Journal

Follow the creative journey of the Moorland design..

(24) Finishing touches

Throughout the design process I was inspired to create all sorts of extra finishing touches.

As Nouvelle Habit, my dream business came closer to reality; I decide that I would make sure that those little extra finishing touches were part of my final product.

Firstly I wanted my own fabric design and every skirt to be lined with it.

I decided to take the rose design fabric at the same time as the logo; this in turn inspired the addition of a rose the shield.

Eve, my logo designer, came up with a few colour options and I settled on two colourways; Nouvelle Habit Blue Rose and the Nouvelle Habit Red Rose

The next thing I had my heart set on was a wax seal. For me, wax seals are about attention to detail, they represent more traditional times and integrity.

I knew that a seal would help to define the cornerstones of my brand.

Thanks to the wonderful team at The Little Brush this was made into a reality.  When my wax seal stamp arrived, I couldn’t wait to test it out. It was every bit as exciting and satisfying as I had hoped.

There was one last thing on my list and that was to have my logo made into a hand leather stamp so that I could brand my leather buckles, finding this was tricky!

After searching high and low, I found a company in America. They were able to create a stamp from my design and they were willing to ship it to the UK.

I had to wait very patiently but, just like the wax seal, it was perfect!


(23)The Real Deal

The official photo shoot was coming up; I had everything crossed that the weather would be kinder this time.

I booked two full days to give us a greater chance of good weather, hoping to get the shots I needed for the launch of my website.
Celine, my friend was flying down from Glasgow to model for me. Avril would be my photographer and I was going to direct and be on horse duties. The Nouvelle Habit branded clothing had arrived and looked stunning thanks to Team Equestrian


Celine and Avril were going to stay at my house over the shoot and I was really looking forward to it.


Day 1
I was up and at the yard early to wash Jester, muck out and get everything prepared for the day. I had woken up to glorious sunshine, but there was a freezing cold gale blowing a hoolie.
As I started washing Jester the heavens opened. Hailstones bounced around the yard while a thunderstorm rumbled away in the distance. Although my spirits were dampened, I carried on, ever the optimist.


The girls arrived at lunchtime and we discussed are plan; we decided to do product shots, keep checking the weather apps and wait out the bad weather. Yes, it was going to clear up any minute…
We waited …and waited …and waited.


Plan B, we turned Jester out and left the yard, on the hunt for a nearby sheltered location, away from the ice-cold wind for some ‘off horse’ shots.
Chilled to the bone but undeterred, we found our location and got cracking.
Poor Celine had coats and jumpers for extra upper body warmth in between location shots. Heroically stripping down to a t-shirt for each pose, to be sure that the carefully considered detail in the waistband could be seen.

The sun eventually decided to join us but that wind was insistent. Fortunately Avril knew exactly what she was looking for and we rushed around snapping over and over. A few hours later we were home with the heating on, tea in hand. The outcomes of our efforts were stunning!


Day 2
Again I set of early.

Today’s plan was to get going earlier and to go with whatever the weather threw at us. No waiting in the cold today!
Thank goodness it was sunny and the cruel wind had subsided.

We scouted a spot on the farm and set off. Loaded with numerous outfit changes, stepladders, cameras and Jester (who was sparkling white).
A few hours of amazing team work and it was a wrap!
I can’t thank Avril and Celine enough for their amazing work over the two days; the resulting images show no trace of the cold and suffering we all endured!
I couldn’t have asked for a better team.


(22) Old skills resurfacing

I buckled down to designing the straps for the skirt fastenings.
I wanted my design to mirror the shape of my logo, to have in-built slits as keepers* so as not to have to attach keepers.

I wanted the design to be as streamline as possible. I did not want any bulky parts on my skirts; nothing should be uncomfortable.
My original plan was to hand cut each one. As an experienced belt maker, I knew this could work.


Then, I had a radical idea; laser cut leather. This would not only save time but would achieve a perfect finish every time. This meant transposing my hand drawings into a CAD file, luckily my wonderful partner Josh was able to do this for me.
So I contacted a few leather suppliers searching for a good quality source, produced in the UK.
My quest led me to a tannery in Somerset, collecting samples to test the quality of the laser cut fastenings and keeper.

*Keepers wrap around the buckle, ensuring that the buckle remains fastened


(21) Test Run photo-shoot

On the morning of our test run I washed Jester from head to toe, much to Jesters disgruntlement.
I carefully wrapped him up and hoped that I had done enough to keep him clean in the January Mud!
The location was at Kate’s (my lovely yard owner’s) house, which was a 10min hack up the road.
As we set off, a thick cloud of drizzle rolled in over us… Not ideal.

We carried on as best we could, whizzing through shots and poses with a variation of backdrops.
The grey wet sky loomed around us and we all hoped that we had caught some useful compositions.

We had packed up and were almost ready to leave when I asked Avril (my friend and photographer) “have you ever ridden a horse?”
Before she knew it, my hat was on her head and I popped her on board, giving her no time to question what I was doing.

Up on Jester’s back we set off for the stables.
Avril’s grin was from ear to ear all the way home.
It is a very beautiful thing to witness the joy a horse can bring to someone.


(20) No 13, Lucky for some

Prototype No13. Mon pièce de résistance!
I finally achieved what I had been aiming for in my final design, the one that ticked all the boxes. The one that looked exactly the way I had pictured it in my mind’s eye.
So it was full steam ahead to get my test riders in skirts and out on horses.

All other areas of the business build were in full swing and it was truly starting to feel like it was going to happen.

This whole process had been a roller coaster of emotion and a fair amount of stress but I was starting to feel like it was going to be worth it.

I was excited for the future of Nouvelle Habit.


I was really stuck on this for a long time; I had my business name but the inspiration for my logo just wasn’t there.

After being given a book on symbols, signs and visual codes by my dad the idea came to create my own Coat of Arms. I spent the next few days reading as much as I could on Heraldry and the meaning of colours, animals and flowers to help me create one that I felt would represent my business and me.

I ended up going for a fairly simple design.

The Gold background stands for Generosity.

The Rose representing Beauty & Grace and the flower colours; Blue meaning Truth & Loyalty and represents Winter, Orange for Worthy & Ambition and represents Autumn and Red for Love.

These qualities form the cornerstones of Nouvelle Habit.


(18) Manufactured VS handmade

Bespoke Product

In the run up to my launch date, I had a huge dilemma resolve.

Which was going to be the best route for my business?

Me, hand tailoring every skirt or, finding a manufacturer that would reflect everything I wanted my business to be.

As with most things there are pro’s and con’s.

Hand tailored

Pros

  • Making sure every garment is to the highest of standard.
  • The ability to tailor bespoke garments
  • Lower initial cost
  • No excess stock
  • Control of workers wages and well being

Cons

  • The process takes a long time
  • Limited colour option due to fabric quantity

Manufactured

Pros

  • More colour options
  • Much quicker
  • Having stock readily available

Cons

  • Larger capital investment
  • Less control of quality
  • No control of workers wages or well being
  • Finding a UK factory that would take on a starting business
  • Too much stock

I was really stuck
on this and kept being pushed towards manufacturing by my business advisors and
mentors.

My passion and
drive kept pulling me back to hand tailoring.

What it came down to
at the end was that I love sewing and I enjoy seeing people in something I have
made. I wanted to create a business where I could employ staff and pay them a
decent wage. I wanted to make sure they enjoy there job and that we all care
about what we do. 

The essence of my
idea being that the garments must be beautiful in every way and that I want to retain
a strong connection to my business and my dream.

So that was it, decision
made. I was determined to Hand tailor every skirt from start to finish.


(17) Jester’s new home

For the first time ever, Jester was only a 5 minute drive from my home and now that he was fighting fit, we could start riding again.

This gave me the opportunity to ride every day in my skirt to start putting it though some vigorous testing. Come rain or shine or even snow.

During this period I was delighted to find that not only was I warm, I was 100% dry without fail.

I rode though over grown bridle paths from which I ended up with cuts across my face and hands but the skirt continued to look as good as new.

Things were definitely looking good.


(16) The way life can spit the bit

After Christmas my horse ‘Jester’ fell very poorly and had to be taken into hospital and have some fairly big head surgery, which involved the removing of a large tumor.

The operation went well but poor Jester then had a fairly long recovery period, confined to his stable.

What this meant was that I stopped work on everything and focused all of my time and energy on looking after my boy and keeping him sane while he was recovering.

During this period I lost my mojo towards my business and decided to have a brake and focus on other parts of my life. So my partner and I decided to buy our first home together.

5 Months on we were moving into our new home. This meant moving my workshop, whilst doing this I re-discovered my passion and love for my idea and couldn’t wait to get stuck back into it with a new lease of life.


(15) Meet me in the middle…

Prototype No10 turned out to be everything I had hoped for.

So the next big thing was to figure out the best weight of fabric …and the best solution to keep it secure while riding.

I found that they were relatively secure but… I feel like you are starting to know me by now …“relatively” simply won’t do!

The skirts contain a lot of fabric; I really wanted to make sure that they would stay put as well as looking amazing.

My first thought was fairly obvious – leg straps.

However I felt like I could still do more and so I started to play around with weights. I began to play with a few different options and ideas, until I had a ‘light bulb’ moment and found the perfect solution…


(14) The Shorty

After a few silly mistakes (entirely a product of my excitement and enthusiasm) jumping in and doing, the first short version was complete.

As I had hoped, it behaved in the same way as the long version but something still wasn’t quite right… the length!
Having spent so much time contemplating the issue, coming up against the same snag, I realized that I needed to take a different approach.
Just the one length, a ‘midway’ skirt, eureka!

I pictured myself as Goldilocks, my design as the 3 bears. The long skirt was just too long… and the short one was just too short…
So let’s try the mid-length and hope that it will be just right?

Well it worked for Goldilocks didn’t it?


(13) Prototype No8.

Christmas was coming and I had successfully joined the Princes Trust ‘Explore Enterprise Course’.

I was feeling really ready to embrace every aspect of my business venture, from marketing and selling, even down to the accounting! I was hungry to learn as much as I could and with prototype No8 ready to sew.

I was as excited as a child might be on Christmas morning.

At the stables, I asked a Hannah, whom I ride with frequently, if she would be my model. Up to this point I had been riding in my creations but I had yet to see them in action.
I watched while Hannah rode.

It looked great! The skirt moved well with rider and horse and was behaving almost exactly as I wanted it to… I was happy… Just one last tweak and voila! The final pattern for the long skirt was almost complete.

Onwards and upwards to the short version…


(12) Prototypes No6 and No7.

I booked Joy to come and spend another day with me in the studio to help with the next couple of prototypes, as I wanted to change my skirt from a 6-panel skirt into 12 or more panels!
Things were about to get a whole lot more complicated…

We set to it. Joy had the great idea of making a prototype that would show us the potential of both new designs. The left hand side as one design, No6 and the right side, as the other, No7. This approach saved us time and made comparing the two designs so much easier.
It was so obvious when it was made that design No7 was by far the better option. Excitedly we made a calico prototype.


As soon as I tried it on and sat on my tailor’s hobbyhorse, I knew we were so much closer to the final product.
When the lighter fabric arrived, I made up a lined version and took it out for a test ride.
The test ride was a success however, the perfectionist in me could still see a few little bits that were not quite as I had pictured them… so I set about making a new pattern.

What’s the saying ‘the devil is in the detail’?


(11) Fresh eyes

I’m lucky I have a super supportive mum and dad, both willing to listen to my crazy ideas, give me advice and most importantly, let me follow my heart.

During the prototype stage I had been bombarding them with photographs and filling their inboxes with questions. Taking them with me on the roller coaster of emotions that I was going though every day! From elation to devastation, my parents experienced it all too.

After prototype No5, I went home for a visit; I took everything with me.  All of the prototypes, fabric samples, everything! I was feeling exhausted, I was still not sure that No5 was going to do the job and I didn’t really like the look of it now either. It felt as if No5 had taken a huge step backwards.

I was hoping that fresh eyes might give me some new ideas and inspiration and that is exactly what I got.

After two many cups of tea to count, trying each skirt on in turn and a lot of head scratching the ideas came.

Three more designs and some new fabric ideas, I was so happy and couldn’t wait to get back to the studio and get cracking on the next steps.


(10) Prototype No5.

My ‘Hobby Horse’ was fantastic for cosmetic fixes but as a rider I knew the importance of live tests. Moving in the skirt while mounted, the drape of the fabric and the range of movement the rider would have, the way my design behaved in every kind of weather. These were all crucial aspects of the product in my mind’s eye and I was determined to get them right.

So prototype No5 encompassed all of these changes plus and was made from a sample of a heavy weight waxed cotton and fully lined.  This gave me get a true idea of what the final product would look like and feel like.

Back up to the yard to try it out. Perhaps by now you have realized how important perfecting this design had become and unfortunately it still wasn’t doing the job.

I felt good in it and I had compliments on how it looked but… I am a perfectionist, I have no desire to compromise on my dream and I wasn’t 100% sure that No5 was going to do the job that I wanted most.

I wanted the skirt to keep me dry.

So it was back to the drawing board….


(9) Prototype No4

Before starting prototype No4 I realized that I really needed some form of horse at home.

Making a garment that’s intended to be worn on a horse is tricky when you haven’t got one at your studio to sit on to try things out.

Where there is a will there’s a way so I had a large wooden saddle stand made especially for the job. I set up the ‘Tailor’s Hobby Horse’ in my living room with my saddle.

With this done I was ready to roll. Joy and I jumped into making the adjustments and soon after we had a revised design ready to go.

I mounted up and wow… the difference having my ‘Tailor’s Hobby Horse’ was inspiring.  We were instantly able to see where refinements were working and the areas that needed a further rethink.


(8)Prototype No3

Minor tweaks were made to the design for prototype No3 but in all other respects, prototype No2 was built upon. This time making use of a heavy material to replicate the weight of the waxed cotton and exploring the lining it to get an accurate idea of the finished look and feel…

I decided to use old cotton curtains; they were the perfect weight and were going to be abandoned had I not rescued them from their fate.

Waste not – want not.

As soon as I finished sewing prototype No3 together I set off to my stables for the first test ride, time to see if my design was working!

I had my doubts about parts of the design, until I tried it out it was all guess work…

It was a stunning autumn day with beautiful shadows and sunshine. I felt so good to ride my horse ‘Jester wearing my design.

My dream was inching ever closer.

However, my educated guesses were right. Where I thought the design might not quite work came true. Most importantly I didn’t think prototype No3 would keep you dry enough.

Nonetheless this was good progress and I had plenty of ideas to try out on the next prototype.


(7) Prototype No1 & No2.

No1 was relatively easy, as I had already made this when I was at Bath Collage; the only difference being that it was in miniature. So the first step was to make it to fit me.

 Joy helped me recap what I had learnt and we took my design and scaled it up. It was a Short version of my skirt.

It was not my intention to make a short riding skirt; in my mind’s eye they had always been long, probably as a result of personal preference. I surprised myself with this prototype in that I really liked it.

No2 was the same considered design with added length, for a more traditional looking skirt. I loved it when I tried it on I felt elegant which was precisely what I wanted to achieve with my design.

It was my hope that future clients would feel good both on and off their horse.


(6) Home tutoring.

I was still battling with certain elements of my design and decided to contact Joy (who was my teacher at Bath collage) and see if she would be able to give me some one to one coaching to help accelerate my project and complete the first prototype.

 Joy agreed, so we set dates and I began planning what to focus on first and to which design we would to bring to life.

Joy worked alongside me from start to finish. From initial coaching to the building of my business, she has helped me learn and grow with the designs.


(5) Back to school.

For me to be able to transform my idea I needed to learn a whole new set of skills, so I enrolled and became a student at Bath collage.

During my time there I was taught the magic of pattern making. Learning to make my own designs into working patterns.

Now for any of you who have made your own clothes before and have had the pleasure of using patterns, you will understand just how fiddly and precise you need to be. I am the first to put my hands up and admit that I am not a mathematician. So you can imagine just how much my brain hurt after day one of my course. But its funny what you can do when your hearts in it. I soon got into the groove and I admit I actually found a real enjoyment in the precision and the challenge.

As any artist can tell you, the process of getting a design to look the way it does in your mind’s eye is more than a little tricky, but it is also where the joy of making and sense of achievement come from.

I would not be giving up on my dream.

I learnt there are rules to making clothes; there are certain elements that need to be included to allow the clothes to fit and for you to move freely within them. My design needed to do these things perfectly and with a clear purpose.

As I began to learn, new ideas formed around my learning and I started to play around within my original design. The first draft had been rather naive and at this time I realised that I really needed perfect the finer elements of the design.

It was during this learning process that I really felt able to start thinking of my design as a tangible product.

I could see the elements that would become Nouvelle Habit, slowly coming together.


Design your own skirt with Nouvelle Habit

As you can imagine, for someone like me who loves fabric, this was the fun and exciting part. However the fabric hunting process took a very long time. I searched high and low for different waterproof materials.

I knew that it needed to be lightweight, strong and most importantly a waterproof material that would stand the test of time.

You would be surprised how many claim to be waterproof but in reality they just aren’t. It also needed to have a certain feel to the fabric not only to touch but also how it looked and hung.

I wanted to source a fabric that was made in the UK and of a very high quality. After months of testing and deliberation I decided to go with waxed cotton.

This traditional method of waterproofing fabric has definitely stood the test of time. The waxed cotton look has become intertwined with traditional English past-times and the look reminded me of being outdoors.

The more I worked with it the more I realized how supple it could become. It has a vintage look about it that fits in so well with my Nouvelle Habit dream – I just love it.

At this point my mind went into hyper drive and I couldn’t stop the ideas flooding in. When I was awake I was drawing, writing and sewing as much as I could. Looking at buttons, threads, lining fabrics… every little detail was carefully researched and tested.

And when I was asleep I dreamt of riding in the open countryside on my horse wearing my beautiful Nouvelle Habit creation.


(3) Space to Create

Time to build a space!

I had been playing with ideas for months and it was getting closer to my first big course on pattern cutting and what I needed most was a workshop….

Through the kindness and generosity of my Partner Josh and close friend Avril who I lived with, I was lucky enough to be able to take over the dining room in our shared home.

Not only this but Josh also designed and built me my cutting table to enable me to really start creating.

It was at this moment when I really felt like things were moving forward and my idea was coming to life before me.


As with the idea for the skirt the name came from inspiration when out riding with a friend.

I had been playing around with ideas for a name and knew I wanted it to include the word Habit, as I wanted to maintain a strong connection with tradition. But I was really stuck on what else was needed.

My friend Victoria and I were out riding around the Badminton estate, enjoying the warmth of the winter sun while I relayed my idea to her.

Suddenly Victoria came up with a name, the perfect blend of tradition and romance and the ethos I wanted to create…

Nouvelle Habit …or Habit Nouvelle.

I loved both names instantly as they connected so strongly with both the traditions I wanted to celebrate in my design and my French name.

I felt that having the French word Nouvelle meaning ‘New’ in the name tied it to me.

We spent the rest of this particular winter ride acting like mad women riding around, our excitement filling the crisp winter air. Repeating the name out load in both ways to see which rolled of the tongue best.

…After a length of time that I do not care to figure out I settled upon


Hi my name is Odette Insoll.

I am the designer and creator of Nouvelle Habit.

However I cannot take full credit for the idea as this was given to me by a friend who asked me a simple question “can you make me a water proof riding skirt” to which I replied, “I don’t see why not…”

And this was where it began.

My brain started ticking and this was when I realised that if I could figure out how to do this then not only could I make one for Selena but also one for myself. And if it worked for me then maybe other Riders who were fed up with getting cold and wet would want one too!

I began researching the history of riding skirts or Habits as their known and very quickly started dreaming up an idea of what I wanted mine to look like and most importantly what I needed to do to achieve this.

The first hurdle was how to transform my idea into a reality…

Trained as a traditional upholster, I was comfortable working with fabrics and a competent sewer but by no means would I call myself a seamstress.

I had good working knowledge of fabric applications and construction but little to no knowledge of making clothes or designing a garment from scratch.

My dream of a highly practical garment with an elegant line meant training. I had to commit as much time and energy to this as I could. I searched about and booked myself into numerous courses on sewing machine skills, pattern cutting, block making, the list goes on. Much like learning to ride, I was keen to tackle every skill that would bring my dream to life!