Sandwiched between the frenzied shopping occasions of Black Friday and Cyber Monday is a day that we at Knack make a special point of celebrating: Small Business Saturday. Since 2010, the Small Business Saturday movement has supported the local businesses, entrepreneurs, and artisans behind the compelling products you can’t find just anywhere…many of which we strive to carry in our own virtual marketplace of makers.
This year, in honor of Small Business Saturday, we’ll be showcasing some of our favorite local small businesses. First up is Jill Rachel Evans of Hapertas & Company, a new addition to the Knack merchant community. Jill is a haberdasher–a designer of creative, sophisticated menswear accessories like pocket squares and bowties. We caught up with her to learn about the craft of haberdashery and the unique experiences she’s had while building her own small business.
Can you say a little bit about your background? You’ve been sewing since age 2, so I can only imagine how dexterous you are with a needle and thread or sewing machine.
I started sewing really young. My mother was always sitting behind a sewing machine and kept me in a carrier so she could continue working and not worry about me running off. Little did she know that I was carefully watching and learning how the sewing machine works! Mom had me sewing my own clothes for Kindergarten and I always participated in the Youth Fair sewing competition. I vaguely remember doing a fashion show at a mall but I have no idea how old I was. I think I wore bright purple shorts that had fluorescent sneakers on them. Gotta love the 80’s.
In addition to sewing, I also learned the trade of English Bobbin Lace making when I was about 10 years old. I used to take classes and go to conferences and I was always the youngest person there by at least 30 years. I also grew up doing cross stitch and knitting which I still do in my spare time. Fine manual dexterity is definitely a strong suit of mine. I’m really detail oriented and it shows in my work.
It sounds like you could have pursued a few different avenues of design. What drew you to menswear? What do you love about haberdashery (other than it being a spectacular vocab word)?
I’ve always been interested in anything crafty but sewing holds my heart. My mother was a menswear tailor and taught me the trade at a young age. I learned quickly that I really enjoyed the aesthetics and design of menswear way more than the complexity of womenswear.
Menswear is really about the slow fashion movement: buy really great staple pieces that will last you for many years to come.
Speaking of haberdashery being a great word, our business name “Hapertas & Company” is even better (read: nerdier!). “Hapertas” is the Anglo-Norman word origin for “Haberdashery”. You never know when you’ll be asked this on Jeopardy!
I love this quote you shared on your Facebook page recently: “Menswear is about subtlety. It’s about good style and good taste.”-Alexander McQueen. How would you describe your typical customer?
My customers definitely have a classic style. They’re looking for that perfect piece to round out their necktie or bowtie collection, or that pair of cufflinks that gives them a pop of color to complement their outfit. Because of the design of our bowties, we get a lot of people who are just starting their bowtie collection. Our bowties are removable even after they are tied so they’re perfect for anyone from beginners to enthusiasts!
You lost a significant portion of your goods and equipment in the devastating Bothell Fire in July 2016. As a small business owner, what would you like people to know about the challenges and accomplishments you’ve experienced while rebuilding your business?
Losing everything you’ve worked for in a fire or other natural disaster is absolutely devastating. You have to figure out how to pick up the pieces and start fresh while still mourning the loss. People have said “Well, it’s only stuff. You’re still alive and well.” I don’t think that people realize how much this feels like a death unless they’ve had the same experience. Sure, it’s all just stuff, but it was my stuff and my business- it was something that I had been growing and nurturing. It took me about 2 months to get my act together and move on. Because I didn’t have my insurance policy in place (I had just moved into this studio space 3 weeks prior), I couldn’t just go out and buy everything I needed. I had a little online fundraiser that raised enough money to purchase one sewing machine, some tools, notions, and display pieces. The Bothell Fire Fund was distributed to those in need and I was able to buy a modest laptop and my 2nd sewing machine.
I’m forever grateful for the generous donors who helped me get the basics so I could start again. In September I moved my company into a new studio space in StudioWorks Ballard. This is a great community of makers and small businesses. In the new space I have a retail area for folks to come shop, as well as an administrative and production area. I’m also now doing alterations and custom sewing from my studio. You can fit a lot into a 9×14 studio! I still struggle some days to put my left foot in front of my right, but things are looking up. Orders are coming in, alterations clients are lining up, and the holidays are almost in full swing. I can only hope that 2017 is a much better year for my business.
Your favorite product you’ve ever designed?
That’s a very difficult question! I’ve always loved our diamond point bowties. The diamond point gives the wearer a little extra flare and is always a conversation starter. Recently we added scarves to our line and they are just so lovely that I can’t leave them out! We use only Pendleton Wool and that makes these scarves so comfortable to wear.
You are a co-leader of the Academy of Handmade Seattle chapter. What sort of work does your group do to support other makers in the Seattle community?
The Academy of Handmade’s vision is a thriving handmade economy, where makers are celebrated, respected and successful as not only artists, but as businesses. We aim to honor those who make with skill, artistry and love.
Our primary goals are to celebrate and recognize those who are making significant contributions to the handmade economy, support beginning and existing handmade businesses, and connect the handmade business community through meaningful relationships.
We provide informative programming through our online forums and offline through our chapters. Academy of Handmade is an important space for connection through membership, online and in-person events, social media, our blog and just about any way we can think of.