We have some epic news to share with you. Against all the odds, Team Disarray has managed to pull off producing a brand new collection in 2020...Fashionably late of course.
I want to give some heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all the exceptional humans who've helped to make this possible. Please join us for a dive behind the scenes at the State of Disarray to discover who designed, cut, stitched, packed, and exported your clothes this season.
(sneak peek of our new rainbow sequin dungers)
While living and working worlds apart, we've somehow navigated this unknown journey together. We've managed to keep our team in Vietnam employed throughout the pandemic and create a collection remotely for the first time ever, as we experienced our lock-downs at different times, in countries 6000km apart.
When the shock waves that barrelled over our expectations for 2020 finally settled enough to dare to think of the future, we wondered how the heck we could survive with such a unique festival-wear brand that relies on events for the huge majority of its trade.
(State of Disarray Traveling Festival boutique by night).
After shaking off the initial sense of disappointment, depression and defeat, it took some serious planning, and difficult 'damage limitation' decision making to move forwards and get us to where we are today. We made the bold but heart-wrenching move, to ditch our Spring/Summer collection completely and try to create an Autumn/Winter-wear range instead.
As news of the virus spread to Vietnam, the local cloth markets were rinsed by big buyers and factories stockpiling fabrics. As a result, we were forced to pay up to five times the usual price for the materials we needed to finish the orders we’d started. Meanwhile, we watched as the exchange rate painfully plummeted, and every cash transfer for wages, goods, and services grossly increased in cost.
(Building fabric stocks and playing with colour combos)
Thankfully, in early January, as the lockdown was looming in Hanoi, we purchased just enough fabric to keep everyone employed and working from their homes for the coming months, as Vietnam rolled out one of the strictest and most effective COVID responses on the planet.
As areas of Vietnam are now going back into lockdown, it seems that we made the right choice, to end this year's production, and pack and ship the pieces that are finished, because it looks likely that the borders, ports and customs offices are at risk of closing again soon.
Working remotely on a collection is something I never thought we would achieve, mainly because we create so many limited-edition pieces from such unreliable and random fabric sources that we believed it was impossible without being there in person. The most important lesson I've learned this year, is to trust in the abilities of my talented team.
(The Captain and her old chum 'Ba Tum' on haberdashery street in Hanoi. Another happy & fair trade, handpicking all the components for our bumbags)
As a designer, I'm usually super hands-on in the studio, plus I've always handpicked every fabric, fastening, and faux fur trim. I have to feel the fabrics and live with them, and love them, and hate them, until everything is perfect, and I love them again. In short, it's my vision and that's not something that can be easily outsourced.
I play with colours and make a relentless mess, experimenting, exploring, and mixing up materials in strange new ways until I adore them. I fold and measure and cut the fabrics day after day until my arms ache and my wrists burn with the wear and tear of sorting through hundreds of kilos of sequins and spandex. Oh, how I curse them.(The Captain showing off the fruits of her labour. This was just a capsule collection at Gottwood Fesival).
It's always an overwhelming adventure, filled with fun, frustration and unbelievable challenges. There's so much self-doubt but also surprising and unforgettable achievements. It really is a turbulent journey of discovery, disaster, happy accidents and endless hours of stress, success and everything in between.
The reward for such a maddening effort is only truly revealed when we see our customers dressing up in their new Disarray designs for the first time, buzzing with delight, feeling thrilled, empowered, excited, and overflowing with fabulosity, and good vibes.
(This is why we do Disarray! Jazmin Loving life in her new 'Cool Bananas' Boiler-suit at Latitude Festival).
We usually spend five months every winter working directly with our small team of tailors and my amazing assistant 'Super Hanh', to develop our designs, perfect our patterns, and oversee every aspect of production. We work speaking in Vietnamese only, as none of the team speaks English.
On the tough days, my inability to express exactly what I mean in such a difficult language can make me feel like a child among my Vietnamese peers. It's a total brain drain at times, but we're still in business and working together eight years later.
On the good days, we can laugh and joke together in Vietnamese, and that's pretty empowering and really enjoyable for the whole gang when they understand their eccentric foreign friend.
Yes, that's me! A bizarrely playful business woman, who is all about making Cosmic Unicorn suits and dresses in the same silly patterns and prints as their toddlers do. On the flip side, it's been noted by my Vietnamese colleagues that I can confidently seal a fair deal like a local in the cloth market, especially when we find our favourite fun and flamboyant fabrics.
(Fabulous Miss. Fancy dressed in our Cosmic Unicorn Suit for a collection launch shoot in Hanoi, Vietnam).
Having such a valuable and loyal team who have stuck together since we launched the State of Disarray is exactly the reason why we've managed to pull this off, with no warning at all and with everything set against us.
Miss. Hanh has worked as my assistant for 6 years. This year Hanh has confidently taken on the manager role in Hanoi, and with my guidance has excelled at her job with her increased responsibilities and authority (which she loves). Hanh and I video chat daily to ensure that everything is going as well as can be during this uncertain and challenging time.
(The Captain & Super Hanh on a night out in Hanoi, hitting up a graduate fashion show and showing off our own fashion brand too).
This year, I designed the garments in the UK, selected the fabrics and trimmings by trawling through videos and photos taken by Hanh in the markets and then calculated exactly how much fabric, haberdashery and hardware are needed for each line.
(Sneaky attempts to teach Super Hanh more English language as we work)
My partner and love of my life, Danny Disarray (aka: the Ocelot of Dreams) creates digital design packs for the Team in Hanoi.
These include annotated graphics and close-up shots of stitching details and garment features. We try to minimize the room for error as much as possible. Dan is a whizz on the computer and also photographs and edits all our product shots and product imagery.
As a former prop-maker, Dan has also put his skills to good use by updating and building our epic festival stall frontage, complete with wind-powered spinning palm trees and a colour changing sign - Result!
Three cheers for the Ocelot!
(The Ocelot Doing it in Disarray 'Colour Me Crazy' Cropped Dungarees at BoomTown Festival 2019)
Hanh receives the packs and sets about sourcing, measuring and organizing the materials into sets for our tailors, which include the digital designs and all the order information needed.
When enough new materials are prepared, Superstar Hanh delivers the fabrics and briefs the tailors on each design, following my directions given in our regular video calls. When the garments are complete Hanh meticulously checks each piece, and tags and folds the garments which are packed for shipping by her brother at their home.
(A typical Disarray design sheet showing all the paneling and pieces required to make a Deluxe Disarray Bomber Jacket )
AMAZING husband and wife team Tien and Linh and their seamstresses have gone above and beyond with their longstanding commitment to our business partnership. This year, at times we had to pause production while their team churned out thousands of face masks for their local community.
During these periods, we took time to adapt our production plans in-line with their changing availability and prioritized the safety of our team in Hanoi, as they endured one of the strictest lockdowns globally.
(Linh & Tien and their gorgeous son Ken, one of their three super cute kids)
Tien cuts the patterns, and his lovely wife Linh, her assistants Hoa and Phuong, her sister-in-law, all worked from their homes to stitch each garment from start to finish. We always ensure that there is no outsourcing, no production lines and no exploitation, instead, there’s a great sense of reward and job satisfaction that comes from constructing a complete garment, and then proudly putting your name to the finished piece.
Also, onboard for his seventh year in Disarray is Mr. Chien. Mr. Chien works from home and cuts, sews and hand-finishes all of our animal hoods and costumes. Mr. Chien works on a very flexible basis, which means he's able to continue raising his infant granddaughter, generate additional income for his family, and continue his seasonal local work creating traditional Vietnamese costumes for theatre shows.
We still can't believe that we’ll be bringing you some more mega hoods this year, but it's true! They’re currently crossing the ocean somewhere between Singapore and Southampton. Keep your paws crossed for a safe landing please party people.
Between the team, we have all accepted that this is not the 'new normal' it's just 'not normal', and we've all done our best to make as many allowances and exceptions as possible for each other, to survive in business and create the best possible products for you, our fond friends of Disarray.
Thanks to Chi Quynh Tu, our shipping agent, and dear friend who has supported us like a ‘very glamorous’ sister over the years, and has taught me all I need to know about the export process from Hanoi.
This year Quinh Tu carefully coordinated and oversaw a last-minute re-pack at the freight warehouse to reduce our costs and ensured that our cargo has made it safely on board the ‘mother vessel’.
(Quynh Tu and Super Hanh starring in a victory selfie at the sea-freight warehouse)
Our entire highly-valued and cherished team are very proud to announce that our NEW COLLECTION was shipped on August 11th, my 40h birthday and it was a great cause for celebration.
If the ship sails to the UK on time, our new designs will land on these shores by late September, then there's just the matter of arranging socially distanced photoshoots, for who knows how many new pieces and BAM!...The choice is yours after I've had a cheeky shop from my own collection first of course.
Finally, when your new orders are placed, they will be picked and packed but our dispatch manager supreme 'Dispatch Doris', aka: My amazing Mamma Disarray, who has always been our biggest cheerleader.
(Left: Guest crew Rosy Pendlebaby aka: Agent Disarray, Center Left: Mammy Disarray aka: Dispatch Doris, Center Right Captain Disarray, Right: The Ocelot of Dreams).
(The Look Down Dispatch look: The Captain heading out to post your orders which had been quarantined after our Hero Dispatch Doris reigned supreme solo in our warehouse).
A word of warning, never attempt to 'abandon your cart' on our website because Dispatch Doris will be in hot pursuit, ready to go above and beyond with all the product, sizing, fit, fabric and shipping information you could possibly need to know. There is nothing Doris loves more than a happy customer.
(The essence of a happy customer - For the love of spandex, we miss you wonderful humans)
This year, we've all been hit hard in so many different ways, but as long as we continue to show kindness, empathy, generosity, patience, and support for each other, we will survive. When life allows it, we will come together for the best-dressed party in history and we will thrive!
From the bottom of our sparkling Disco Ball-shaped hearts, Team Disarray wants to say THANK YOU, everyone!
Wishing you Love and Light and all things bright
Captain Disarray X x x