Having been open in Birmingham city centre for over 10 years, Mark Howard has certainly made his stamp on the city.
Originally from a little village near Salcombe, Mark landed in Birmingham from a job that fell through. Stuck in a city he didn’t know, himself and his wife explored. “We just signed a house contract so we were left in a city we didn’t know. We had no friends so we started going out and socialising.”
It was then that Mark and his wife realised that there was a niche in the market. “We felt there was a need for something that was more responsive to what the youth were doing.”
Combining his wife’s strong eye for fashion and design and his passion and creativity. Disorder was born. “We both had a desire for starting up our own label so we started to stock up clothing from Japan and other places and I bought myself a sewing machine and taught myself to sew.” Mark said.
However, starting up your own business isn’t as easy as it seems. Passionate business owner states, “People think that fashion is about having a nice piece of clothing and painting is about having a nice piece of art to be a success. That’s just part of it.
“You need to make sure you have the right finance, cash flow, good service. We were very determined to make it work so we both worked for a year or so to save up the money to start our own business.”
Over the years, Disorder has faced recessions and the big expansion of the high street. Mark said to overcome all of this, it was important as a small business to identify your weaknesses and turn them into your strengths. They bounced back and continued to give their customers exactly what they wanted.
Being intentive is vital for Mark. “I always try to identify what it is our customers want and give them just that. I go out of my way to make it for them. We are really responsive to the marketplace.”
This is one of the main reasons customers keep coming back to Disorder, with his usual regulars always coming in for his advice.
For many people, the clothing in Disorder can be very out there and different to what people are used to on the high street.
The fashion designer isn’t worried about their designs being too eccentric and unique for people to understand. “We have to tread between just being different but being different enough so people see us. People actually come in and realise the clothing is really wearable and nice. It’s like a mind-set so we have to pull them over to our direction.”
From a young age, Mark had always loved painting. He decided to study the subject at college before going off travelling for half a year. Now, he keeps it as a hobby in his spare time but sells his paintings in store and just recently turned his designs into all-natural material scarfs.
In terms of inspiration for his designs, Mr. Howard said “Inspiration is like a secret recipe, everyone is looking for it. My favourite place to look for it is the Far East.”
Disorder is a combination of Burmese and British. The logo is stylised from the English and Burmese alphabet which is why it is hard to read what it says. Mark wanted that to be the case “I don’t want people to be wearing a logo, I want people to be wearing the clothes.”
In 2012, Mark won best Midlands designer in the Birmingham Made Me design awards and we also awarded Mark outstanding customer service in our Retail Birmingham awards last year.
So what advice does the thrifty designer have for anyone wanting to open a boutique? “I would tell people to look into it seriously. Opening up your own business can really push you, more than any 9-5 job. You don’t know how much is going to come in each month but in your own business, you get rewarded in so many other ways. I definitely encourage people to do it.”
You can find Mark on:
14 Needless Alley, Birmingham, B2 5AE