Today is ‘Inspire Me’ day, all about Zoe Phayre – Mudge, the creator and designer behind the wonderfully stylish, fun and eye catching ZPM British branded bags, amongst lots of other pieces. Made from a huge selection of cool oil print fabric prints …. and the great thing about ZPM is that you can find something to suit anyone in your life if you visit their online shop !
Having been a fan of Zoe’s ZPM brand for rather a long time now, I first spotted some gorgeously kitsch floral printed ZPM bath accessories in a shop, my eyes instantly lit up with delight – and I have to say, years on, the pieces I bought then still look as good as ever and have travelled far and wide with me !
You may well also, be aware of the Trolley – Dolly.. an innovative design, created by ZPM, where you can shop plastic bag free – with 21 bags compacted into just one outer bag – and not just eco friendly but good looking too ;)………
To add even more fun to the proceedings ( and celebrate me reaching 10,000 followers on Twitter this week ) – you are in with a chance of winning this cute as a button ‘Weekender’ bag in Songbird fabric ( below ) from the ZPM range – I can highly recommend it as I have one myself and you can fit soooo much in it !
Find out what you need to do to enter the Giveaway at the end of this interview…
Who and what inspired you to become a designer ?
Just something in you I think – growing up you are either into computers or into dogs or love fireworks or something.. I just loved making things but more than that I loved doing “running a business” . My mum and dad ran a fruit and veg business and they gave me old stuff when they moved office once and I got 3 old phones and lots of stationery.. I loved all those paper clips and folders and I loved making things… I basically don’t think anything has changed !!!!!!!! The washbags happended as I found an amazing fabric that just inspired the product range but funnily enough I still have a set of washbags I made at my primary school when I was about nine. Amusingly the fabric is tiny white dots on a pale blue background and that was 1979 !!! so I think it might have been going to do this from birth !
How did ZPM come about? What were your first products ?
I was living between two houses pretending that I was not moving into my soon to be husband’s flat……and pretending to go home each day to the flat I shared with my brother. I was not enjoying working for the company I was with at the time… felt like change and new beginnings. I started to develop an idea for a bag that would “sort your life” and solve a problem… I messed about with lots of things – loads of false starts… one factory gave me the best bit of advice ever which was on presenting my idea he said ” I can’t make that for what you want to sell it for!” It’s been crucial and is crucial that you know what you are trying to do and if the market can take it !
Do you spend a lot of time developing each of your ideas and designs ?
With ZPM we act more like a fashion house that does not design all of its own prints… we buy in a lot but picking the right one is key. I spent ages initially on our shapes but I have alot which I designed a long time ago now. When you get something right people actually like to come back to the same thing – it works and they have stood the test of time – The Weekender bag has been ripped off endlessly since its first inception, but people still come back to ours as its British made and lasts and the copies generally miss something !
How do you choose your fabrics ?
Instinct. and the buzz as I call it.. sometimes when I look at a print you just “know” its going to work. I have to be wary of being in a “sweetshop” sometimes and getting carried away… I am not great at this as you can see on our site… we have over 50 different prints at any one time !
Your products are really well made, is this something that is important to you ?
It’s crucial. I would be a lot richer if they were not.!!! but we have been making all the washbag range in the UK since we started in 1994 and someone turned up with one the other day over 15 years old. We even mend where we can ! The prints are so lovely and around for such a short time that sometimes people just don’t want to let go of a bag. Especially if it has some real significance in your life, maybe it was the bag you went round the world with your boyfriend with or your honeymoon bag or the 40th Birthday present from your best friend… that sort of stuff makes an object something other than just an object… and if it falls apart instantly there is no benefit to anyone.
Is it fair to say you seem very hands on with your company ?
Probably too hands on at the moment. We have shrunk a bit in size since we moved to Dorset. My stepdad has alzheimers, so my mum who had been working with me and my biggest help for 11 years needed to retire, I have 3 kids and they needed a new school and the whole thing worked as a move. Since then I have been a lot more hands on. I think growing a business is letting go of the minutiae of control and letting the people around you take things on. Its not always going to be done “your way” but it also may not be the wrong way.
What is the recipe to running a successful business ?
My favourite expression that our manchester factory owner gave me when I first started working with him was
“Turnover is Vanity, Profit is Sanity, Cashflow is Reality”
Success means a lot of different things to different people… there are the big bucks boys – its all about the money money…. I think they are only half right.
The money is crucial.. you don’t do it for fun, if you had a private income you would surely be in a job that was more charity orientated ?! but the success can come in different packages !
I have a couple of Trolley-Dolly testimonials that I keep on my desk – I have a note which says “read daily” stuck on them… If your thing is to set out to make something that solves a problem and makes people happy to boot and they buy one and come back to you and say “wow, that really did all of that for me and I love it !” then that’s a successful business.
Describe a day in the life at work for you….
It’s a bit of a mixed bag every day. Almost impossible to do a typical one.. but I thought you might like today…Sorting of my gang of small people ie the 3 kids takes up a bit of time first thing most days….. then I am in the office by about 8.35 am, my commute is 30 seconds to a barn in a field and I am accompanied often by Cedric the cat !
Emails, sorting any post or urgent issues.
Today I had a long skype call to one of the factories we use to make Trolley-Dolly. I had some new sampling in to check through. Meanwhile I have had a load of Microscooter products to sort out. I design for a number of other people, basically I like to design things and if a company wants a bag that fits on a scooter then so be it. We have had a really positive relationship with this firm.. they make THE best scooters for kids and adults…and we make a lot of their accessories for them. I design the prints for these and the product – it’s a top to toe design service we offer and I have to say I love it ! Sometimes working to a brief however loose can be really invigorating for a company, gives new perspective and indirectly allows you to reach another audience.
What have been the biggest milestones for ZPM ?
Oh supplying people like harvey nichols and Liberty… Day 1 of my first ever trade show my mum and I were sititng in the dark as I didn’t realise you needed lights at these things and Liberty buyer walked on and ordered it. I took the order to the shop in a cab myself !
Standing next to someone actually buying a bag once was a big moment.. when you box it up and send things to stores you don’t get that personal reaction. Its why I love the web and now facebook for testimonials and thoughts people have. The buyers know there store and the look they want… but there are less of them than the public and all their thoughts… you get so much more through that about what people want…
Having someone you are sitting next to at a wedding go.. so what do you do…. and you go “Oh I have this little bag company… which they have never heard of… and then they go off to the loo and come back and go…..oh oh god you are those great printed bags !!!!” those are nice milestones !
Getting your first staff to help…
What is your current best selling product ?
We have three so I can’t pick between them…
The flower shower caps.. are mad, gorgeous and really work so they tick a lot of zpm boxes….
The weekenders. These just really do the job, and they come in so many lovely prints and they will last and last……
The Trolley-dolly.. newest in but wow is she movin !!! How to do green in a stylish way….. and this bag works and works and works ! its no wonder she is in the top three.
Tell me about your Trolley – Dolly – I love the look of it ! What inspired this ?
Ooooh I love this … I could wax on for a while about this but a video might be simpler – list attached for you to choose from !!!!
Basically I was unpacking one night and that inspirational woman who made Modbury ‘Go Bag Free’ had been in the news… I was chucking all the placky bags on the floor as I unpacked. When I turned around there was a huge pile. I looked at them and thought , I make bags for god’s sake I must be able to do something that solves this. Other people were doing single bags and I just thought – how am I going to get my shopping home with some logo’d jute number ? . It took a year to get to the right size and the right number of bags for a realistic family sized shop. I have 3 kids and an au pair so it’s a fairly large shop each week. I wanted something compact, washable, that looked nice and on a really efficient day I could take by itself rather than taking the bags and a handbag….. In terms of “look” I have tried to achieve a wink to the 50s housewife style handbag in shape and some wearable patterns that are either fun or something you would not be embarrassed to be seen with !!!. We tend to go for spots and things which you will notice sitting in the kitchen…. and remember to take with you……….the shopping list window is the BEST part, you cannot go without the list… keep your list in the front and between that and the token we provide with each bag it should help you remember the bags 9/10 times !
Can you offer a few words of advice for someone starting a new venture ?
PERSEVERE !!! PERSEVERE ! PERSEVERE……… Oh did I mention you really have to stick at it and keep at it day in, day out…
I have a fridge magnet saying by Winston Churchill which says never, never, never, never give up !
What’s in the pipeline for ZPM ?
More telly ! We sell via QVC and we are heading overseas with this.. Australia next month and then Germany. I love doing it, we sell out in minutes but it’s great being able to talk to lots of people at the same time ! Loads more new styles of Trolley-Dolly will be on our site from September – there is even a Cheetah one coming !
Lovely new range of prints for This Winter. A new bag that solves travelling, camping and sorting your baby…… Something for festivals next year….
Big thanks and thumbs up to Zoe ! A very clever woman and lovely with it :). I literally can’t wait for the Cheetah print Trolley – Dolly !
Now, all you have to do to enter this Super Giveaway to win the ZPM Songbird Weekender in white worth £36, is Tweet this post ( button below ) stating:
I have just entered the @lucylovesyablog Giveaway to win a @TROLLEYDOLLYZPM weekender wash bag !
Please, also leave me a comment below this post to let me know that you have done this ( don’t want to miss any entries ! ) – and so that a winner can be picked by randow draw on Tuesday 2nd September at 7pm.
T’s and C’s:
This Giveaway is open to entrants internationally.
The winner will be picked by random draw and announced on Tuesday 4th September 2012 at 7pm.
No purchase necessary.
Please share the love by clicking on the links below xx
All images copyright ZPM 2012.