I’m not sure who coined the phrase Introverts of the world unite, separately in your own homes, but whoever they are they could’ve added ‘via instagram’ to the end of that and they would definitely be a fan of the Stay Home Club.
Self confessed Designs For The Disgruntled, SHC is a unisex clothing brand that pioneered discontented designs with popular T-shirt slogans such as: The Worst, Awful and Recluse to name a few.
SHC has provided a well needed morose alternative to that hollow, chipper, twee-er, wear of recent years. It reflects a growing distain for aspects of modern life that has resonated with buyers worldwide, and as part hermit by choice, I can definitely relate to their disgruntled sentiments and straight up admit I’m a fan.
Stay Home Club is the brainchild of illustrator Olivia Mew and I’ve been following the rapid rise of her small business on Instagram for the last few years. I caught up with Olivia from her home in Montreal to chat about all thing SHC and the ins and outs of running an indie business.
Hey Olivia! Is Mew your real surname? I always thought that was cool and very fitting that you had a surname that’s also the sound a cat makes!
Hi! It is, I was literally born this way. Blessed, really.
How did the Stay Home Club begin, what were your plans when you first started?
Stay Home Club started with a small line of pillow cases designed by a handful of artists I was lucky enough to collaborate with. In 2012 I exclaimed “there are too many t-shirt companies out there! I’m gonna do something different”! The plan was to stick to homewares, but after people started telling me how much they loved the logo I decided to print a few tees after all and the rest is kinda history. The moral of the story is that people sincerely, really love t-shirts.
Did you think you’d find such a strong, worldwide fan base of likeminded misanthropes? Why do you think your ‘designs for the disgruntled’ has struck such a chord?
I’m totally overwhelmed by the customer base Stay Home Club has found. I’m not necessarily surprised that we all exist, but I’m pretty amazed that so many like-minded individuals have found their way to my silly little brand. When I started doing this the overwhelming majority of graphic tees out there were printed with hyper positive messages – you know, the Mumford-And-Sons-Lyric-In-Handwritten-Cursive-With-Feathers kinda stuff.
When I started developing the designs for our tees it was a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to that. There has certainly been a seachange over the last few years which bodes both well and not so well for brands like SHC – when I started I couldn’t name anyone else making items with the same “reclusive” message but now there are dozens, many of whom are seemingly just digitally printing whatever message is trendy and endlessly ripping each other off. I’m so grateful that my customers recognize the real deal.
Throughout art school (sigh) I worked an office job and had a handmade as well as a vintage clothing Etsy shop. After graduating I made it my goal to save a specific amount from my job as a cushion so that I could quit: the plan being that I’d do the vintage shop as my “day job” while I tried to cultivate an illustration career in my spare time. I ended up reaching my goal and quitting a few months later and shortly after that started Stay Home Club at the same time as starting to put myself out there as an illustrator. So I ditched the vintage (as fun as it was) and have been doing what I’m doing now full time for almost 3 years now.
Although you design a lot of your products yourself, you’ve also worked with other illustrators and designers, such as the UK’s brilliant Gemma Correll. Is collaboration important for SHC, what do you enjoy about working with other illustrators and what makes an artist’s work a good fit for your company?
The designs I’ve licensed from artists like Gemma, The Disaster Life, Noah Harmon, Adam J. Kurtz and others have seriously been my favourite items that we’ve put out. It’s so important to me to keep things fresh, and not let Stay Home Club get pigeonholed / limited by my designs and my ideas. When I come across work that I just know SHC customers would love I get SO FRIGGIN EXCITED. That’s been the case with all the collabs we’ve done and I couldn’t be happier with them. It’s not something obvious that makes them a good fit, it’s just a certain sense of humour, sometimes a certain aesthetic, just a *spark*. Indescribable!
How has social media, in particular Instagram helped your business to grow? Do you think there’s a knack to great instagram-ing if you’re a small business?
I’m so clueless about social media it’s not even funny. I mean, I do the Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for SHC but I do it by the seat of my pants. Instagram is what I use most just because it’s my personal favourite – on the Stay Home Club account I mostly share customer photos because I think it really helps prospective buyers envision the items on people who don’t necessarily look like our model and get ideas for how to style them. For ages I did everything under my personal Instagram account and was convinced that “my personality” was a big seller for the brand, then in September 2014 I made a stand-alone account and have since racked up something like 28k followers. Go figure.
Numbers and taxes will always be my sworn enemies. For the life of me I can’t wrap my head around them, no matter how many apps I download to help out, no matter how organized I think I’m being with tracking my expenses. I feel horrible for my accountant. He’s lovely but he probably hates me. I’m also rubbish at having an organized system for ordering dwindling supplies, there have been many a “I have 100 packages to ship today and am fresh out of mailers” moments. So I suppose I’m not doing too well at learning from my mistakes – I’m very thankful for patient and understanding customers who don’t chew me out for being a day late to ship their bits.
Do you have any advice to pass on about juggling the needs of a growing, small business?
So, on the flip side of the ordering-supplies-and-doing-taxes stuff, what I really pride myself on is my ability to manage the shipping and logistics side of my business. I can’t stress how important it is to me to have a smooth running system and I think any e-commerce business owner should really feel the same way.
If you’re planning on selling online (and I imagine that’s what a good chunk of new businesses are doing these days) spend time researching your options for processing and shipping. Look into your country’s postal service and figure out what they offer – do they have commercial rates? How easy is it to create shipping labels via their website / third party software / etc? Can they pick up from you or are you gonna have to haul stuff to them? Etc. Investing in proper shipping software and a thermal label printer was maybe the best decision I’ve ever made for my business and saves me countless days per week. My friends with similar businesses know this because I constantly nag them about it and have anxiety attacks when I see them hand-writing customs forms.
It’s hard for me to answer this as a person who truly does not “get out much” and a self proclaimed non-participant. I’m lucky to have a pretty excellent group of friends here in Montreal almost all of whom are self-employed creatives, so there must be SOMETHING good going on here. Certainly we have a lot of creative transplants from other parts of the country because our rent is comparatively very cheap and it’s easier to live off a self-employed income here than it is in Toronto or Vancouver.
That said, there’s some political tension in Quebec (the province Montreal is in, and the only officially French-language-only province in Canada) that doesn’t really exist elsewhere in the country, so there are aspects of the culture that might seem less welcoming. We also have the highest provincial income tax rate in the country which can be a small business killer (see earlier gripes about not understanding numbers). But I don’t want to be a hater – in general there’s some really cool stuff around, it’s a beautiful city and I’m probably just still bitter because of the incredibly long and cold winter we just squeezed out of.
Yes! I’ll be setting up shop in a corner of Stage 3 in Hackney (289 Mare Street, E8 1EJ) from 11 AM – 5 PM on both May 15th and 16th. I’m also bringing goods from some of my favourite friends / brands: Explorer’s Press, No Fun and Yo Sick.
Have you any other plans for while you’re in the UK? What are some of your favourite things to do when visiting these shores?
I lived in England for 2 years as a teenager so some of my favourite people are there! I like buying mixed drinks in a can (a total novelty for me, GENIUS) and doing park hangs in the sun (when it comes out)! I’m also a big fan of spending a day alone at the V&A just looking at everything, endlessly. This trip I’m super excited to have tickets to Kevin Devine as well as American Football (the band not the sport), a tattoo appointment, a visit to my grandparents’ – it’s gonna be a busy one!
People of London and those with the ability to travel: Do not miss the opportunity to catch the Stay Home Club pop up shop next month! Many thanks to Olivia for the interview, much appreciated!