Design Debrief: Below the Kōwhai Branding with Sophie Laughton-Mutu

Design Debrief: Below the Kōwhai Branding with Sophie Laughton-Mutu

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I recently had the joy of working with Sophie Laughton-Mutu to design the logo and branding for Below the Kōwhai: modern digital sewing patterns with nostalgic charm. Afterwards, I had a chat with Sophie to ask her about her experience finding and working with a designer, and the design process itself!

Hi Sophie! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hi Hollie, thanks for having me! I’m a small business owner from Christchurch, New Zealand. I have a few small children who are my little muses, and I love to walk the hills near our home and breathe in the fresh air.  

And tell us about Below the Kōwhai. What is it and how did it come about?

Below the Kōwhai is my sewing pattern business I started 2 years ago when my children were still taking up most of my days.

I found myself needing an outlet to pour my creative and entrepreneurial self into. I had already been sewing for 10 years and found myself in a natural progression in learning to draft my own patterns.

I took some online courses and spent a year refining my first pattern, then Below the Kōwhai was born!

I design and create the sewing pattern, along with an easy to follow tutorial for beginner sewists. People can download their pattern off our website and make their garments at home! Previously we have exclusively made childrenswear, but have just released our first women’s skirt pattern.

What made you decide to take the leap, make the investment and hire a designer to create your brand and work with you on Below the Kōwhai?

I was at the point where I had refined my patterns and had produced a few of them, and had customers all around the world... and yet I felt like my product didn’t match the dream. I was selling a digital product, that didn’t look very good digitally.

One of my pattern testers (who tests a pattern before it’s ready to sell), made a comment like “I think it could look better…”. That’s when I emailed Hollie!

What were you struggling with the most when it came to your brand?

The difference between what I was capable of producing, and what a professional product looked like.

Since I am an online, global business, my product needs to look it too!

Unfortunately my limited skills in Illustrator, whilst they served me when I was starting my business, weren’t cutting it or meeting peoples expectations anymore.  

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Once you had decided this, how did you go about finding a designer?

I had already known Hollie for a number of years and followed her design business on Instagram. I had emailed a few designers, but felt like Hollie really understood my business and where I wanted it to go!

Before we started working together, what did you expect from a designer and the branding process?

I was worried I would have to come up with all of the ideas! (or that I wouldn’t like any of Hollies!)

I made it clear in the beginning that even though I had already “created my brand”, and was a functioning business, I was open to change - because what I had didn’t reflect what I wanted!

Did you have any goals for this branding project? Or a specific aim?

My aim was to have a branding overhaul that could reach into every area of my online, digital business.

I hired Hollie to create my branding (colours, fonts, logo, etc), social media templates and a template I could use for my sewing tutorials. I just swap out the photos and text and use what she designed for me - it’s so great!

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Now having been through it, how would you describe the branding process?

So easy! It’s a very fluid process of design and concept review. Hollie would send me three different concepts, I would comment on each of them, she would go away and turn all of that feedback into something new! I didn’t really have to make any decisions until the very end, it all came together so organically as we viewed each concept.

Hollie was so good at hearing my thoughts and turning them into actions. I was impressed!

Did you have a favourite part of the branding experience?

I loved seeing my moodboard! I was amazed that Hollie could take our Skype call and turn it into everything I dreamed for my business! She really nailed it!

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How about a least favourite part?

Having to decide the final logo concept. It was between two, both had the same logo except one had a curved line and one had a circle. Such a small detail, but we had refined it down to that over the process of about 3 rounds of concepts. I took a weekend to mull it over and decided on the circle - it felt more corporate, but that seemed fitting since we’re a pattern business, who people rely on for accuracy.

You told me what you expected from a designer and the branding process before we met, has this changed at all now that you’ve experienced it?

Yes! The whole process is so collaborative. Hollie came up with the ideas, I commented on them, she turned them into perfection. I didn’t have to come up with anything, only my thoughts on what she presented to me. And I loved all of her work! She really understood my brand and what I was trying to achieve.

What advice would you give to somebody else thinking about working with a designer on their brand?

Do it! What a brilliant investment in your future. As I was creating a new tutorial the other day, I had a little moment of thankfulness. It all looks SO good now, far better than I ever imagined, and was well worth the money and time I invested.

When we launched our newest pattern and website at the same time (both with our new branding), we out-sold all of our previous patterns (6 patterns, over 2 years of sales) in only one week with our newest pattern!

Our future looks bright from where we’re standing, and I’m so glad we have a brand that truly represents us!

View the Below the Kōwhai branding project here and head on over to belowthekowhai.nz to find out more about Sophie’s work and get your sew on!



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