An Interview with Melinda Noufal, Founder of Zoic
Find Out What Its Like to Start Your Own Brand
by Maurice Alexander
Image courtesy of zoic.threadless.com
Starting any entreprenurial journey is incredibly challenging, espeically when trying to carve out your own niche in the financially lucrative world of fashion. How fortunate it is that I was able to interview someone that is seeing success selling personally-designed T-shirts! Zoic is a clothing brand all about embracing your inner animal and having its artistic portrayal emblazened upon your clothing, started by Melinda Noufal, a student of PGDE Secondary Biology at our very own university, the University of Aberdeen. I had the pleasure of interviewing Melinda about her personal adventure in establishing her own brand of clothing.
Why did you want to start Zoic?
''At the beginning, I didn’t have any intention to create a brand. I was looking to buy a birthday present for one of my close friends and I wanted something unique and very personal. I’ve always had this thing where I try and think what animal people would be if they were animals, I believe we all have an animal inside us. I couldn’t find anything I liked anywhere, so I decided to paint a T-shirt. The first T-shirt I ever painted was a lion. I didn’t think anything of it at first and I spent so long on it! This friend was so impressed that it took a bit of convincing for him to believe that I painted it. I didn’t think I would enjoy painting on T-shirts so much so it turned into a habit and I gave more friends inner animal painted T-shirts for presents.
I still didn’t take it too seriously and I also didn’t think people would actually pay money for them, until one of my colleagues I worked with at my part-time job throughout uni, ordered a horse T-shirt from me. Then more and more people started ordering T-shirts from me and that’s how the whole idea of creating my own brand started.
I think people are more inclined to wear clothes that matter to them, that have some sentimental value and meaning. Having a unique, inner animal T-shirt, especially if it is a hand-painted personal order; is a truly unique piece of clothing no body in the whole world has another of. It instantly makes the person feel special.''
Tell us the entire journey of setting up your own clothing line.
''First it was trying to think of the brand name. I wanted something that really hit home with what the brand represents and what it stands for. The name Zoic is derived from the Greek word for animal; ‘zoion’. Zoic means ‘relating to or having animal life’. I designed the logo myself, mainly because I didn’t like any other fonts that I found, but also because I wanted everything to be authentic, hand drawn and very unique.
I quickly realised, that I didn’t have the time of day to hand paint every single T-shirt order and some people didn’t want a hand-painted one which lead me to digitalise my designs. This process wasn’t quick because I don’t actually have blueprints of the designs that go on the T-shirts. So I painted my first digital collection (which can be printed on many other pieces of clothing and accessories in the web-shop) using my iPad and an Apple Pencil.
I then created a web-shop, social media profiles and started publicising. This was a big challenge, because I needed to up-skill myself in the world of digital marketing. This lead me to take a lot of online courses.''
Take us through the process of having an idea of a design to the creation of a fully saleable item of clothing.
''There are two different processes; digitally creating a collection and hand-painting them.
I love spreadsheets and that’s where my new collection themes and what animals each will feature is. Once I am satisfied with the collection plan, I do a bit of image searching. This could be using google images or going to Edinburgh Zoo, out and about and taking my own photos of the animals. I then start drawing on my iPad.
When I get an order through for a hand painted T-shirt, the research process is somewhat similar, sometimes I get sent the photo they want painted.
The painting process, whether it is digitally or by hand is more or less the same, I create a comfortable environment for myself in which I can zone out. I only have 7 colours (red, yellow, blue, magenta, brown, black and white) so I mix the colours that I want to use for my paintings. I usually use a paper plate to mix my colours on and I put the T-shirt on a piece of cardboard for support. I have the photo up for reference and I paint directly on to the T-shirt. Sometimes I would lightly pencil where the eyes will go, shape of the head etc to help guide me, other times I just start painting on a blank T-shirt. I put one of my playlists on, depending on my mood and I get lost.
I never set a time limit for myself, I just allow myself to go with the flow. I might be painting for hours at a time, I might even finish several paintings/T-shirts in one day (although that only happened once before, because it does take between 3-6 hours to finish a painting).
I only decide a painting is finished the next day, because I can’t really see the whole animal when I’m finished, I don’t know why that is, but I can always see it the next day.
After a hand-painting is finished, I let it dry, then fix it with heat so it is washable and it gets shipped to the customer, or made available online if it’s a digital collection.''
What ways have you personally grown since you started?
''I started appreciating and owning my talent more. I learned to say thank you instead of brushing it off when I do get compliments. I also learned to keep going and not get put off if I didn’t get as many orders one month compared to the month before. I also learned to recognise and appreciate that the fashion world is so diverse, that my brand might not resonate with everyone the same way, and that’s ok. I learned not to go with trends and stay true to myself and what the brand stands for.''
Where do you find the inspiration for designs?
''People. I love people watching. I am that person who would go to public places, sit down and enjoy my own company and absorb my environment...and watch people. I find it fascinating how obvious some people’s inner animals are, for some, it is more difficult to guess, some are more mysterious - those are my favourite.''
Who is your clothing line for?
''Absolutely anyone and everyone who wants to stand out from the crowd. Anyone who likes unique pieces of clothing that have a lot of time and effort put in to designing. The reason I originally went with T-shirts is because they are timeless, you can pair a T-shirt with anything and pull off different looks. I’ve now expanded my items and other items can be purchased online, they can all be worn everyday.''
Where can people find your stuff?
''Zoic can be found on instagram/facebook under @zoicart and online at zoic.threadless.com.''
What's the plans for the future?
''I have a few more collections in the planning works so stay tuned for them... I also want to move into more sustainable and conscious fashion. Use recycled materials and second hand, etc. ''