California raised and recently NYC transplant, Ashley Smith, is the Founder of OTHERWORLD a brand that inspires the wearer to travel to the far off places that inspire her product. From the design of her product to her 5 year plan, read about Ashley's story in developing her brand.
1. What inspired you to create the OTHERWORLD brand?
I have always been inspired by travel and interacting with those outside my immediate tribe. I wanted to create a brand that captured that same feeling you get when you travel - feeling exotic, free, curious and inspired. So when it came time to capture that feeling in a single word, I wanted women to feel 'otherworldly'. Every OTHERWORLD kimono is designed to transport the wearer to exotic locales across the globe and electrify the adventurous spirit in all of us.
2. Do you have design background and what's been your biggest challenge in creating awareness for the brand?
I have more of a branding background vs. a design background. I created the brand - what it stood for, why people would care and how it would make people feel - before I created the product.
But in the process, I've learned so much about design! We create our own prints, utilizing photos from my travels around the world. I work with two amazing print designers on both coasts and they each have their own unique design process. Sometimes we'll sharpen a photo, and other times we'll make the photo more abstract when designing prints. We've even been known to merge two photos together, lay abstract elements on top of one another or mirror an image to create a kaleidoscopic effect - all in the name of wearable art. From there, the file is digitally printed on luxe fabrics to maintain its photographic origin.
We've created prints inspired by Morocco, Bali, China, Japan and Guatemala. Photos from the Great Wall of China outside Beijing, the Grand Mosque of Hassan II in Casablanca and the Rice Terraces in Ubud, Bali have been used to create our prints. You can learn more about our print making process here.
The biggest challenge I have in creating awareness for the brand is just resources. There's only one of me so while I have ambassadors in many cities that help spread the word, I am the only one truly driving the initiatives forward.
3. What's your favorite part of owning your own company? Have you had a "pinch me" moment since you've started?
I love that the brand is truly a reflection of what's important to me. It's so much fun to have an idea in your head and then get to express it visually and through the customer experience. It such a nice mix of an artistic vision and a business savvy. Sometimes they're hard to merge but that's what I enjoy about it.
My pinch me moment was about 4 months after launch. I got into the Lord & Taylor Flagship store on Fifth Avenue in NYC. I went in to find my product on the women's contemporary floor, and there it was, on the main floor, center mannequin, over a black Theory dress. It was the first time I felt like my hard work had paid off.
4. In addition to running your company you work as the head of client services and new business at Your Majesty. How do you find balance in your day?
Finding balance can be tough, but I enjoy working on OTHERWORLD, so it doesn't always feel like work. I've scaled the business to a place where much of it runs on its own, so I only focus on the things that really need my attention - driving the business forward with marketing and new product initiatives and always trying to improve the customer's interaction with the brand.
I also make sure to take care of myself physically and mentally. I take vacation, I work out, I have "quiet time" and I only do things that make me happy, or will bring happiness upon completion.
5. Where do you hope to grow OTHERWORLD in the next 5 years?
We're only 20 months old, so continuing to get the OTHERWORLD name out there is a big focus for us. We have a lot of amazing repeat customers, which gives us faith that our product is beautiful, but we still want to continue to grow our new customer base.
From there, we do a pretty good job of making our Tribe feel loved by offering lots of exclusives, travel inspiration and playlists. In return, their word of mouth endorsements have really helped us grow. In the end, it's about the Tribe of people we're bringing together and providing them with something meaningful and aspirational. I want to keep doing that.
We're also still trying to figure out how best to work with our retailers and make sure that every partner is strategically in line with the brand. Our customer is at the heart of all our decisions, so we're not afraid to try new things and make pivots if it's in their best interest.
In five years, I'd love it if we were a full lifestyle brand offering a variety of products - but only time will tell!