The final bits & pieces before the product lands in customer hands.
The best feeling: happy customers.
Dear all. I hope you are doing well.
In this, the last instalment of our "Making Of A Bag" series, we'll be documenting the final steps prior to a customer receiving their purchase.
A real mess: Quality Control via email. Thanks Covid.
QUALITY CONTROL (QC)
Once the production order has been finished, it needs to be checked against the agreed quality standard. Pre-covid, the best way to QC was by going to Italy and checking the products one by one in minute detail. Any issues could be solved right there on the spot in the atelier.
The past 18 months however have meant that the product is shipped to me in London before I have the chance to inspect each piece. On the whole it's smooth sailing, but every now and again issues do arise: that's the thing with manufacturing, you're making a real physical product, one by one and human error does enter the equation.
Sometimes it's a matter of snipping off dangling threads, but other times unfortunately the remedy isn't so simple. Zips, I tell you, are my worst nightmare. Zips and missing packages... don't even get me started.
Products that do not meet LUXTRA's standards are returned to Italy to be corrected. It adds a lot of time, cost and stress. With every production run I become wiser and can head off issues that have arisen in the past, but 5 years in, there are still weird and wonderful lessons to be learned.
Of course I'm not oblivious to the carbon footprint of flying to Italy. As yet however I haven't found an optimal solution to that dilemma: suggestions are welcome.
Behind the scenes: product photography with Alex at We Are Studio
On to happier things! Second only to hearing from delighted customers, photographing products is the best part of the entire process.
Good photography is crucial for an e-commerce business like LUXTRA. The first type of photography you need are product shots. Also known as "pack shots" or "cut outs", these are the ones on a plain white background that show front, side, inside etc.
Little anecdote: you know your rank in the pecking order when you're in the studio, finally doing the shoot you booked in weeks prior, only to hear the photographers saying to another brand on the phone "yeah, yeah, ok, courier it over and we'll get it shot today". Ouch.... but chin up, I tell myself. Luxtra will be that important client one day.
Behind the scenes on a creative shoot: adjusting the strap, just so.
The second type of images required are "lifestyle shots". Much more fun, but I never sleep well the night before: I'm always nervous I've forgotten something. You need outfits, model, hair and make up sorted, location confirmed, photographer (of course!), mood boards on an iPad (but printed too, just in case) and a decent selection of props. I feel a bit like a clucking hen, checking in and reminding everyone too-many times where to be and at what time.
It's all a bit much, but the photos at the end are always worth it.
Trying to convince myself that in fact, I really do enjoy sales: the image on my phone's lock screen (I'm not kidding!)
From favourite to least favourite part: I am very conflicted when it comes to marketing. Part of my discomfort stems trying to convince people to buy my product. I like to think that I'm a really un-pushy type of person, so this type of behaviour is like nails on a blackboard for me.
The second, but vastly more troubling aspect is "the need" to use Google and Facebook to reach new people. I really, really dislike these two companies for a whole host of reasons, and I have a big ethical dilemma in using them. But it's a bit like damned if you do, damned if you don't.
For the time being I do use Google ads and will likely start again with Facebook / Instagram. I've decided to take a pragmatic approach whereby Luxtra will "play the game" and use these platforms to reach new people who are interested in what we're doing.
Part of my hope with this newsletter is that I can communicate much more sincerely with people on my own terms, and that perhaps one day, the newsletter will become much more powerful than any ad campaign. It would be so lovely to not use these billion dollar companies (or are they in the trillions by now?) that prey on people's privacy, amongst other ills. If you're interested in the topic, I highly recommend "The System: Who owns the internet, and how it owns us".