the History of Wild June

Chapter 1 THE BEGINNING 2011
This business started because I wanted to have a reason to go back to India and not be a traveling bum anymore. At first I thought, I'm going to import cool shit from India. I made a list of things I could import and the belts with pockets had the best profit margins. Ironically, I never owned a belt in my life before I started this company. I had a business advisor at the time via the Small Business Administration and he suggested I design them myself. I thought, yeah I could do that! But I had no clue how hard that would actually be. Initially I found a technical designer, named Liz, on Craigslist, to teach me her ways and communicate my designs on paper. Eventually she became one of my closest friends :). Liz taught me everything I knew about design for several years and has always been my go to person whenever I have questions. She found our initial factory, a Chinese factory producing vegan leather pieces, and they made our first run of 90 pieces, which I would later find out is considered a sample run. I moved out of my apartment, and the day the pieces arrived in the States, I drove from LA to Burning Man to sell them outside of the festival in Gerlach. It definitely felt like a life changing day, and it was. My Dad's best friend had been working at Burning Man for years, and when I told him I was making 'fanny packs 2.0', he recommended the Gerlach Bazaar to me. So I set up with 6 styles, in 3 color ways each, with 5 of each of the unique pieces, and by Wednesday of the festival I had almost sold out. I remember the sheer happiness I had! I was a bundle of pure smiles and ecstatic energy, and I was going into my first Burning Man. I prematurely quit my corporate job and bought a ticket to India to look for factories there, before I had even sold a single piece. So, this definitely felt like validation that I was on the right path.

Burning Man filled me with so much amazing positive energy that first year. I fell in love at first site and I felt like I was changed forever, like most people exiting their first Burn. I went to India a week later with the intention of staying for 6 months to look for factories. I had tried to do as much research as possible beforehand to get factory leads to work from, but I didn't really have a clue what I was doing until I was over there seeing them. When you're as little of a fish as I was, you have to convince factories to work with you. A lot of them have big minimums, which for a beginning designer is scary. I saw 10 factories over 4 months, did samples with three of them, and eventually chose one that was a family friend of one of my college roommates. He worked with me as best as he could, and in retrospect I realize what a nightmare I must have been to work with then, because I had no clue what I was doing. We worked on samples of the collection for 2 months, I paid my deposit of 1/3 which was huge money for me then, and they promised me they would ship a week or two after I left India. So i waited, and I waited, and I waited, and I called, and I yelled, and I wrote angry emails, I wrote sweet emails, I wrote pleading emails, and eventually 4 MONTHS LATER, they came. I literally sat at my Mom's house for 4 months just waiting for these belts to come, determined to succeed in my business but with nothing to sell. Once they finally made it there, there were buttons falling off, zippers breaking, belts coming apart- it was awful. About half of the merchandise had errors, and I needed to discount everything because I didn't know which pieces would have problems. Ugh, so bad. I went to the Melrose Trading Post and a Silverlake Flea Market to try and sell them and I sold one, it was definitely a moment of feeling defeated. But I had 300 of them, so I did everything I could. I set up my website, I did photoshoots, I created my first catalog, I contacted stores, I tried my best with social media, I did side jobs and I vended at as many events as I could. I realized my sheer determination to sell things, combined with the fact people genuinely liked the designs, was enough to sell them. I was working like crazy, and slowly but surely they were selling.

Chapter 3 ROGER
Best advice I can give anyone aspiring to be a designer is to go to MAGIC in Vegas. It's twice a year in February and August, and it's an invaluable fashion convention no matter what level of expertise and experience you have in the industry. Liz suggested we go and network, and it was there I met Roger, the owner of the Indonesian factory I've been working with for 5 years now. I sent him a technical packet of a new design I had made, and compared to what I had been selling, that initial sample was another moment of celebration. Impeccable quality, no minimums, but 30% more expensive than the past. Most of the illustrious colors and supple leathers you see in my shop are complements of Roger and his team. Every year they push the envelope ever further experimenting on new ways to dye and treat leather to get different trending effects. And just like that I started the process of working side jobs so I could buy more belts. Even today, all my extra money goes to buying new inventory. It's a bit addictive honestly. And sometimes you sell lots, and sometimes you sell none, but as a designer, you just keep doing it.

Chapter 4 HUSTLING
Hah, very appropriately titled. In addition to a variety of side jobs, I did over 50 events for two years in a row. Most weeks that meant two local club shows from 9pm to 2 am or 8 am if it was one of the underground all night venues, and then a day market somewhere. Other weeks that meant back to back festivals. Joshua Tree Music Festival, sleep one night, then LIB. If a festival is 3-5 days, as vendors we are there 5-7 days. I did 14 festivals for two years straight, and even now, I try to taper down my festival vending, but I end up at a minimum of 8 a year. Festival Vending is always a gamble; a great last year doesn't mean anything about how this year will go. It's a combination of so many factors, many out of my control. However, I did establish who my clientele were by vending at so many different and varied events; I gained brand exposure, which is invaluable, and I figured out what my customers wanted and didn't want. Through vending I've been able to test out new ideas, products and colors with customers week after week without investing too heavily in a style beforehand. I've also made some of my closest friends through vending. I see other vendors more than my family when we're in the busy months, and I'm grateful to have so many talented designers as my friends and neighbors at shows.

Chapter 5 TRADESHOWS 2015
December of 2014, I was accepted into ENK Accessories in NY. I had been working on a farm in Northern California for two months when I found out I was accepted. I quit working that day, drove off the hill, and put everything I had made there, into the tradeshow. ENK Accessories is one of the premiere trade shows for accessories in fashion. This was a dream come true, and with one month to prepare before the show, I went into over drive. I received my first samples of the Rose holster and the Topanga fringe belt bag the night before the show with no idea how much to say they cost because the factory hadn't worked out their pricing yet. The next day, I received orders from several boutiques throughout the country, including the online retailing giant, SHOPBOP. This felt like a whole new turning point for my business; I found new boutiques interested in my products because SHOPBOP was. I learned that while my customers loved limited edition colors, it wasn't the easiest thing to sell to stores. I also learned the ins and outs of pricing for wholesale, sometimes the hard way, by leaving myself little to no profit. Everything is a learning lesson. Later that year, I participated in POOL TRADESHOW at Magic. I had been attending that show since Liz first took me years before, so it felt nice to now be showing at it. It wasn't as successful for me as ENK had been, but still a good experience.

So end of 2015, I realized that I suck at keeping in touch with wholesale clients, and I went in search of a Showroom that could do this for me and get more orders for me. I found one in Downtown LA, which I shall not name, and again felt so honored to be accepted by them, since they were one of the more prestigious showrooms for accessories. They immediately told me all the ways in which I would need to change my business in order to be more commercially viable, and I went along with it, trusting in their expertise. The changes that were made included changing of my company name, rebranding due to the name change, and creating a new line with necklaces, regular belts, purses, arm cuffs, and clutches that appealed to a more mainstream market. Within a month and a half, I put together a new website, new collection, did photos, put together catalogs, found new suppliers for hardware (because they wanted to see gun metal and silver options) and I changed my name. Not having an apartment at the time, I went to India to work on the collection, and slept next to my computer for a month straight because it was always business time somewhere in the world. Free People contacted me while I was over there. They had been my dream account since I started and it finally was here, but because I signed with the Showroom a month before, I couldn't even talk to them, other than to pass them off to an office that I was already starting to despise at that point. I pressed to find out what happened, but I never heard about Free People again. At the end of that month and a half, I presented my collection and catalogs to the showroom, days before market week. Suddenly the catty woman that had been emailing me fierce demands every day calmed down, and I finally was able to breathe again. Market week happened, and I received 4 orders, for a total of $900. I was pissed. That was how much one average order would have been if I were doing it, and instead I was paying them. Initially I said I'd give them a year, but after 6 months, I left feeling like I had just escaped a mean boyfriend. Happy but a little traumatized. I definitely learned a LOT from the experience, but they stripped my company apart in the process, and molded me into what they wanted.

The hardest part about the Showroom for me was changing my company name. It went from Bohemian Hips to Wild June. Bohemian Hips described the product, was easy to remember, and easy to spell, which were the three things I was told made a good name. However their reasoning for me changing it was that I was doing holsters now, which were not "hips" products and that "Bohemian" limited me to that audience and alienated me from customers that didn't identify with bohemian but might have still liked my products anyways. For example, could you see a shoulder holster in a biker shop with a label Bohemian Hips? Doesn't really fit, does it?
So why Wild June? June was my favorite Aunt in Malaysia. She passed away when I was 13, however in the couple years that I knew her, she made a lasting impact on my life. I remember feeling like I was in a world of enchantment when I went to her house. She was an English Professor in Singapore when she worked, and her walls were lined with books and art. She had a magnetic wheezy laugh and a cigarette always at the end of her fingers. At 12 she decided religion was a farce while in Catholic school, which for me growing up Atheist, when no one was Atheist, felt nice to hear. As a young adult she was told to marry a man my grandmother had picked for her, and she fiercely kicked him out of the house. As a woman, she denied marriage proposal after marriage proposal because she thought anyone who would marry her was crazy, and she didn't want to marry a crazy person. When she was dying they told her to quit smoking and drinking, and she said fuck it, if I'm going to die, I might as well go out happy. She lived in a Muslim country, yet she lived by her own rules. There's so much more I could say, but those are my highlights.
After creating name bank after name bank, Wild June was the only thing that meant anything to me. Still, changing the name of my company, which had been a part of my identity for so long, put me into a bit of an identity crisis. As a small business owner, your business becomes a part of you. When it's doing good, you feel good. When it's doing bad, you feel bad. It took a year under Wild June before I really felt a connection to the name and an understanding of what it represented to me. It took a year before I felt good about my company again.
I went back to Malaysia recently and met a woman that was my Auntie June's age and knew her well when she was alive. We were in a family function of over 100 people, but we both felt this need to talk to each other longer. She asked me if I had met June, and I gave her my business card which said Wild June. She laughed and we kept talking. The next day, she came back and told me I was living my life how June would have, if she hadn't been restricted by society. She doesn't know it but she solidified the meaning of my company's name to me. She helped me realize that I was the Wild June.

Chapter NOW
As 2018 begins, I'm feeling good about it all again. Concentrating on picking up where I left off when I had all the gusto in the world to see my belts and holsters in stores. I think the line is looking more beautiful that ever, and I'm blessed to have all the knowledge of my past mistakes. I'm also secretly in the works on a clothing line, but this business will always be my first child.