Starting a clothing brand because you are bored, may not seem like the most conducive way to start a business. But, that’s just what two sisters from Glasgow did and they have become a hit on social media along the way. P&P editor Melanie Attlesey finds out more.
Let’s begin by turning back the clock to March 2020. I’m sure it’s a month we’d all rather forget, but just in case you need a reminder it’s when the UK was plunged into lockdown to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
Like most of us, sisters Ayesha and Karima Hassan found themselves with more time on their hands than they knew what to do with. Having both worked in their mum Rebecca’s childrenswear business from a young age, the pair knew they always wanted to start some kind of fashion-related business together, but life just kept getting in the way. Lockdown provided them with the perfect opportunity to get started.
After doing their research and a trip to a little embroidery shop in Stirling, Ayesha and Karima bought their first single-head embroidery machine and launched Bored Angels – a range of sweatshirts and accessories aimed at the 20-something female market.
“The name was the hardest thing to come up with,” says Karima. “We really were utterly bored and that was our inspiration behind the name.”
The modern way
As is the modern way, to get the brand out in the public domain Bored Angels joined the world of Facebook, Instagram and Tik Tok. After just 18 short months on these platforms, the brand has amassed a huge 312k followers on Tik Tok alone, becoming something of a sensation promoting behind-the-scenes videos showcasing how their products are embroidered.
“There’s something really satisfying about watching an embroidery machine at work,” says Ayesha. “We get asked for these kinds of videos all the time!”
One particular Tik Toker called Hannah Lowther, has posted a couple of videos to her 528k followers wearing a few of Bored Angels’ designs. Ayesha and Karima see an instant boost in sales whenever influencers on the social media platform wear their designs. “It’s so humbling seeing Tik Tokers wearing our products. In just a few taps we are getting millions of people watching our videos and thousands visiting our website. Our mum cannot fathom how it is possible to generate that amount of sales from one little video. We wouldn’t be where we are today without social media,” explains Ayesha.
You might think that the sisters give away their products for free to these influencers in return for promotion, but in reality, stars like Hannah purchase their own sweatshirts because they genuinely love the designs and choose to wear them in their videos. Ayesha and Karima were so humbled by the fact that Hannah had purchased one of their sweatshirts that they made her a customised one as a way to thank her and to congratulate her for her successes on Tik Tok. Hannah was just an ordinary girl who danced around in a Tesco uniform on Tik Tok before landing a starring role in a musical in the West End all because of her videos.
“Hannah is typical of our customers – just girls who want to express themselves in a quirky manner and not take themselves too seriously,” says Karima.
Another Tik Toker called The Folding Lady has also been spotted wearing the girl’s brand. “Again, this wasn’t us sending out freebies. This was someone who loved and trusted our brand and bought from us and want to promote us because we have given them an amazing, quality product,” explains Ayesha.
If you happen to take a look at Bored Angels on Tik Tok, you’ll notice Ayesha’s striking set of nails. She gets them specifically done for each video and she says doing so has really upped their look on social media, especially as her hands are featured so much in each video. So many of their followers asked how she handles an embroidery machine with her nails, which has led her to cover this topic in her Tik Tok videos.
Not stopping at Facebook, Instagram and Tik Tok, the girls have also launched their own YouTube channel, where they will be doing regular tutorials and vlogs.
The pair are constantly bombarded with personalisation requests from their followers, but at the moment have chosen to stick with a range of stock designs which sell like hotcakes. Their designs are very much inspired by their childhood of growing up in the 90s and 00s, and watching films such as Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You and Scream. They also bring out seasonal designs for occasions such as Valentine’s Day and Christmas.
Gildan Heavy Blend and Fruit of the Loom Premium are the girl’s brands of choice. “We have tired to create a product that we would wear ourselves. Each product has been tried and tested by us personally. We found other brands were just too thin to embroider. Even our packaging is premium. Videos of boxes being unpacked is really popular on Tik Tok, so it was important to us to get our packaging right,” says Ayesha.
Detail and the personal touch is extremely important to the girls and they even hand stitch their own neck labels into their sweats. “I tell you, my fingers at Christmas were numb,” Ayesha laughs!
You might be wondering about the sister’s background. Well, here’s where it gets interesting.
Karima is currently studying for a Master’s Degree in Architecture at Glasgow Art School and is due to graduate this summer, while Ayesha studied Business with English Literature at a university in Dubai. Taking this into account, it’s Karima who uses her creativity to create the designs and digitise the artwork, with Ayesha focusing more on the business side of the brand and the social media. Neither girl had used an embroidery machine or had experience in digitising before launching Bored Angels.
“It’s amazing what you can learn on YouTube!” laughs Ayesha. Although saying this, they have received expert advice along the way from James McGuire, an independent sewing machine specialist based in Scotland, and their thread supplier, Madeira UK. At the moment they are working closely with Madeira to learn how to create 3D embroideries and how to integrate high conductive embroidery thread into their designs, with the goal of bringing out a design at Christmas that either lights up or plays music. “Partnering with Madeira is a big move for us. We are over the moon they found us on social media and reached out,” says Karima.
Method of choice
Embroidery was always going to be their garment decoration method of choice. While doing their research they dabbled with print, but were not a fan and loved the premium look that comes with embroidery. Embroidery also gets a big thumbs up from their followers.
Both Ayesha and Karima are confident that they would like to continue with Bored Angels for the foreseeable future and see it as a viable career path. The ultimate game plan is to open a coffee and retail shop, where fans of the brand will be able to pop in for a hot drink while watching their sweatshirt be personalised live in front of them and jump into a Tik Tok video while they are at it.
However, before they run, they must first learn to walk. The pair first plan to upgrade their current single-head embroidery machine to the Tajima SAI compact embroidery machine which has eight needles and then progress on to a four-head model from Tajima, which will enable them to embroider four times as quick.
“This should really help us out with the Christmas rush,” says Ayesha. Eventually upgrading to a four-head will also help Bored Angels move into the B2B market and pick up work from local businesses.
The girls have even got their eye on the Coloreel instant thread colouring unit. “It really is an amazing industry with all of this incredible technology and we just want to be a part of it. We see such a future in embroidery,” adds Ayesha.
It’s clear that the pair love what they do and if they continue down this path, they will certainly have a successful brand and business that will set them up for life.