We want to address the heavy question that we are so often asked by friends, family and strangers alike, ‘how do you even know where to begin when you enter an industry in which you have no previous experience?’
Our first brush with the industry was in January 2017, at the Interfillerie Show in Paris (this is the international underwear trade show). We boarded the Eurostar full of excitement and anticipation. Hattie bought into the classic cliché and donned a red beret on the train, this was quickly confiscated by Minna and banned for the rest of the trip.
With the beret now scrunched at the bottom of Hattie’s backpack, we felt invincible. Most of the journey was spent discussing how the suppliers would be gagging to work with us and how it was going to be hard to choose between them all.
We could not have been more wrong…
Broadly speaking the underwear industry has a handful of big names: M&S, Victoria’s Secret, H&M, Agent Provocateur etc. As soon as we entered the show it became apparent that everyone knew each other. While the big brands were sending their tight-knit teams to place orders for thousands of metres of fabrics each. We, on the other hand, were looking to place more modest orders of below a hundred metres. Eventually, we found ourselves lying to these haughty vendors as we were too embarrassed to request our comparatively meagre purchases.
Networking was also quite tricky. The language barrier proved to be an issue when it came to our name. At one point, Hattie was spotted acting out the ‘booty’ part of our name to a foreign lace supplier. As you can imagine it didn’t exactly boost our street cred to any industry onlookers.
Our day settled into a rather familiar pattern. After speaking to a supplier, we would retreat back to the café, debrief and count down the hours until we could leave. After two undercooked croque monsieurs, paired with some minor social anxiety, we left the fair. Minna, red-faced, and Hattie, drenched in sweaty adrenaline.
Yes, we may have slightly embarrassed ourselves, and realised Fruity Booty isn’t always going to be an easy one to translate, but(t), we made some amazing progress. We got our name out there, grew our confidence, connected with some promising fabric suppliers, and met some lovely people. Yes, after being a BNOC at Newcastle, Minna had to re-evaluate her dreams of being an instant grand fromage in the workplace, but, we conquered our fears and found there was no shame in being a start-up.
You have to start somewhere, and in the words of our Essex friends, ‘the only way is up, baby’.
One year later, we are now on our way to launching our third collection and have increased our fabric order to 110 metres.