Alice Acreman tells us about working Legend, studying at The Henley College, and offers her advice to aspiring entrepreneurial students.
Congratulations to our former student, Alice Acreman, on her recent collaboration with singer/songwriter John Legend. Alice created her textile brand 'Alice Acreman Silks' in 2014. She is known for her exquisite hand painted silk designs and had the honor of having John Legend model one of her own creations – a stunning forest green silk robe with matching bow tie.
The two collaborated together, creating a Silk Twill Pocket Square and bow tie set as well as limited edition ‘Embrace’ and 'Wild' unisex Silk Robe in forest green or opulent copper – a versatile flowing jacket made from 100% silk.
This exciting partnership combines the worlds of fashion and music, showcasing Alice’s talent and innovation. As she continues to rise, we celebrate her remarkable achievement in the fashion industry and look forward to more creative collaborations in the future.
We had the opportunity to catch up with Alice to hear her thoughts about starting up a business, her experience studying with us, and advice for current like-minded students. Here's what Alice had to say:
Please tell us who you are, where you come from, and what you are doing now.
I’m Alice, an alumni student from Wallingford, Oxfordshire. I studied at The Henley College between 2008 and 2010 and loved my time there. Now I have a luxury accessories brand named Alice Acreman Silks which I manage from a studio in East London. You can browse my pieces online.
When did you decide to embark on this entrepreneurial journey?
I first began to sell my artwork printed on scarves when I graduated from university in 2014, but the project was put on hold when I was offered a job at Abercrombie & Fitch in the USA. I went to America to work for a year as a print and embroidery designer then when I returned, I continued to develop the business. In the last few years, I gave up all other freelance design work to focus fully on Alice Acreman Silks.
What inspired you to start your own business, and how did your education at Henley College contribute to this journey?
I studied A Levels in Art, English Language, and Photography and wanted to have a career that allowed me to combine all these areas. At first, I thought I wanted to work for a fashion or an interior magazine but at this time printed publications were beginning to demise as so much content transitioned to online. I decided that studying a fashion degree course was a way I could incorporate these three areas I was passionate about and I would figure out my career path. Each of my chosen subjects at The Henley College has been really useful in running my brand and I feel lucky to have had some really inspirational tutors. I can see the influence the classes and teachers have had on my journey.
Each of my chosen subjects at The Henley College has been really useful in running my brand and I feel lucky to have had some really inspirational tutors. I can now see the influence the classes and teachers have had on my journey.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when establishing your business, and how did you overcome them?
There are challenges on a daily basis! I'm always having to learn new skills and jump between completely different tasks. I feel a bit like I have 50 different jobs and no one has told me how to successfully do any of them. Luckily, I enjoy new challenges and I'm very self-motivated so I'm usually able to find a resolution to each issue as they arise. I would just love a few more hours in the day so I can regularly work on some creative tasks, which is the aspect of my work I enjoy doing the most. I'm also always trying to learn so I listen to business podcasts when I can and London is a great place for networking and attending workshops.
Can you share any valuable lessons or insights you’ve gained from running your own business that you believe would be beneficial for current students who aspire to become entrepreneurs?
My main words of wisdom would be to focus on the 'long game' not just immediate results. I think the idea of overnight success is overcelebrated and many people seem to have the idea that brands suddenly 'take-off' and start being really successful from then on. I think the reality is much less exciting! From what I’ve experienced, it takes years of developing and slow growth to create a brand that's going to be successful long-term. Every day, each small thing you do will amount to progress, even if you can’t see growth at the time. I would also advise not to compare the stage you are at with anyone else. While I think it's great to have brands you aspire to, everyone is on a different path and has a different idea of what success looks like.
Can you share any strategies or approaches you used to secure funding or investments for your business, especially in the early stages?
I've never taken out a loan or had an investment. I just started with a really small batch of scarves, beautifully made, and I slowly sold them one by one. Once I had made a bit of a profit, I was then able to order slightly bigger batches and eventually branch out into other silk pieces. It was hard to be so careful with budgeting, especially living in London but it allowed me to work at my own pace without the pressure of repaying a loan or demands from an investor.
What are some common challenges or pitfalls you faced as a young entrepreneur, and how did you navigate through them?
Knowing where to get the information from has been a big challenge for me. In recent years I've noticed much more available business advice online in the form of podcasts, blogs, and coaching. But back when I began my brand, all I could find was outdated books that didn't feel relevant or inspiring. When I meet people who have their own brands, I always ask questions and start conversations to get insights into their experiences. Even if you don't learn anything new, just knowing that someone else faces the same challenges or has experienced similar setbacks can be so useful.
How did the collaboration with John Legend come about?
In January this year, I was contacted by a team at Etsy in USA who let me know John had seen and liked my work. Etsy have been really supportive of my brand in the past, so I was very excited when they reached out to ask if Id like to be involved in this collaboration project. January was the perfect time to be approached for a collaboration because after a busy Christmas period has come to an end, it’s great to have a new goal to focus on and get back into something fresh and exciting. He was the perfect person to work with, I had been wanting to add a more masculine element to my brand and his timeless and classy style was the ideal muse to inform this collection. We took influence from the interior of his home designed by Jake Arnold. Once a colour theme and mood board had been decided, it was really fun getting to work on a range of prints which I could imagine John wearing. I also love his wife's style and since we wanted the pieces to have a unisex aspect, she became another muse.
What are your next steps?
I'm always thinking about what's next, that's what is so exciting about having a brand! In the future, I’d like to offer bigger, more daring pieces, like printed suits and long billowing dresses. But in the near future, I’m experimenting with accessories and products that really benefit from silk's natural qualities like hair wraps and matching bedding. But adding more product categories also means needing more physical space to work from so I may have to find a bigger studio soon and figure out the logistics of growth first.