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How a Kentucky-Born Musician Used the Pandemic to Launch a Fashion Brand from Bali

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When it comes to expressing herself by trend, double requirements are a quagmire 34- year-old Hartwell Sawyer understands all too nicely.

One of 5 siblings raised in conservative Versailles, Kentucky, the co-founder of the bohemian cult favourite trend model Royal Codes remembers a closet stuffed with androgynous denims, cowboy boots and boxy t-shirts. In a small city the place athleticism yielded recognition, being creative and musical left Hart to settle for being on the exterior.

Sawyer later moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a singer-songwriter, however the scrutiny continued. Confronted with the harsh actuality of being one in all many younger ladies with a track and a dream, Sawyer skilled stress to conform to the “LA look”: a slim, taut, airbrushed physique primed for inspection at each angle. There had been skilled breakthroughs; she carried out at Coachella and concert events throughout LA and has quite a few songs out on Spotify. Yet the metropolis’s brutal calls for and her personal worsening prognosis of interstitial cystitis grew to become more and more suffocating. “As much as I found creativity, it was such a competitive environment that I always felt closed off, disconnected. I could never fully flourish,” she says. “Women were constantly tearing each other down rather than supporting one another.”

Seeking an off ramp from the conveyor belt of the Los Angeles music business, Sawyer moved to Canggu, Bali along with her finest buddy and business associate Ryan Fontana. The relocation allowed the musician to faucet into a new viewers — and crucially, herself. “I realized that I’m like an exotic flower. When I transplanted myself here, my creativity, feminine essence and expression underwent a process of expansion. Everything unfurled and became safer, radiant, softer,” she explains.

It was in the mushy embrace of this tropical paradise that Royal Codes was born. Sawyer had lengthy been designing and performing in uncommon clothes herself, usually with stylistic nods to antiquity and royalty. But when the pandemic hit, live performance cancelations gave her the house to lastly lean into different passions and discover a new approach to assist herself whereas creating worth in the world.

Today, Royal Codes is a totally fledged clothes line with a loyal neighborhood of girls empowering each other throughout the globe, reaching so far as Austria, Denmark, America, Germany, Canada, Malta, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Israel. Although the company comfortably income in the multi-six figures, it maintains a dedication to philanthropy by donating money to native Balinese meals fundraisers and giving  units away month-to-month to ladies in want. All items are handmade by a household in Bali and primarily make the most of pure fibers akin to bamboo and cotton. Sawyer selects materials primarily based on their potential to obtain the feeling of consolation and confidence in your physique: “It’s important to me that everything I create is stretchy and comfortable. Clothing should be understanding of our day-to-day lives and forgiving of changes in our bodies. If it’s too restrictive and uncomfortable, I literally can’t wear it,” insists the entrepreneur.

Sawyer hasn’t forgotten the bullying, battle with self price and unimaginable double requirements of the leisure business. Rather, she makes use of the knowledge amassed from her experiences to assist different ladies uncover their “inner goddesses” and extra authentically navigate their personal {and professional} endeavors. 

With its slogan “sexy, classy, comfy,” Sawyer hopes Royal Codes conjures up ladies to relinquish their insecurities and have fun their innate sensuality. “Women are divine creatures. When we feel empowered, confident, worthy — that is when we are fully connected to the higher power. That is when we are our most beautiful.”

In a candid dialog, Sawyer spoke about the unconventional journey from musician to trend entrepreneur, how Royal Codes helped her to reclaim her physique when coping with her personal persistent sickness, and the way her designs empower ladies to really feel snug of their our bodies. 

Image Credit: Royal Codes

How did you begin Royal Codes?

For the previous seven years of my music career, I wore these handmade items. When ladies requested me the place I acquired them and heard that I made them myself, they might ask if they might buy their very own. I’d inform them, “I only make them for myself.” In half, I feel I simply preferred feeling distinctive, however I additionally was so sick and drained in LA that I didn’t have the power to share my imaginative and prescient with others.

In Bali, my associates noticed my outfits on my Instagram tales, they usually had seen the transformation I used to be present process. My physique was feeling higher, which was bettering my potential to join with others out in the world and on social media.

I began to do fittings with ladies the place I’d convey a suitcase stuffed with items I had made, and these had been at all times a transformational expertise. I may see and really feel how ladies wished to join to their sensuality and femininity, they usually wished to be snug in their very own pores and skin whereas doing it. When they noticed themselves in the clothes, they might begin crying virtually each time. I didn’t even have a business identify or a actual model but, I simply had a ardour. We began easy and grew organically.

When did you first begin producing/designing garments?

When I used to be seven, I noticed that I wished to really feel extra female. I took my brother’s tank tops and garments from thrift shops and reduce them to make cute little clothes. I stored doing this all through my teenagers. When I moved to Los Angeles, I discovered a tremendous seamstress and designer who took my concepts and patterns and helped make clothes out of them. That’s once I made the first iteration of the Royal Codes Cleopatra set, and that’s when folks began asking me the place they might purchase it.

Where does your fascination with ancient times come from?

I actually imagine that every one ladies — once we faucet into ourselves — have this historic instinct. I’m right here to assist ladies activate that magic and creativity. From a skilled standpoint, it’s at the core of my business.

All of your garments are handmade by a household in Bali. Can you inform me a little bit about the manufacturing course of?

The course of is gorgeous and might take a while. I work with an unimaginable tailor — he’s a grasp at what he does. Sometimes I draw one thing and produce it to him, different instances we create the design collectively. I can convey him a handmade bodily pattern and he envisions a extra refined, elegant model of it.

Sometimes it takes a number of months to finalize the course of. He will make a pattern for me to attempt on, make some notes, and ship again. A number of the time you’ll discover me at this massive desk, coated in samples, materials and needles, tape, pens and markers, making refined modifications; a half centimeter right here, a quarter centimeter there. Then I return that deconstructed model.

Every element is handmade and created in Bali. Even for the small steel particulars — we work with a grasp goldsmith who makes use of brass, sterling and gold plating. 

You wrote, “One of the reasons I love designing is because of the way the clothes help me feel: Powerful, strong, beautiful. But the best feeling is when you feel stoked to live in your body. I believe everyone can feel sexy, and everyone deserves to.” Can you inform me extra about this?

Any one that has discovered success is aware of that in the event that they speak about durations of their life the place they struggled and had doubts, it makes their success really feel that rather more particular. 

I struggled a lot with my id and my physique. I keep in mind once I began modeling at a younger age — my mother was a skilled mannequin — I felt enormously pressured to be skinny, to have a skinny waistline. I began creating poisonous habits like underneath consuming. When I took a meditation class, I noticed that I had a destructive voice that was taking part in in my head: “You are fat,” “You are ugly,” “You don’t deserve that.”

And then I acquired a persistent sickness known as interstitial cystitis. I had ache, digestive points and my weight was continually fluctuating by 10 to 15 kilos. I felt so disconnected. I used to be reduce off from feeling sensual, regardless of being in a wholesome relationship. 

Last year, my ache lastly subsided, and I had extra bodily and emotional power to put into my business. I had beforehand been hiding my struggles as a result of I didn’t need to look weak, however all it did was additional reduce me off from myself. That’s why a part of our messaging is round supporting ladies by the means of connecting to their very own thoughts and spirit, as a result of I went by such a painful journey of separation.

What classes have you ever realized by your entrepreneurial journey?

One elementary factor that I’ve come to understand is that what you go to faculty for isn’t at all times what you find yourself doing in life as your primary supply of revenue. Being an entrepreneur means finding out by yourself time, pondering in your toes, increasing as your pursuits and curiosities develop. When I began Royal Codes, some a part of me was caught up in pondering that I ought to be making a residing from music alone as a result of that’s what I went to faculty for, however it’s lovely to not put your entire eggs in a single basket.

Perhaps the best lesson has been the significance of hiring assist. I grew up working for my dad and mom’ business and a lot of the time we labored as a household, regardless that we actually wanted extra assist. There was a lot pressure, and with out hiring extra assist and investing in the worth of different folks it was actually hectic. 

Because of that have, I’ve at all times put a lot of stress on myself to put on so many hats, and what I’ve realized with Royal Codes is how helpful it’s to present up as a chief and find a way to ask for assist. It’s like constructing pillars in a home. Now, we’ve got 25 or so folks in all totally different arenas serving to us to build the business — all of them present up with such coronary heart and devotion. I take a look at hiring as power and time that I’m gaining, fairly than money the company is shedding.

What was it like to pivot from music to entrepreneurship?

I’m nonetheless devoted to music, however when it was my sole pursuit I felt like there was an excessive amount of pressure on it. With music, I noticed that I realized a lot in class about how to write and carry out and create, however I used to be by no means taught how to use music to make money. It’s actually necessary to study this stuff — how do I market myself? How do I make success occur? 

Being ready to focus extra on Royal Codes has been one in all the finest issues to occur to me in my life. It occurred proper round Covid, when there have been no extra alternatives to carry out my music in public. Being ready to be house and concentrate on this craft has since allowed me to find a way to fund my ardour for music with the need and hope that this funding may have a optimistic return.”

What recommendation would you give to somebody fascinated by beginning their very own business?

Something which may sound apparent however isn’t at all times, is that beginning a business ought to basically come from your ardour. If you’re doing one thing primarily based solely on the money you are feeling you can make, it should finally really feel soulless and disconnected. 

Additionally, it’s actually essential to truthfully consider your strengths and weaknesses. Lean into the strengths, and think about the areas the place others may present up higher — that’s the place there may be room to hire.

Teamwork is so essential, and discovering individuals who align together with your mission and join with the dream you’ve constructed round it should enable you to to succeed.