my creativity is really tested and I manage to pull it off, see how happy the client is, is when I know I’m doing what I’m supposed to do.

Victorian Tea Rooms Collection

Victorian Tea Rooms Collection

You recently re-branded, tell us more about that…

It was LONG overdue! However, I’m pleased I waited. I didn’t have a website at all in the first three years of the business, I relied heavily on Facebook to showcase my samples. This was for a few reasons; I couldn’t fund it, I attempted to do it myself and failed (miserably) and even in all that time I didn’t feel I had a complete collection to share. I went on a course in November 2012 which prompted me to rethink the entire business. My production process was long and expensive – I needed to outsource many things to make the processes faster and more economical. I also realised that my designs were typically ‘wedding’ and all the while would mean I’d never stand out from the crowd and was open to the shameless copycats out there. So I decided before I could do anything else I needed a collection I was truly proud of and really represented what I was about and at the same time was more economical and could grow into a business rather than always be limited to a hobby. I spent nearly a year working on a new collection of fifteen designs. Once they were done and I was happy I could think about my website and my re-brand. First was a name change. I decided ‘Clare Simpson Designs’ reflected the new and permanent changes in the business. Clara Lou stood for all my old designs and so I needed to rename to make a completely fresh brand. I worked with the wonderful and very talented, Lucy Ledger, who came up with my lovely logo which promptly led to the completion of my website! I am thrilled with my re-brand. It’s been tough launching what is basically a whole new business but worth it. Because of the rebrand, I am so much more confident. I’m proud of my style and I know who I’m targeting and where I fit in the market. It was expensive, but totally worth it.

clare simpson - logo - final design

What would you say are the 2014 trends for wedding stationery?
Weddings are becoming more and more creative and unique. Stationery is one of the ways in which the designs and creativity can be showcased on the big day. I think we’ll be seeing lots of woodland/enchanted forest weddings in 2014 and the rustic theme is still trending BIG. I think the earthy and rustic designs will still be very prominent in all design aspects weddings in 2014. I think DIY stationery for those on a budget will still be trending big – also because many brides who have an inner creative streak are not afraid to ‘give it a go’ on their stationery. I know if I wasn’t a wedding stationer, I would be doing my own. Lastly, I think bespoke ‘out there’ orders will be bigger this year and in 2015 than ever before. I’m getting more and more requests for unusual invitations that look more like props on a film set than they do a wedding invitation. It’s just the growing nature of the industry and the inner desire that brides want something unique and different that hasn’t been seen before.
Rustic Romance Collection

Rustic Romance Collection

I know you recently got engaged yourself (big congratulations) how are you finding the early stages of planning and do you have any advice for other couples that are planning their wedding?
Ah thank you, Jo. It’s very exciting! It also feels sooooo strange. I have been buying wedding magazines for over three years for the business and the first time I bought a few with my engagement ring on it was like, OK, I’m actually now ALLOWED to do this without the shop assistant thinking I’m a crazy fantasist! But having done over a hundred and fifty weddings, finally planning my own feels so surreal. It is fun though. I’m addicted to Pinterest. I’ve asked my seven bridesmaids to be my bridesmaids – that was really exciting, and we’ve researched every barn in the UK. We want a winter barn wedding, and much to Dan’s annoyance, I REALLY want it to snow! Obviously, that can’t be planned. I’m finding the early stages of planning fun, but I’m super chilled about it. I’m not freaking out and rushing to book it all. We’re aiming for December 2015 so that’s plenty of time. My advice to couples planning a wedding would be to make sure you have a budget and take your time with research. We know, despite whether we can or can’t afford more, we want to spend less than £20k. We think any more, and the money would be better spent elsewhere. Once you know your budget, you know what you can look at and what you can afford to book. I also think it’s important to use your resources. I’m lucky my best friends’ are really creative too. One has her own costume company, one is a beautician, two are dancers and one (although a full time mum) makes everything from cushions, and Christmas sacks to a full on curtain and room decor for Santa’s grotto for her kids at Christmas. So I am well-equipped when I get married for all things fabric, beauty and decoration. And my dancer friends can also give Dan a few well needed dance lessons! Obviously they’re not the reasons they are my bridesmaids – we have been best friends for over 12 years, but what I’m saying is if you have friends or family members that are hands on or are in the wedding industry with small businesses then use them. Round up anyone close, pay them of course, if necessary or they may offer to do things as a wedding present. My auntie is amazing at cakes and has already offered to make our wedding cake as our wedding present. Photography is the only exception. Whatever you do, make sure you get a professional photographer. This is not an area you should be scrimping on budget. I’ve heard too many disaster stories. A professional photographer is an absolute necessity in my opinion and should cost between £1200-£2000.
What plans do you have for Clare Simpson Designs in 2014?

Ooh lots! I’m so excited about 2014. I’m working on a huge PR campaign at the moment and so will hopefully see the rewards of that in 2014, which includes trying to get featured in magazines and blogs etc. I also have a greetings card collection on the way and have just signed up to Not On The Highstreet to sell them. Eventually, I want to sell to trade and have plans to do a trade show – but that will probably be more 2015 in all honesty. I’m launching my new designs at the Bluewater wedding fair in February which will be slightly scary to see people’s responses to my new collection face to face and I’m also signed up for the autumn Bluewater wedding fair too. My biggest challenge of 2014 is my target to pull in at least 15 weddings a month. I also have some collaborations I’m working on in 2014 but more will be revealed about that in the next few months. But it’s all exciting stuff!

Vintage Enchantment Collection

Vintage Enchantment Collection

My passion is to provide couples with stylish, high quality and design-led wedding stationery that is packed with personality to complement their wedding style combined with a unique and personal service. I truly love what I do and it shows. Clare Simpson Designs is individual, original and fun. Specialising in weddings with a specific style or theme. If you feel uninspired by the usual wedding papery in magazines or disheartened by what you didn’t find on the internet then check out www.claresimpsondesigns.co.uk.

Thank you to Clare for guest posting for us today, please feel free to leave your comments.

Joanne xx

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