1 year round the sun
1 whole year of AcaciaZuri adventures
AcaciaZuri has officially turned 1! It has been a year since our launch date, and just under 3 years since our inception. The time has absolutely flown by. I can’t believe what a journey it has been and all the fun that we have had along the way.
So I thought I would take a moment to share some of my favourite AcaciaZuri memories with my favourite people. I’m going to start right at the beginning, highlighting some of our biggest moments to date.
This company was born out of a love for African adventures and unique style. Being such a niche brand has certainly been challenging at times, but it has also been a privilege to have this platform, where we can share our story, raise awareness for conservation in Africa, and sprinkle a little AcaciaZuri magic.
Our first chapter: The Lockdown gift of time
When the very first lockdown hit, I realised that being stuck indoors and having too much free time on my hands could very quickly turn into a disaster. The movie “I am Legend” came to mind: being the last human left to survive on Earth has always been one of my worst nightmares. I have a slightly imaginative brain and I must admit that at certain times in my life when there were no people around, I have almost convinced myself that I am Will Smith, and that I am destined to wander the wilderness with only a dog for company. So you can imagine that lockdown was not the most comfortable place for me.
Looking back on it now, my thought process may have been a tad dramatic (this is completely out of character for me, of course). I was lucky enough to be isolating with several of my closest family members, in beautiful Norfolk, and it wasn’t exactly the setting for the beginning of a horror movie.
Our lockdown birthday celebrations included adorable Onesies and impressive bonfires.
Still, after a few days of teetering on the edge of apocalyptic panic, I decided to be proactive. I also had a sudden urge to embrace being outside of my comfort zone, to do something that I had always wanted to but had felt too scared to open myself up to. I had one of my favourite quotes stuck in my head, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
My dream for a long time had been to gather the skills and knowledge I needed to start up my own fashion company. Before lockdown, I had been looking for work within the fashion industry, preferably in textile design. But now, suddenly, this path to my dream was delayed, perhaps for good. So I decided to find another way. I started to use my creativity and fuel it into doing what I love most: drawing and designing. At first, I told myself I was doing it just to keep myself busy and motivated during a global pandemic. But before long I had to admit it: I wanted to share my designs with the world.
A glimpse into my first scarf design that I started working on during lockdown.
I couldn’t do many of the things you do when starting up a fashion company, like visiting manufacturers, testing design styles and cuts and fabrics, or even going out and meeting potential customers. But I had the gift of time, and I used it to really dive deep into my creative process. I spent months on end illustrating wildlife artworks, layering them with incredible levels of detail and then combining them into intricate ‘storytelling’ designs. I wanted each design to portray the beauty found within nature as well as a sense of movement and travel.
I shared my designs with family and friends, and eventually over social media as well, getting support and feedback from other creative people around the world and focussing on perfecting each illustration since I couldn’t get them printed anywhere yet. Then, finally, lockdown was lifted just a little, and I was able to start contacting manufacturers and testing my designs in real life.
It took a while, and a series of test products, but finally I managed to visit manufacturers in Italy where I found a wonderful company that provided me with eco-friendly materials and luxury printing options. This way, I was able to feel good about portraying the beautiful African environment I had grown up in, whilst also doing my bit to protect it.
Our second chapter: A bump in the social media world
As some of you may know, after countless hours spent building our Instagram profile and reaching some wonderful followers around the world, our first account was sadly hacked, and we were forced to start all over again. This was the first bump in the road for AcaciaZuri, and I must admit we spent far too much time trying to save the old account and eating comfort cookies before we decided to move on. But we managed to pick ourselves back up and in a short space of time we built a brand-new account with a higher following than the first, a fun space where we can share our values, our story, and our love of fashion.
This was also a great lesson for me personally: things go wrong when you start a business, and often it is from a direction that you wouldn’t expect. You need to be strong when they do… and remember not to tag your old account after a few too many glasses of bubbles at your launch party. Oops!
Click here to check out our correct account and follow us for some adventure-filled, heart-warming content.
Our third chapter: Christmas markets with a sprinkle of pyjama pizazz...
Since before officially launching AcaciaZuri, it has been on my ‘Business Bucket List’ to have my very own stand at the Spirit of Christmas Fair in Kensington Olympia. With the knowledge that my brand was less than a year old, and had limited products available (scarves, ties and scrunchies), I still decided that I would regret not applying.
And then I heard back, and not only was my application successful, but my allocated stand was GG44! I was over the moon. My stand number held a lot of meaning for me on two levels. Firstly, I have an odd habit of kissing my phone for good luck whenever I see double digits (don’t ask me to explain why… I’m a bit quirky sometimes). So, having two sets of double digits felt like it must be good luck indeed!
Secondly, and more importantly to me, my dad’s lucky number was 44. Being allocated number 44 felt incredibly special to me, as I lost my dad to cancer in 2019, and he was my main inspiration for finding the courage to set up AcaciaZuri and follow in his bold entrepreneurial footsteps.
I had a few months to prepare for the Fair, and I desperately wanted to launch the new pyjama designs I had been working on. It was a stressful time, but I was lucky enough to receive a Christmas miracle and somehow everything came together just in time. This was mainly thanks to my wonderful manufacturer and friend Kathryn, whose team went above and beyond to get the pyjamas out to me in time. She went as far as to personally fly the pyjamas out from Turkey and deliver them to my stand. And they were beautiful.
After talking to my grandmother (who is one of my number one supporters) and showing her the initial pyjama sets, she insisted that me and my team should wear the pyjamas at the fair to show them off properly. “People will be drawn in, darling,” she said.
My grandmother buying one of each of my scarf designs at my launch party in London “because she couldn’t choose a favourite.”
At first, I thought it was a very sweet but unnecessary suggestion. Who in their right mind would wear pyjamas to a fancy Christmas fair? But on the first day at my stand, I realised that it was in fact a brilliant idea. The fair was immense, and our AcaciaZuri pyjamas were too pretty to sit quietly on a hanger.
So my helpers and me changed into our brand new loungewear (which some customers decided would look quite good as two-piece suits), and it worked like a charm. We had an influx of people stopping to talk to us and try on the pyjamas themselves, whilst we happily sipped on bubbles and had a lovely time chatting with new and future customers.
Some lovely ladies who stopped by our stand to try the pyjamas on.
Launching a one-woman show has been quite the roller-coaster, but each and every day I feel so grateful for the unwavering support of my family and friends, and my wonderful customers. Every moment has been full of lessons to be learned and treasured memories to be made. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing.
I am proud to have created so many wonderful, unique products that share the spirit of African beauty and give back to animal conservation in Zambia. And this wouldn’t be possible without every ounce of support that you have given to AcaciaZuri.
I want to take this time to say thank you, I am incredibly grateful for each and every person who falls in love with our products, as I pour my heart and soul into all of my designs.