Get Stocked by London’s Leading Boutiques
Former Buying Director at Harvey Nichols and Galeries Lafayette, Averyl Oates, and Fashion Director for Style.com with past senior positions at Browns Focus and Liberty London, Yasmin Sewell, tell it how it is when it comes to stocking a new designer:
Current Trends: “It has never been a better time to be a small scale designer,” says Averyl. “Customers are fed up with big brands, they want individuality, they want to walk into a room wearing something different,” she continues. Yasmin agrees, “If you do something with a point of difference, people will take notice.”
It’s about translating passion and creativity in a collection. Designers will often use their own personal experiences and culture to create something new. Claudia Croft, Fashion Journalist at the Sunday Times adds: “From a press angle I’m looking for a designer with a story, with a collection that has something to say. And while it’s fine to be inspired by the Westwood’s and McQueen’s of this world if your designs have taken that inspiration too literally then the stores won’t touch you with a barge pole.”
Commercial Reality: “If you don’t know about business then I suggest you go out and find out about it,” states Averyl. For creative minds business can often be a bit of an afterthought. The reality is that you need a good balance between the two. In fact some might say that good business acumen slightly outweighs creativity when it comes to a successful fashion company.
Colin McDowell comments: “I’ve seen so many very talented designers fade away because of lack of funding and good business planning. If you can’t get your teeth into the business side of the industry then it is definitely worth your while to bring in someone who can.”
Averyl adds: “Here in the UK buying teams tend to be very small and friendly. US buyers, however, travel in packs and they are ruthless if your collection or business sense isn’t up to scratch.”
Design wise getting that balance between a collection that sells and yet remains distinctive and unique is another tricky one. Averyl suggests keeping your eye on the latest trends within the stores you would like to be stocked in. See what’s selling and what isn’t. Steer clear of trends that have been running for a couple of seasons. Explore design boundaries but always bear in mind that people will only buy what looks flattering on them. Also remember that your designs have to appeal to people of all shapes and sizes it’s not just about a fantastic catwalk show on super-slim models.
Phone Calls. e-mail or Mail: While one store might prefer to hear from a new designer via an e-mail or phone call – another may favour good old fashioned post. Always enquire with a short e-mail or letter to find out what your recipient would prefer that way no-one gets annoyed from the off.
Yasmin (pictured right) favours the postal method. In her recent interview with Vogue.co.uk her advice was to: “Send in some really good quality images of your pieces and I’ll call you if I think they’re right. It’s pointless sending in samples, they might get lost. I used to get about forty-odd phone calls a day, more during the buying seasons. I don’t have time for all those calls. If designers send in pictures, I’ll look at them – I look at everything.”
For Averyl it’s all about a confident telephone manner: “We know within the first 10 seconds of a new designer calling up whether we are going to work with them. It sounds ruthless, but it’s true, we get hundreds of calls from designers each buying season and it’s the only way we can deal with them all.”
Exclusivity: When it comes to high-end fashion designers have to think about store exclusivity. Averyl advises: “I am not interested in a designer that is stocked all over London – if that’s the case they will have lost their exclusivity. If, on the other hand they are only stocked in a few boutiques – then I’m interested.”
Costings: Keep prices realistic after production costs, overpricing will turn buyers off while underpricing is bad news for you. As an example – Harvey Nichols mark-up ranges from 2.7% to 3%.
Deliveries: “New designers cannot afford to be late with their deliveries,” Averyl cautions. “In the US market new designers that deliver late are dropped like a stone.” Here, there are penalties and they vary from store to store.
Finally, Think Global. The world has become a smaller place and while it may be in your best interest to only stock with a handful of stores in any one city this can be extended to of the chicest places around the globe. UK designers are currently doing well in places like Moscow, Tokyo and Shanghai.
By JoJo Iles