Last month I spent a lovely morning photographing Dara from Dara Ford, at her West London studio. Dara provides contemporary, bespoke women’s tailoring and had booked a Brand Story session with me. We planned the morning so that we could capture some new headshots, photographs of Dara’s studio and her process ready for her new website.
One of the things I love about working with other small business owners is that each time I do, I learn so much about their industry. Before meeting with Dara to plan her session I had no idea just how much thought and detail went into bespoke tailoring – understanding Dara’s process was really eye opening.
As well as running her business, Dara is mum to three girls and I knew her story would make a great addition to my brand story series. I hope you enjoy seeing some of the photographs from our shoot together, and learning more about Dara’s story. Over to you, Dara….
Tell us a bit about you and your family life
I live in Isleworth, West London with my partner Paul and our three daughters. We are a bilingual family as Paul is from Germany which is where I grew up though I am British-Canadian. We met through our shared loved of dance and still dance together when childcare allows. Recently we have taken up Lindyhop which is a lot of fun. Our daughters are aged 8months to six years and are endlessly entertaining. It’s a challenge and a juggle of course, but we are healthy and happy – what more can you wish for.
I’d love to know more about your business – who do you work with and how do you help them?
I am a women’s tailor and dressmaker with a background in haute couture and fashion design. I design and make well fitting clothes for discerning women in business and beyond. Good quality, timeless and perfectly fitting clothes are so hard to find on the high street, but almost anything is possible when you choose a bespoke garment. I love solving my clients’ fit problems and helping them to feel confident and comfortable in their own skin. My motto is: There is no perfect size, only the perfect fit.
What inspired you to start your business?
I had been working for a high end London designer label and had helped grow the business. After four great and challenging years there there wasn’t really any room for me to progress upwards and rather than switch to a new company I felt ready to try out my own ideas. So I took the plunge to start my own business! I have always loved tailoring and saw a gap in the market for beautifully cut clothes that women can wear from a day at the office to an evening engagement. It is important to me that my designs are versatile, beautifully made and most importantly comfortable. I designed my capsule collection with this in mind and love creating new things for the women I dress.
How have you found the experience of juggling being a mum of three with running your own business?
It really is a juggle! I am still learning about the best way to combine both. Having a purpose built garden studio that I work from has certainly helped. I often work when the rest of the family have gone to bed. As my youngest is only 8 months old I am still officially on maternity leave, but am planning to return to work soon. My partner is able to work flexible hours which also helps greatly. He starts at 6 o’clock in the morning and finishes in time to pick up our children from school. This means I can work longer in the afternoons.
What advice do you have for other mums who are trying to make it work?
Be kind to yourself, try not to be a perfectionist and most of all avoid the comparison trap! It’s easy to look at other business online and think they are doing so well so why can’t I make it work. But that is a poor measure of success. Take things one step at a time, join a business networking group to avoid isolation and make useful connections. Outsource things that are a drag on your energy and focus on the things that you do well. Now I just need to follow my own advice! 😉
What made you decide to invest in professional photographs for your business?
A great looking website with professional photography is so important. Most of us shop online nowadays. Even if it’s a physical service we are purchasing we tend to do our research online first and gauge whether someone is trustworthy or not. I realised that it’s time my website was updated to showcase the work I do now and decided that good photographs were essential to that process.
How are you planning to use the photographs from our shoot together?
Mainly I will be using them for my new website, but I also plan to use them for my blog posts and social media.
What’s next for Dara Ford?
Currently my focus is creating bespoke tailoring, wedding dresses, etc. for my private clients. In the future I’d like to offer a more affordable made-to-measure service along with a travelling fitting service so that women in the city can meet me at a convenient location close to their place of work. As my children are young my time and resources are still limited, but my plan is to grow the business along with them.
Thank you Dara for sharing your story with us. If you’d like to find out more about Dara’s work you can find her here:
Etsy Shop: www.etsy.com/shop/DaraFord