INTERVIEW: NAUDIA SALMON.
1. To start, why don’t you tell us about your business model and how the idea of an anti-insect sleepwear came to you?
We Drifters are a premium sleepwear brand inspired by travel and enhanced with tech. Our debut product is our unisex Anti-Insect Sleepwear, made from soft bamboo and odourless anti-insect treatment.
The idea for our sleepwear came when I was travelling in South East Asia a few years ago. I had an amazing time but really struggled with the insects, particularly at night. I was badly bitten and also had an allergic reaction to my bites as well as my antimalarials. I also hated using my bug sprays and repellent sleeping bag liner, which was very uncomfortable to sleep in. This gave me the idea to create something wearable and comfortable with anti-insect fabric.
After lots of research, product development and testing I launched our sleepwear in Summer 2019 in the UK and sell directly to customers on our website, with £2 from each sale going toward helping end malaria. We are exploring wholesale opportunities with retailers and are planning pop-up stores to have some physical presence in London. Alongside developing more products, we hope to build our community and to host events and meet-ups.
2. Which are the main challenges of a fashion start-up?
When developing products for a fashion start-up a key challenge is getting the right manufacturer and suppliers. It can be difficult evaluating suppliers and properly testing them until you are sampling, which can then become costly. I found that asking for recommendations wherever possible can be short-cut – it helped me find my reliable manufacturer and suppliers, prior to which I had struggled finding someone to meet my specification and high level of requirements. I work closely with my suppliers to ensure high quality control and have built a great working relationship with them.
Another main challenge is financing a start-up, which in fashion can be particularly difficult because of upfront manufacturing costs. There are several financing methods and it can be difficult to know which route is best for you and your business. Early on it can be beneficial to bootstrap your business using existing resources. For me this meant working as lean as possible to reduce outgoings, swapping skills with other founders to cover gaps in the business, and leveraging business networks. Working with a lean budget can feel tedious and slow at times, but being persistent and having the end goal in mind has helped me on my journey.
3. How do you manage bringing technology, fashion and sustainability together while respecting the consumers’ requests?
These elements came together very organically for us. My idea for Anti-Insect Sleepwear needed technology for the anti-insect property and I knew early on that I wanted to create a fash-tech company which would be design-led for fashion-forward customers, as a way to differentiate from outdoor and travel brands. Working responsibly and being as sustainable as possible should be key for everyone and every business. At the very beginning of sketching concepts and prototyping I spent time speaking with prospect consumers to get insights and guide the product development. Luckily consumer requests for the most part aligned with what we hoped, but one
key factor was narrowing the target consumer profile and having a clear focus of who our consumer was.
4. The brand’s social media not only promotes the product, but also shares travelling tips and news of social relevance, such as species facing extinction, all related to travelling. Why do you think it is important for a brand to position on relevant matters without distancing of its image?
I believe it is important for brands to do this if they really want to connect and engage with their audience in a more authentic way.
For us, travel inspired our Anti-Insect Sleepwear but it also inspired us to live more in the moment and on our own terms. We Drifters was born from the need to continue living this way and the want to connect with like-minded people. I see We Drifters as a collective for those of us who crave the freedom to keep moving and expanding in-line with our core selves. Whether that’s travelling the world, exploring the great outdoors, or doing whatever it is we truly love to do. One of our brand principles which is aligned to this way of thinking is to promote the health benefits of travel, wellbeing, and self-care. We started sharing what we care about and it has evolved into sharing our position on relevant matters. This fits with our brand identity and ethos so it complements the more product focussed content.
The great thing about this is that it gives customers more transparency on who they are engaging with and buying from. Customers can more easily see whether what a company represents and stands for is aligned with their own beliefs and values.
5. How networking has helped you develop We Drifters?
I have been able to make really good connections with a range of people through networking and being part of different networks, which has helped develop the business. Connections have led to getting input from industry experts, meetings with retail buyers, journalists featuring us in media, and partnerships with travel companies. It has also been incredibly helpful building a peer support system of other founders. It has become a community where we can share tips, resources and contacts. It is also a safe environment to ask questions that you might not want to go to an expert for!
6. What advice would you give to fashion entrepreneurs that are starting a business?
My advice would be to have a clear vision which has an authentic point of difference and is aligned to why you are starting your fashion business. The journey can be challenging so having this really gives you direction and it should of course be something that excites you. Finding and working with people who share your vision for the business and are as passionate as you, is also key. A business is only as good as its people.
Naudia Salmon is the Founder and CEO of We Drifters, a premium sleepwear brand enhanced with tech to help keep bugs away. Naudia is an experienced Director based in the UK, having previously worked at an award-winning, full service, healthcare communications agency – leading business operations and several project accounts, including work on antimalarials. Naudia has a diploma in Direct & Digital Marketing and a Biochemistry degree from the University of Warwick. Travel is Naudia's passion and the inspiration behind the We Drifters brand.