My Fashion Career: Nicola von Bratt, Forecast My Fashion
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Whether you dream of being a designer, fancy yourself as a photographer, or are made for marketing, we’ve spoken to individuals currently working in various areas of the fashion industry to find out how they made themselves stand out from the crowd in this increasingly competitive industry, and what their job is really like!
Nicola von Bratt is founder of the website Forecast My Fashion, the site that offers outfit advice tailored to the London, Cape Town and Johannesburg forecasts. She spoke to The National Student about how the idea for this innovative site came about, and how she turned her entrepreneurial dream into a reality…
Forecast My Fashion is the brainchild of Nicola von Bratt, a British textile designer who moved to Cape Town in 2007 and, with an almost certain sense of déjà vu, found that dressing for the city’s unpredictable, changeable weather conditions was something of a dilemma – sound familiar, students of Britain?
‘I went to the University for the Creative Arts in Surrey to pursue a first degree in Textiles, following which I was offered a place at the Royal College of Art in London where I completed my Postgraduate degree in Constructed Textiles,' she says. 'It was a creative platform with a wealth of additional resources and opportunities to hone my art and design skills. I always loved fashion and clothing, so Textiles was a very relevant industry to learn the construction of fabrics used for clothing and interiors.
‘On completing my Masters, I was offered a job designing for a modern silk weaving mill in Bangalore, India, which specialised in interior fabrics for the export markets of Europe and America. I grabbed the opportunity despite it being in interiors, as opposed to fashion, as it was a rich learning experience to embrace – living and working in a country known for its textiles production.
‘In 2008 I moved to Cape Town to work as a textile designer in the design studios of an established weaving mill. The recession had already begun in the UK and after a trip to this beautiful city to explore a job offer I had there, I decided to take it and continue to work within a creative capacity close to my textile roots.
‘Cape Town is a city of ever-changing weather conditions due to its position in between Table Mountain and the ocean. I was always checking the weather in order to decide what to wear, and first thought about Forecast My Fashion back in 2009. How to set it up as a business became clear as a result of talking about it with various friends and contacts who encouraged me to get this idea off the ground.
‘As I started out with a selection of friends in my networks, and their friends and networks in Cape Town, I have received feedback during dinners, book clubs, through emails, and via friends. I believe the customer is critical to Forecast My Fashion, and this feedback is vital to the curating of the daily style that we offer and additional content that we have planned going forwards.
‘I have always felt a strong affinity with fashion and textiles, and am constantly looking at fashion magazines and online content. Being from London, I feel that I have an understanding of how Londoners like to dress, the weather, and through my annual visits there I keep an eye on the evolution of style amongst my current and potential audience.
‘With the promise of spring in the UK through the drier and sunny weather London has recently experienced, I am really enjoying curating spring outfits combining more pattern, colour and textures with new season collections from the wealth of high street retailers with an online presence. Accessorising the look with bags, scarves, sunglasses and beauty products complete the look for this time of year, and there is always so much choice!
‘I really like the store Great Plains; they have achieved a great balance of fashion staples, with plains, patterns and natural fibres which is important to me. Their clothes are often simple in shape and can form the skeleton of your weather wardrobe. Their online shop illustrates different ways to wear their collections with their look book, and another section called inspiration gives a sneak peek into their mood boards for each season's collection. My current favourite – the canvas brogues!
‘ASOS is also one of my go-to online stores at the moment. Their affordable own brand and edgy up-to-the-minute designs make it a destination for finding great fast fashion pieces that I work into my London fashion forecasts.
‘Over the years I have learnt to be clever with my style due to fluctuations in income! It has taught me a very valuable lesson though, that you can be stylish without spending lots of money on individual pieces of clothing. I shy away from obvious branding when shopping for clothes, investing instead in classic well-made pieces in leather, wool and linen that will last a few years, or special items from up-and-coming designers. I fill in the gaps with fast fashion pieces, and even charity shop finds! I find myself applying this formula when I create the Forecast my Fashion daily forecasts.
‘At present, we create one outfit each day, and I always consider the variety of women within my audience who seek inspiration from our daily forecasts. These women provide me with a wide starting point to curate a well-selected balance of looks from work and play to smart and casual. Weekdays and weekends also guide me towards more informal outfits, or party styles. Some retailers are known for a certain style, so I find that I naturally know where to look with my research.
‘The internet is a wonderful platform making the world a smaller place. I embraced the development of Forecast My Fashion from Cape Town because of its global potential, which excites me. I am currently working with a friend in the States on developing a multi-site to take Forecast My Fashion to more cities in the world. With my business formula, location is not a barrier to progression.
‘We plan to grow the company into a global team of fashion curators on the ground, whose passion for creating daily forecasts and compelling content relating to our daily weather and fashion conundrums will shine through in their city they live in. With their finger on the pulse they will report on local trends, design and events whilst driving a sense of community within the space.
‘Ultimately FMF will be a group of women sharing a common appreciation for sophisticated style, communicated through the enduring relationship between the weather forecast and fashion.
‘We would like to expand our current category of forecasts to include males and children, and special occasions. Other services include travel fashion advice through the Forecast my Fashion Network, and a Forecast my Fashion product line.
‘If you’re looking at starting your own entrepreneurial venture, there is nothing like getting plenty of work experience, as this can help refine your understanding of business. Working internationally helped me understand the world from different angles, which has been useful for me when looking at my business as a global entity without barriers in the future.
‘Networking is incredibly important, so don’t be afraid to talk to everyone you meet as you never know how they may be able to help now or in the future. You can learn something from nearly everyone you talk to, it all depends how you frame your conversations. Networking events can be a great addition to this; I attend some in Cape Town, and I always make sure I go alone to ensure I really make the most out of all the like-minded people I meet.
‘In the early days I talked to family and friends, and through that I am now working with a contact in the States to develop the business as a global entity. It is not easy starting something, and you need to be brave, take risks and do not be afraid to make mistakes along the way. It is a journey.’
Visit Forecast My Fashion today and sign up to recieve your daily London fashion forecast via the homepage!