What is Tabula Rasa?
Literally, it is a phrase translated from Latin meaning blank slate, but what does it really signify? Why center an entire brand on a concept that is so open to interpretation? It’s simple. To define Tabula Rasa concretely would diminish how we choose to leave our mark.
Starting fresh is not easy, especially considering one cannot actually make an impact until an opportunity is seized, effort is made, and experiences occur. This takes work, drive, passion, and demands a conscious decision. We call these opportunities “blank slate moments.”
For some people, taking advantage of these moments is just a way of life. For others, it may not come as naturally. It can be intimidating to venture into the unknown, but moving past the uncertainty can open a world of possibility. Regardless of where you fall, the beauty is that the opportunities are there for everyone, even if you need a little inspiration to take a chance.
At Tabula Rasa we embrace this concept of being able to create an environment of opportunity. Every day is a reset, from the clothes you wear, the people you encounter, and the decisions you make.
This series celebrates the decisions that led women from all walks of life to seize their blank slate moments. We all have a story and a means to inspire others to find theirs.
It only made sense to kick things off with Emily, whose adherence to this philosophy inspired the name of the company. At the core, Tabula Rasa is not just a brand, but a series of blank slate moments.
Who: Emily Diamandis, owner and designer of Tabula Rasa
What: Blank Slate Moments
Describe a recent ‘blank slate’ moment.
Starting this company would be the most significant. Working in the industry for 15 years with several companies around the globe, I got to a place where I knew it was time to develop my own brand. There’s this point where you are accomplished and comfortable, but you’re almost running on autopilot. Although you can execute your job well, the opportunities to learn and grown begin to diminish.
What was significant about this change in your life?
It wasn’t just a career switch, but a life altering decision. I went from comfort and stability to living and working in a small, dingy Chinatown studio. Working for larger companies, I had a team of people and a set schedule. Suddenly I was alone with no idea what the next day would bring. I had to learn to take on so many different roles where I used to be able to rely on others. Those days were incredibly humbling and challenging, but fully rewarding. You’re building this thing from scratch, your way, and even trivial things feel like major victories.
What felt possible afterwards that wasn’t before?
I think in my life, I have always chosen the more challenging path. Right after graduation I was off to work in Asia to learn the technicalities of creating knitwear commercially. After 4 years there, I came to New York to begin my consultancy business. Although you may open yourself up to more adversity, the more you do and challenges you face, the greater the opportunity for personal growth. Every time you overcome a hurdle it leaves you with the feeling that anything is possible. The influx of priceless experiences is worth any struggle that may stop you if you let the fear creep in.
What did you learn? Or what surprised you?
I knew it would be all encompassing, but this is an entirely different level. It infiltrates every part of your life and you have to make a lot of sacrifices. You have to be incredibly dedicated to accept the changes that come with starting from the bottom and funding your own business.
On the other hand, it’s been amazing having people come together to support the business. Factories and photographers and stylists, people who are incredible in their field who believe in you and what you are trying to do. Having this network built from years of mutual respect and admiration has been crucial in building the brand. I couldn’t have gotten anywhere without that support.
What was challenging about the experience?
It was a complete re-set. I was on my own and entirely self-funded. It wasn’t just about design anymore, but how to run a company. There was this sensation of being entirely vulnerable but also completely charged because every decision has an impact. Fashion in general is a challenging industry. You have to keep evolving so you don’t become forgotten. You have to understand the market, the customer, forecast the next trend and how your design will adapt. Add that to the minutia of running a company from ordering yarns to going to FedEx, I had to constantly be alert.
Having no separation between the design and the business has been a huge change. I have always embraced constructive criticism, but now there are so many elements being judged besides the design- the way you market yourself, how the brand is presented online and on social media, how many followers you have or what publications are interested in the designs. You’re very exposed so it’s difficult to not to feel vulnerable, but I realized quickly how to grow a thicker skin. A new business is something being created from nothing; it’s going to take time and experimentation to find your flow.
My husband gave me a great piece of advice in this regard- you have to learn how to fail faster. Be prepared to make mistakes and train yourself to not be consumed by them so you can move on quickly.
What advice would you give for someone wanting to start fresh?
Understanding that there is no way of really getting ready. Yes, you have to save money and have your idea, do your research, understand the market, but at a certain point you just have to jump. If you start to overthink it, the negatives can become overwhelming and keep you from even trying. Don’t go into it blindly, but until you actually start, you’re never going to be able to find out what works and what doesn’t. You can spend years on a business plan and figuring out the minutia of the brand, but you won’t find your true voice until you do it, get feedback, and see what drives your customer. You do have to be quite brave and realize that nothing needs to be permanent, even the hardships.
Just take the first steps and be prepared for a sometimes rocky, albeit invigorating journey.