Norwich man has designs on fashion

In the second part of our series on young entrepreneurs in Norwich, EMMA HARROWING talks to Tom Hayden about his fashion business Iron & Pin.

Two years ago, 23-year-old Tom Hayden from Norwich dropped out of a film and video degree to become a full-time carer for his mum who was suffering from cancer. Like most young carers, Tom was faced with a stressful and all- consuming situation that put a halt to his studies and his career.

'Being a carer for my mum was a full-time job, so trying to continue with my studies proved too stressful – not that I would do any different if I could go back in time,' says Tom.

'Throughout that time my mum taught me how to sew and so I spent a lot of time learning as much as I could about all aspects of designing, tailoring and making clothes.

'One of the items she always said was one of the hardest items to make is trousers, and so when she passed away I learnt how to make trousers and the rest is history.'

Tom set up his online fashion boutique, Iron & Pin, in September 2010 and has continued to develop the sewing skills his mum taught him to produce a collection of clothes for men from his studio in Norwich.

Tom says: 'After I had made a few pairs of trousers I set up an online shop and a blog and it kind of snowballed from there. I roped friends in to help with the sewing and sold many of my first pieces to them.

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'Gradually, more people heard about Iron & Pin, and although it has been slow, I now work full- time on my business.

'I have never borrowed money from banks or had a business loan – everything I have done I have done with what money I have.'

Tom has carved out a niche market for his online fashion business.

All of his designs are hand-made and offer something different to the fashion found in the men's stores on the high street.

Designs in his recent collection include pastel coloured tailored trousers which are fashionably turned up at the bottom, shorts and T-shirts, shirts and vests embellished with coloured pockets.

'There are so many people printing T-shirts that I wanted to create something different,' says Tom.

'I don't set out to follow the latest trends as I want my designs to be as original as possible. There is no point trying to compete with larger chain stores by offering the same generic style.

'All of the fabric I use is sourced locally from Anglia Fashion Fabrics in Norwich – I have also started to hand dye fabric which is used on the pocket detail of some of my designs.'

Tom's Iron & Pin designs have recently been stocked by Norwich- based online fashion boutique Love Clothing and Tom is currently looking for design collaborations to increase the awareness of his brand.

'I'm not really looking for an investor for Iron & Pin as I don't want to relinquish control over what I design,' says Tom. 'Instead, I want to expand by working on collaborations with businesses; for example it would be great to produce a hand-made T-shirt collection for a club night. All of my designs are hand-made in Norwich by me, which is great, but it can be limiting for the future growth of Iron & Pin.

'I'm looking for a factory overseas that will manufacture my designs so that I can solely be a designer rather than a maker.

'It would be great to find a factory in the UK, but I'm not in a position to be able to pay the high costs, but I don't want to go to China.

'Therefore, I'm looking for a factory in Europe as this way I can make sure that everything is above board.

'At the moment, though, I'm enjoying what I am doing.

'It took a lot of hard work to get where I am, but I'm lucky to be making a living out of doing something that I love.'