Modern Fashion: Tina Cain Of SALVEI & SEAN On The 5 Things You Need To Lead a Successful Fashion Brand Today

9 min read Jun 18, 2024

Good work ethic — be prepared to work hard. There are so many aspects to deal with and one area of my business which requires hard work is keeping the website fresh and the content on point because in essence it is my “ shop front window”

Many in the fashion industry have been making huge pivots in their business models. Many have turned away from the fast fashion trend. Many have been focusing on fashion that also makes a social impact. Many have turned to sustainable and ethical sourcing. Many have turned to hi tech manufacturing. Many have turned to subscription models. What are the other trends that we will see in the fashion industry? What does it take to lead a successful fashion brand today?

In our series called, “5 Things You Need To Lead a Successful Fashion Brand Today” we are talking to successful leaders of fashion brands who can talk about the Future of Fashion and the 5 things it takes to lead a successful fashion brand in our “new normal.”

As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Tina Cain.

Tina Cain is the Founder and chief surface pattern designer of the online UK fashion and accessories brand SALVEI & SEAN.

Tina graduated and received a Royal Society of Arts Bursary and some of Tina’s prints sold in Italy, after which a door opened, culminating in Tina being able to supply a designer homeware store with soft furnishings.

Tina’s 25 years plus experience has enabled her to build her brand, with a view to seeing her collections on the high street and when not designing Tina loves travel, watching the occasional film and cooking.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?

I was born and raised in Hertfordshire, UK and from an early age loved to draw, design clothes and make arts and crafts projects, including making handmade cards and painting gift boxes and picture frames. I was always creating something and I can remember my mum making outfits for me and my younger sister. Much to my mum’s dismay ,there were times I would use the kitchen table for my projects and I also had a fold up table which would often be out and up in the living room where I would hand paint T shirts !

Can you tell us the story about what led you to this particular career path?

I always wanted to be a designer and had big dreams of one day having my own designer studio. I also loved fashion and putting outfits together and still do but the surface pattern element came in when I started my BTEC Art & Design course and realised that when doing the graphic design modules, I would always add pattern or mark making to what should have been simplistic but powerful graphics. The love for mark making and creating surface pattern grew from there and has culminated in creating surface pattern/ textile print designs for fashion and accessories.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

During my dental nursing career I had the pleasure of striking up a friendship with a fellow nurse who applied to be a contestant on the UKs Big brother reality TV show. I ended up designing and making my first dress using the family kitchen table. I also designed a few printed T shirts and didn’t know she would turn out to be the UKs most famous reality TV star to date. I was thrilled to see my creation on national TV and made a few appearances on a major UK breakfast morning show plus another two TV appearances.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

1) Resilience — Lack of finance meant that I was unable to hire a web builder and through at least 4 failed attempts and some frustrating situations over the years, I finally built up a website that looks good and I am proud of.

2) Passion — is the driving force behind every design that I create. I love all things surface pattern. I can remember when my daughter was a toddler, every chance I got I was designing a print to the point that I built up a digital collection of hundreds of prints and I can now rework some of them and really get the best out of them.

3) Patience — I love researching and over the years I have single handedly had to source all the materials and products I use for my collections. This has been painstakingly slow at times because for each product or material, it is important to get samples before going ahead with producing, in my case, small collections. I remember expecting to have my products made by just presenting a detailed drawing but of course that is not the procedure, as samples are needed to test the design, sometimes more than once and if you are a small business, then your sample job might have to be at the back of a queue — preference being given to the bigger companies. Patience is much needed.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

My brand is a print led and this means great emphasis is put to how my prints cover a surface, whether that is on a jacket or a cushion. My brand stands out because I have a unique aesthetic not seen anywhere else — which gives my customers exclusivity. One of my valued customers has become a fan of the brand and says he feels special and accomplished wearing my brand because its so different. At times he seems more excited than me when a new design comes out !

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?

“ What you allow will continue “

The relevance of this quote goes back to the days of allowing the vision or future outcome of my business to be damaged by fear and worries. I had a 7 year gap when I partially gave up because I made myself believe that I would never succeed ( even though I knew there was potential) — I allowed self doubt into the mix and so it continued to hold me back.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?

I am excited about the introduction of AI VR and digital fashion platforms, which have started to be used but are set to be more advanced and could incorporate multi sensory experience, such as being able to feel texture and materials. This will allow an immersive experience for designers and the customer.

Can you share how your brand is helping to bring goodness to the world?

All of my current printed materials are done so ethically and hand made inland.

With the eco-friendly printing methods used this limits waste and minimizes environmental impact so that my products can be produced sustainably. To help reduce landfill waste, offcuts are collected and donated to local DIYers for them to reuse.

Since my brand works with a regulated facility, this cuts unnecessary transportation and allows work with the water board to ensure ink waste is properly disposed of. As I add new fabrics to my collections, I am keeping this promise in mind and sourcing more fabrics made from post-consumer poly and natural fibres.

Some of the fabrics I use for my collections are specialist options such as organic fabric, OEKO-TEX certified fabrics, and vegan leather.

Can you share with our readers about the ethical standards you use when you choose where to source materials?

I prioritise fabrics that are printed in the UK and the EU. This is so Ican support our local economy and reduce the amount of transportation needed, keeping the carbon footprint as low as possible. If I can improve in anything in the future, this will be done.

Fast fashion has an advantage, that it is affordable for most people, but it also has the drawback that it does not last very long and is therefore not very sustainable. What are your thoughts about this? How does your company address this question?

Everyone’s disposable income is different and I guess fast fashion has a place. However I am pleased that my brand celebrates exclusive , collectible designs, made from thoughtfully sourced fabrics which are not trend led, meaning you can wear them in and out of season. I make sure the designs on our products are timeless and will want to be worn again and again and become your favorite.

Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Lead a Successful Fashion Brand”?

  1. Passion — I have loved fashion and surface pattern since childhood and without a passion for it would have given up many years ago. Passion will pull out the best in you and help you to make those important executive decisions, simply because your brand has become a part of your heart beat — you want the best outcome
  2. Innovation / creativity — Fashion is a highly creative vocation and it’s important to keep inspired. In order to lead my brand forward I keep inspired by visiting exhibitions, sketching down ideas as they pop into my head, and looking at and following brands that I am inspired by. It’s good if you have a creative tribe around you aswell.
  3. Understand your niche — I struggled in the early years understanding who my customer is because at heart I am a designer, the creative and I found it hard to define who will wear my brand and why. Without this understanding I cannot lead my brand in the right direction where marketing and advertising is concerned, therefore there will be no sales.
  4. Good work ethic — be prepared to work hard. There are so many aspects to deal with and one area of my business which requires hard work is keeping the website fresh and the content on point because it is in essence my “ shop front window”
  5. Good communication skills — I think this is an important skill needed to lead my brand because for example when I liase with my manufactures I need to be clear and concise with what I need. For example a colour match or finish on a product. Another example, is when I liase with my leather bag manufacturer, it’s important to be able to communicate the exact spec of how I want my product made. Without this I can and have lost hundreds of pounds as leather is an expensive material to work with.

Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?

I think the fashion industry is already doing a great job in addressing it’s environmental impact in society and the planet in general and should continue — so much has been done where sustainable fashion is concerned. I would actually like to see more experimentation done on recycled materials — the creating of interesting fabrics from different products.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Hmmmmm — Since this is an article about fashion , I think one day every year everyone should be able to have a free product from whatever fashion store they wish :- )))

Failing that free healthcare and education for all

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Please follow my brand on these platforms

Instagram — salvei_ and_sean

Facebook — Salvei and Sean

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.