It’s a weird truth that some of the best ideas are born on trains – and that includes 54 Floral. From a few logo tees to one of the UK’s hottest emerging brands, producing quality unisex streetwear with a north-west accent, the brand was founded by brothers Stuart and Greg Pearce in their early 20s, funded by a lucky football bet and named in tribute to a much-loved relative.
Despite never intending to stay working in fashion, Stuart launched the brand alongside his job as an assistant menswear buyer for a premium independent store, before taking the leap to quit and grow 54 Floral full-time. And from that tiny seed of an idea, it’s blooming. We caught up with the brains behind the tees to find out how.
So what motivated you to start 54 Floral?
I actually thought of the idea back in 2009 when I lived in China and saw the scale of clothing on offer – it was a time when graphic t-shirts had just made their first appearance in the UK. However it only really came about through desperation. I was on the train back to university from being at home for the summer and so skint, even my full-time job wasn’t paying the bills and I think I owed about £10,000 to family who had helped me out. So I sat on the train and thought of names and ideas and I sold my first ‘spray painted’ tee to a friend for £11 about two weeks later. Every penny I made, I put back into the business until one year on, the £10,000 had been paid back.
What’s been your biggest fuck-up, in business or in life?
I wouldn’t say I’ve had any serious fuck ups, just lots of smaller ones! I did order too many scarves and hats once that I’m still lumbered with! I’ve failed loads in relationships and friendships, but you’ve just got to carry on and move on. And I’ve found it’s the same with business. It can be annoying or upsetting at the time, but after time it seems to dissolve and something else becomes more important.
Quality, design or brand identity… what’s your biggest priority?
I think all three are important, but brand identity and image, especially online, is the one I sway to. I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to the way we shoot things and how the website flows.
Are fashion influencers enhancing the industry, or damaging it?
Honestly I do think influencers on social media ruin brands, especially the ‘celeb’ influencers. It comes down to who is willing to pay them the most, and I find it incredibly frustrating as you know fine well the influencer is being paid to say these things. That’s not credible. And does it really really work? I’m not sure.
Where do you go for mentoring, help and investment?
I guess I got my mentoring from my jobs really, trying to network and soak up all the advice and thinking wherever I can. I still speak to my old bosses, they’re a good connection. But investment-wise I’ve had £0. I was super skint, I had £1 in my pocket, so I put a bet on the football and managed to win £40, which I put into producing my first batch of tees!
What’s been the best step you’ve taken to grow your brand?
I think leaving my job as a buyer was a big step. It made me realise that 54 Floral and its success was going to be my only survival tool. Although don’t get me wrong, there are always good and bad days.