As you can imagine I receive quite a few emails from PR’s promoting their clients, trying to secure a feature on Fashion Follows Her. It’s always a pleasure when a little gem pops into my inbox and takes me by surprise (in my job you see the good, the bad and the plain ugly!). Sofia from Dee Vesali publicity contacted me to ask if I would like to interview Clare and Mary from Allium B, after I commented on how pretty Amanda (The Online Stylist) looked in one of their dresses. I love it when I get the opportunity to ask questions and get the low down on brands I admire. This is what the ladies had to say about working with your family and what’s next for the brand.
What’s the inspiration behind Allium B?
We share a passion for dresses, but as our styles have grown up, we’ve found it increasingly difficult to find grown-up but affordable options to match – dresses that aren’t too young, too old, too short or too long. Having worked for big companies for years, we loved the idea of filling this gap by creating a niche business based in Brighton, where we live.
We’ve created a collection of simple but statement ‘forever dresses’, designed for women, not teenagers – at prices that won’t have you hiding the receipt but still allow us to produce beautifully-made products.
The brand is named after a flower, how does this translate into the collections?
The flower is used for our branding and we have an Allium B tote with the flower
How do you plan on developing the brand, adding new lines perhaps?
Our real focus at the moment is on establishing Allium B as a dress brand. Summer 2012 was our first season. We have some gorgeous new dresses for A/W in georgettes, crepes and silk. Colours are deep from inky Midnight to Emerald Green. Prints range from a graphic tile print to a tiny bird. Vintage details include 1940’s inspired beading and embroidery.
Setting up a new brand is a massive challenge, how did you get started?
Key for us was our shared experience of developing brands for major High Street retailers. Mary worked on the launch of Designers at Debenhams as Head of Buying and Clare was Head of Merchandising overseeing the Kate Moss collections at Topshop.
We have a really good mix of skills and experience as well as contacts. Clare’s merchandising experience brings the business financial planning skill and Mary’s buying experience, the product development and technical fashion skills.
Any advice for someone thinking of setting up a new fashion business?
Make sure your business planning is robust, be clear who your customer is and stay true to your brand. Plan your production carefully, establish before you start, that the garments you design can be manufactured to the standard you require so the right quality at the right price.
I can’t imagine working with my family, how does working with your sister play out?
We have both worked for big brands and have a good mix of skills and experience so it works really well. We have spookily similar taste so when deciding if a dress makes the final cut, we always ask ourselves – do we both love it? If the answer’s yes, it’s in. In any relationship there will always be disagreements the important thing is to discuss any differences of opinion, to resolve them and to not take things personally.
What does a typically day look like?
It really depends what stage we are at with the collection but every day starts with looking at emails before breakfast to see what is urgent and what can wait. We both have young families, so it’s then a mad rush of breakfast, packing school bags, school run then into the office for 9am.
Today was a fairly typical day, started with fitting some new samples, then an interview with a magazine, followed by preparation for an Allium B launch event later in the week. Then school run, kids home, followed by an evening meeting with a Brighton blogger called Suzi. Then home for a final check on email before bed.
Allium B is available from www.alliumb.com, I also have it on good authority that the Summer sale starts tomorrow with substantial discounts, so now is the time to visit Allium B and find your forever dress!
A big thanks to Mary and Clare.x