Background and How It Began
As an individual, I have always been someone with an interest in anime and Japanese culture. Alongside being a general anime fan, I took a liking to Japanese folklore, history, and fiction, which played a big part in many of the anime that I watched and loved. Although this didn’t contribute much to the founding of the brand, it has heavily influenced the concept as it continues to develop.
I am someone with a creative mindset and am always full of ideas. I used to love designer clothing, especially the brand Kenzo, because of their unique style and the wow factor of their clothing designs. One day I thought to myself, “You know what? I might make a brand of my own simply because I want my own style and want to stand out in my own way, so in late November 2019, I came up with the idea of Twisted Persona. At that time, the name sounded cool to me, and I thought it would turn a lot of heads in my direction.
Around November 2019, I got a freelancer to make a logo for my brand, which correlated with the name. This is where the iconic spiral head logo came from, and this was the face of the brand for at least the next two years.
After the logos were done, I conducted research to see how I would go about printing graphics onto tees or hoodies. Considering I had only planned to sell clothes to people I knew at the start, I looked for local methods of printing production. There was a print shop next to the bus stop I travelled to work from, so one morning I decided I would go inside to get a quote for the price of three hoodies. The next day, I paid my invoice and got the very first prints done.
Once I had collected my order, I looked over the invoices and realised it was quite pricey to do these prints on the high street. Fortunately, they left all the original logos on the hoodies, so I looked up their supplier online and contacted them directly for a quote, which, of course, worked out a lot cheaper than high-street prices. I hadn’t gone through with this order just yet because, after selling the prints I made, I thought to myself, “Let’s give this some thought rather than delving into it straight away.
I had taken a break from the brand to focus on work and build up my digital skills. I have always been very tech-savvy and was never someone who struggled to learn software. I was going through the process of completing a level 3 marketing apprenticeship, and midway through this and my own independent studies, I had learned the fundamentals of digital marketing and how that pertains to the needs of a business. I had a colleague that I got along with very well. I told him about my brand idea and said I would like to make a website. I had my domain name ready and my first product idea.
This was my first exposure to web development and servers. Initially, when my colleague offered to build my site on Magento, I had no idea what any of this was about. I had only worked with social media management and graphic design. Long story short, in the end, I decided I would take matters into my own hands because it was too much work for him, along with the companies’ reliance on his coding skills. Around this period of time, post-Lockdown, COVID-19 struck, and the prices for my supplier had actually skyrocketed. The next two months saw us locked up at home. (While this lockdown period had begun, I was supposed to be furloughed from my job but hadn’t been able to communicate with them for months on end, until near the end of 2021.)
During the lockdown period, I used this opportunity to massively upskill myself. I was learning how to make money online with my marketing skills, and that is when I found out about drop shipping and ran two stores, where I learned how to:
-Create an online e-commerce store using Shopify.
-Run paid Facebook and Google Search ads to drive traffic to your store.
I had used my lockdown time to learn these skills while unemployed and not receiving any form of furlough or income. When the new year began, I was finally able to complete my apprenticeship because the employer had responded after countless months of hassling, and the institution for the qualification allowed me to do my final examination, but as my contract was terminated without any communication, I didn’t receive my full pay. Despite this, once I finished my course, I felt motivated and ready to start up my brand. I think I’m ready, and this was the start of Twisted Persona Apparel, which later evolved into Twisted Persona Store and Twisted Persona Reality.
The Start of Twisted Persona Apparel
Having gone into the new year, I knew I needed to work to a budget because I was officially unemployed and the job market was very difficult to get into. I happened to have seen an ad about a print-on-demand service called Teemil, and I decided to try this out since it was advertised as a low-cost solution to having a clothing brand. I used Teemil for a couple of months before realising the profit margin was very low and the product prices were high as the materials were organic. A lot of customers did not want to pay these prices, plus it wasn’t cost-effective or sustainable. Teemill website: twisted-persona-apparel.teemill.com/
I did some research about other print-on-demand services and found out about Printify and Printful; they had everything I needed and were very easy to navigate. It required being connected to an e-commerce platform, so I went back to using Shopify.
Twisted Persona Apparel launched with a few different collections of clothing. As the store owner, I would purchase a sample order every month, which worked out to be 20% cheaper than wholesale pricing. This is just an example of the little ways I found to cut costs.
My website design was mock-ups of clothing, and I ran a series of paid ads that brought in a few purchases here and there but nothing consistent. The designs were simplistic graphics printed on t-shirts, hoodies, and other accessories.
This slow progress did not feel like success to me; I wanted more, so I decided that the overall image was the best place to start; I needed to up the quality of my content for Instagram and the other social media platforms if I wanted to maintain a regular customer base and appeal to a wider audience. This is when I modelled in my first ever photoshoot with my sister.
I continued doing this for a few months so I could get a feel for content creation and photography, then I decided it was time for a complete rebranding. This is where Twisted Persona Apparel transitioned into Twisted Persona Store/Twisted Persona Reality, and my vision became a lot clearer.
I started using Trello for brand management & organisation
The Reality Collection
What I learned from my previous endeavours with Twisted Persona Apparel is that putting out random designs with no actual long-term thought process would get nowhere and eventually run dry. I decided to remake the popular bear design that was used in the previous clothing items and also design a small collection around it. This is when the anime idea transpired into the brand a lot more. I always dreamed of creating my own anime, so I had a lot of ideas to work from. I gathered some characters and built a world around them, and this has since played a pivotal role in the design process; it is the core theme that ties the brand together, and I felt it was just the unique selling point I was missing. Twisted Persona was no longer just a clothing brand; it was an entire universe waiting to be discovered.
Along with this, I created a set of business cards and flyers, which I posted around Camden, Brick Lane, Waterloo, Columbia Market, and plenty of other places to promote the rebrand and build hype. I also created a lot of video content with these flyers, encouraging the audience to tag us on social media if they came across one of our flyers. These were also handed out at the fashion show.
After this, I created the Fragmented Teddy Hoodie and also the Reality Tee, which both included aspects of the characters, and I began to take content creation more seriously, as can be seen on the various photoshoots in my portfolio. While creating my own content, I also learned how to edit and schedule the posts according to my audience’s most active times. Around August 2021, I even attempted to sell Brand NFTs to make the community feel more included.
Checkout some Photoshoots here: bleaufamilyportfolio.co.uk/photoshoots/
I was thankful for the time I spent gathering knowledge around independent marketing, as I was able to make informed decisions and confidently take risks with my brand. I learned elements of content creation, paid advertising, website design, and many other business skills, such as budgeting, recording expenses and profits, and, most importantly, negotiation skills, considering I had to speak with various different entities.
Around May 2021, I managed to finally get a role through the Kickstarter scheme and began working as an e-commerce assistant for a beauty and health care product company that, fortunately for me, also ran an annual talent show for fashion week.
While working there, I learned a lot about WordPress, website design, and servers, which is a skill I now offer to clients on a freelance basis.
In terms of Twisted Persona, I was able to host a fashion runway with friends of mine who I encouraged to model, and I was able to give a great speech detailing the rise of the brand and what it’s about. Shortly after this successful fashion show, my brand on Instagram was shut down due to false accusations, and I was never able to recover it, although I chased it up with Instagram for a full year.
I was able to keep the internship for six months and then ended up unemployed again as they couldn’t afford to retain the intern staff. Regardless, I gained invaluable experience in this role, and seeing a lot of other start-up brands showcase their work rekindled my passion once again. After seeing the progress my sister saw me making, she bought me my first camera set too, and from this point on, my content became a lot better, and I began to utilise a lot of editing software, such as Premier Pro, After Effects, and Photoshop.
the shift to limited drops & twisted persona store
Now that I had a strong concept, I spent my time thinking of new ways to utilise and reference the characters and world. I accepted that I would not be getting my Instagram back, so I made a new one called “Twisted Persona Store” and adjusted my strategy. I had observed a rise in brands with a limited drop model, and I felt like it created a sense of exclusivity and intrigue, which felt fitting for the brand image. I also spoke to a potential investor who advised taking a sustainable approach to the brand. With all this knowledge, I decided I’d take that route with my brand too.
I started working on getting my characters designed and gave them a website of their own, detailing their backstories and giving customers an idea of how the characters fit into the brand, which can also be seen on this website: www.twistedpersonareality.co.uk.
The first character I chose to focus on was Enju, who had a ronin mask, which became the main focus of my first drop. Fortunately, rhinestones were a popular clothing accessory back in March 2022, when I decided to get this design made, so I created a full zip with this mask on top.
Photoshoots can be seen: bleaufamilyportfolio.co.uk/photoshoots/
Approaching June 2022 I had also created a t-shirt and shorts set that was based on another character and was supposed to be released during the summer. I had flown away to Malta during July and done an overseas photoshoot to try something a little different for content. However, it didn’t release because of a lack of funding, so I thought it best to delay this set till next year so it could be dropped in the right seasonal window. This also allowed me to redo the concept. During 2022, I learned about the importance of dropping during the right seasonal period, which allowed me to prepare a year’s worth of designs in advance and create myself a release calendar as well. Instead, I worked on and prepared a tracksuit for the winter seasonal window and included another character’s design.
Starting January 2023, I have been experimenting with different materials and custom clothing. So far, I have released one drop of clothing in January in order to test and see how that gets taken and how much leeway I have with my audience. But with my final rebrand, I decided I was going to not only create my clothing products based on the characters but actually have a short animation or small animations made for each character to give their personality life, so that is also something in progress. I have a variety of different clothing designs made and planned out for the year, subject to change depending on whether my idea could be improved, but everything is a lot more formulated.
Along with these changes, I have also integrated my customers into a brand community and now use our brand discord for giveaways and general communication among the brand community a lot more frequently. I aim to be using it a lot more effectively by the end of 2023; initially, the brand server was made back in 2020 but has only been properly used in present times. I used to use a mixture of Facebook and Google Ads for website sales, but presently I mainly use Instagram and Facebook and the occasional Tiktok Ad.
Two Faced Ronin Drop (Released April 2023)
With my new drop called the two-faced ronin, I explored a different style of promotion. I had run into a few issues with my manufacturer, and my clothes were delayed for a few months, but I put together a group of affiliates with a big following and sent free clothes over to them in return for recurring monthly promotion. This method managed to grow my followers by 200–300 over the month of April and also helped me to expand and further narrow down my audience. It also provided me with a few sales.
Shoreditch Boxpark Pop-Up Store
I spent the month of June preparing for my Boxpark pop-up store. I am using this as a big opportunity to collaborate with other creatives and push my brand into the spotlight. Along with the store, which will be running from the 24th to the 30th of July, I also have a photoshoot being done for the winter line of clothing and am allowing customers to try on and preorder the winter clothing in advance. Most importantly, the Eye of Discerning V.2 Shorts Set will be debuted as a Boxpark exclusive, and I have an awareness campaign with Posters that will allow customers to get themselves a 10% discount in store and also provide me with free marketing alongside the obvious paid advertising and posters.
How the campaign works is that posters have been put up around Brick Lane, Shoreditch, Columbia Road Market, and also Liverpool Street, where people can take a picture, tag us on their Instagram story, and then have their handle noted down as a discounted customer.
Along with this, customers who find the event via Eventbrite and get a free ticket also receive 10% off and join our email marketing list.
Boxpark -24th July -31st July 2023
For our first popup store, we were fortunate enough to be able to appear in Boxpark for a week. This experience was invaluable and a good stepping stone for the brand to gain more exposure and build connections with other brands and creatives. We managed to make a 20% return on the cost of this store and overall enjoyed the experience. There are now future plans for more niche popup experiences that are more popular with our audience.
Future Projections, Things Learned, and Troubles Overcome
The future is bright for Twisted Persona Store, as I’ve continued to learn and upskill myself in every way possible, and I have plenty of plans for the future, such as:
-Collabs with similar audience brands
-Working to further integrate the animation into the brand and build up the universe for customers to engage with
-Building on the brand community through discord and creating a family around the brand
Over the period of time spent running the business, I have learned many things, such as:
-How to organise and monitor finances for the business
-How to run consistent paid ads and take action from the reports to ensure improvement
-How to plan out a year of clothing drops in relation to seasons and organise and collate content for each
-How to communicate and talk to different suppliers and manufacturers
-How to allocate budgets to different aspects of the business plan
-Customer service skills while dealing with customers
-Managing Inventory and Postage of Orders
-Video Editing and Content Creation Skills
-Improved quality of tech packs over time to make things easier for suppliers to produce the product I’m after.
-Collaborating with Tiktok Influencers via the Affiliate Programme
-Community Giveaways and many more skills
TROUBLES I’VE OVERCOME:
-Lack of funding
-Being unemployed for great periods of time
-Lack of support from people around me
-Language Barrier with Overseas Suppliers