Featured Artist: Sandra Dejanovic , French + California Style Textile Designer
As a creative business owner, I often stress the importance of surrounding yourself with other types of artists. It’s good to create an inspiring community around you that will keep you moving when you start to doubt yourself.
Whenever I get stuck or discouraged, I just reach out to one of these artist friends, (or make a point to go meet a new one!) and immediately get excited to get back to work!
Sandra and I connected years ago when I first started selling my products at the Renegade Craft Fair in San Francisco. She approached me for an interview and then came over to my (attic!) art studio in the Mission and we talked fabric.
Sandra was born and raised in France, and currently lives in SF running her design company, “Happy French Gang”.
Her focus is mainly on soft home goods and a few clothing items, and she also outsources most of her work (which is something I’ve never done, so truly interesting!)
So without further ado, here’s Sandra:
What brought you to the world of textile design? Did you always want to run your own business?
I came into the world of textile design purely by chance. I’ve always enjoyed creating and eventually my curiosity lead me to take some of the ideas I’d had in my head and see what might happen if I brought them to life.
It definitely wasn’t something that I’d planned on or considered as an option until circumstances naturally lead me down that road.
Running my own business wan’t necessarily always an ambition but I was always listening to and reading about entrepreneurs in various blogs etc.
Starting a business of my own was a natural progression for me once everything started lining up, and having already done some reading on the subject definitely helped me have the courage to make the leap.
What artists and designers inspire your style?
I have an eclectic style so it’s hard for me to choose just a few artists or designers that inspire me. As a child in France I used to visit a lot of museums with my mum, which definitely provided plenty of inspiration, but the exhibits never really featured contemporary artists.
When Instagram became popular I began discovering—and continue to discover every day—many artists that I like a lot and whose work I can follow and draw inspiration from.
How do you decide what products to make and sell?
I only make what I like: things that I would wear myself or have in my home. That’s always what I start with. Then it’s just a feeling. If the color or design or shape is too crazy and likely won’t reach enough people then I typically won’t do it.
It’s also helpful to test different products and see what sells the best. Since everything I produce is made in small quantities, I’m able to create a few pieces in an extra small batch and see if it sells or not. From there I can increase my production based on what kind of response different pieces get and what the demand is.
You seem very conscious of being eco friendly from your process down to your packaging. Was this an easy jump to make in your business or did you do this from the start?
I am personally really eco conscious, so that has certainly been a priority since the beginning. Sustainability continues to be an important part of my business but it definitely takes extra thought and effort to maintain. I’m always looking for ways to make my business more sustainable and eco friendly, but it’s an ongoing process for sure.
Even with the significance I’ve placed on that aspect of my business operations, I’ve always believed there was a lot of room for improvement—and that is certainly still the case!
What have you found to be the most difficult part about running your own business? The most rewarding?
Running everything myself, making all the decisions myself, managing issues with manufacturers. It’s a great feeling to have so much control over your business, but it also means that a lot of weight rests on your shoulders in terms of the responsibility you bear to keep things running smoothly.
It’s a lot of work, and a lot of thought and effort goes into each phase of production. That can be incredibly rewarding, but there’s definitely a heightened level of difficulty that accompanies that kind of responsibility.
Learning, seeing people wearing your stuff, making what I like. I can’t even begin to recount all of the things I’ve learned during this process. Every day is a new learning opportunity, and I’m often surprised by the things I learn as a business owner.
Creating what you feel inspired to create is also very rewarding, and seeing other people getting enjoyment from the things you create just makes it that much more significant. It’s an incredible feeling to see other people excited about something that you conceived of and brought to life!
Do you create everything yourself, or do you outsource? If you outsource, how has this changed your business?
I used to do everything myself. Now I do some things myself and outsource others. There’s a balance between controlling your vision and also leaving enough time to smoothly run business operations, so I try to make sure my workload is manageable enough to do both effectively.
Outsourcing some of the manufacturing has dramatically changed the way I engage in the creative process since I have time to think about more than just the production of the pieces.
Do you have any new ideas or projects coming up that you’re excited about?
Yes I always have TONS of new ideas in mind but never enough time to make them happen. I hope to be able to offer more items in the shop in the coming year as I will be working with different manufacturers. I’m very excited to see what doors open this year and what new projects I can bring to life!
What’s your best piece of advice for someone who wants to start their own business around textiles?
Outsource as soon as you can, but definitely be careful with your manufacturer because it can be risky if they don’t have the means to produce your products in the way you’ve envisioned.
Once you do find a great manufacturer, production becomes remarkably easier, and allows you more time to focus on growing your business and doing more with the ideas that come to you. Find ways to explore the options available to you and you won’t regret it!
Thanks Sandra for chatting with us and teaching us a little about your world!
You can find more about Sandra and Happy French Gang here, and click below for an upcoming free live block printing workshop featuring one of her adorable jumpsuits!