Starting her business in 2016, Shanna had a revelation. The identity of her brand was so far from who she was that she fell out of love with it. Not one to give up in 2019, she rebirthed her branding and along came Maison Bent. As a young black woman, she always felt it was her calling to launch her own brand to show representation and how young black females can thrive in this industry. Maison Bent is all about telling stories of Jamaica and paying homage to Shanna’s ancestors.
Tell us who you are and background about yourself?
I graduated with a Diploma in Art & Design from Central Saint Martin’s then went on to London College of Fashion to study BA HONS Fashion Design and Development. During this time, I was able to get first-hand industry experience at Alexander McQueen, Roland Mouret, Agent Provocateur and more.
Why did you decide to apply for the Blueprint for All X Urban Outfitters marketplace?
Urban Outfitters is a globally renowned company with great retail positioning in prime locations across London. Though the price points and demographic positioning is different to Maison Bent, it was still such a great opportunity to be in front of new people that maybe wouldn’t have known about the brand otherwise.
What are your plans for the future?
To continue to grow Maison Bent. We have finally just launched our first ever Ready-To-Wear items after being a Made-To-Order brand for so long. We do still rent out our samples that we make for the shows but need to focus on RTW to expand.
What are you hoping to get out of partaking in the Blueprint for All X Urban Outfitters marketplace?
Our Pop-Up already took place on the 22-24 July, and it was so much better than expected. It was great to be able to meet new people in person and get feedback on all our pieces. My highlight was probably a customer saying:
“I don’t usually shop here but I saw your pieces and fell in love. This stuff doesn’t look too far off Jean Paul Gaultier and should be in Selfridges. I would have actually paid full price for this”.
Hearing that really made my day because it was confirmation that I’m going in the right direction and that I should continue to do what I’m doing and to stop doubting myself. I loved seeing people try on my pieces and make a fuss about how much they loved them.
What is your advice for anyone wanting to start up their own business?
Everyone’s business journey is different, but I would personally advise to make sure that you have a financial cushion. Maison Bent has been completely self-funded as I went straight into full-time work after graduating from university and saved for 3 years before doing anything. I was also working part-time prior to uni and have always been good at saving. Of course, you can take loans and borrow money from family etc. but having your own means you have more freedom and less stress on having to pay someone back for a little while until you reach a point where you are growing at rapid speed.
What has been the most challenging thing about starting up your business?
The hardest part was to start it. Once you have the foundations in place like your website, first collection, first show etc. You now have a template to copy each time your produce something. It doesn’t necessarily get easier, but you become more resilient with each obstacle that you come across.
What does diversity and inclusion mean to you in the working world?
It is vital. I went to an extremely diverse secondary school, and we all learned so much from each other which really helped to prepare me for the ‘real world’. After Sixth Form, I found myself being one of the only black people in the room wherever I went which really puzzled me considering how diverse of a city London is. I’ve made in my mission to represent people that look like me through my work to show that there is space for us everywhere.
What are you currently working on?
We have recently launched our Elkanah Shirt Set inspired by Jamaica’s Khaki school uniform for boys to celebrate Jamaica celebrating 60 years of Independence this year. We have also just launched our very first vegan soy wax candle titled “Poom Poom“. Gwyneth Paltrow did something similar and felt our version was perfect for the culture.
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