How do I compete with the high street?

How do I compete with the high street?

Above: 1890s corset by Michelle Fitzgerald. 3-part tutorial at FoundationsRevealed.com

On Friday night a disgruntled ex-Member complained that Foundations Revealed should be more like Craftsy, the crafting giant snapped up by NBC Universal this year. 

 

How the hell do I compete with that?

Craftsy is full of gorgeous HD video classes for bargain basement prices. It has a fancy, big-budget interface. Twelve million users share the cost of producing classes on all the most popular pastimes – quilting, knitting, baking, drawing, and so on.

Foundations Revealed is an archive of 1000 articles on corsetry and historical costume making, available only by purchasing a monthly subscription. It has an interface that is showing its age, funded by seven hundred Members.

I’m sorry, I replied. We have to do what we can with what we have.

 

Unfair though the comparison may be, she still has a point. How DO we compete in a Craftsy-led world? It’s easy to see how fast a little guy like us could be swallowed up by the Goliath of the “edu-tainment” world. We’re doomed! What to do?

Here’s how: we specialise. We geek the heck out, and look for geeks like us. We go to depths of delicious nerdiness that Craftsy can never hope to match. We go an inch wide… and five hundred years deep.

This is why Your Wardrobe Unlock’d has not worked.

 

“Dear Cathy, I have to ask you this… where is YWU going to? Everything is pointing towards Foundations and corsetry and I’m just not going that way… so would it be too intrusive to know what are your plans?”

I’ve been asked this a few times recently. You’re right, we’re pulling back on Wardrobe and pushing Foundations forward.

I thought I was specialising when I founded Your Wardrobe Unlock’d ten years ago. But despite being waaaay smaller and nerdier than anything the cool girls at Craftsy could dream up, historical costume making is still an extremely broad subject. One person hopes for an article on making better ruffs; another is waiting for the lowdown on setting in 18th century sleeves. A third is disappointed to find that after ten years, we STILL don’t have an article on making a petticoat suitable for a dress of 1877-82… and there is NEVER enough menswear!

Each Member wants us to specialise in their specialist subject. But we can only ever cover any area of costume at the most superficial level, and never in enough quantity or detail for any of these Members to feel that they’re getting the level of value that I’d like us to deliver. I’m not happy about that.

So yes… in answer to the questions I’ve been hearing, Foundations Revealed and Your Wardrobe Unlock’d have merged – they have been combined into one Membership and will soon be a single site. Nothing will be taken off the site. Nothing will be removed. But yes, it will be fabulous, fancy, professional and 2018-ready, and the emphasis is shifting to corsetry.

Why? Because corset making is what we can do in sufficient depth to make a Membership outstanding value.

It’s literally the foundations, revealed. If we specialise in making people’s smooth, hourglass corsetry dreams come true, the rest of the outfit will fall into place. By concentrating on this one maddening, fascinating, controversial, little-understood garment, and focussing consistently on innovation in this field so that the results really ARE hourglass shaped, we can make a real impact on our Members’ skills and confidence as makers. We can geek out over synthetic whalebone and the nuances of third panel pattern cutting, empower those Members who are fascinated by nailing this ONE thing, and let that confidence radiate into the rest of their sewing, from the skin out. Because when you get the Foundations right, everything else builds on that.

 

We’re not specialising in corsetry because costume is not important or interesting; we’re doing it because costuming is too big to do well on this scale. And so there will still be some costume making, and all the existing Wardrobe articles will still be there, but the name will be Foundations Revealed, and the primary skill we’ll be teaching in dense and delightful detail will be corset making.

How do I know it’ll work?

This is not an arbitrary decision. Since Foundations’ very beginning in 2009, the passion, the enthusiasm and the hunger for great corset making has been palpable in response to everything we do. Let me give you pure statistics:

  • The last Members’ article we published at Foundations got 330 hits. The one published the week before at Wardrobe got 71, and this week’s got 48.
  • Back in April, our first Live Mentoring call for Members was all Q&A. Mentors Luca and Lowana answered seven corsetmaking questions, and three on everything else in the entire world of costuming.
  • Thirty people entered corsets, or corset themed outfits, in the FR competition this year; eleven entered costumes at Wardrobe.
  • 92% of our Members are FR Members; only two thirds are interested in Wardrobe.

The primary interest is in corsetry. I’m going where my team and I can build the richest source of help in the area where people are the most vocal and passionate and engaged, and have the greatest need. So Foundations Revealed and Your Wardrobe Unlock’d are becoming Foundations Revealed: Rediscovering the lost art of corset making, and if you would like to come along for the ride, we would be delighted to serve you.

 

So I’m very sorry, Craftsy, but you just can’t compete. At Foundations Revealed you don’t just get a couple of classes on the absolute, generic basics. You learn how to use leather, lace, bobbinette, coutil, velvet, and what the Victorians really used themselves. You learn why steel is not a no-brainer. You learn why most mainstream modern corset patterns look so…. well, disappointing…. and you come with us on a journey in which we dare to ask whether the genuinely hourglass figure can be achieved without tightlacing (it can.) You get to try corsets of the 1770s, 1860s, 1890s, 1900s, and everything in between (plus – bunny uniforms, anyone?), and you’ll draft and adjust patterns, fit, and decorate your kickass corsets, and market your small business.

And that’s how you compete with the cool kids in your field: Specialise.

Go narrow. Go deep.

Geek. Out.

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