DEBATE: Are indies getting our full support?

This month, Lingerie Insight asked industry experts to answer the burning question: Is the intimate apparel industry doing enough to support independent lingerie designers?

On the panel:
– Paul Alger, Director of International Affairs, UK Fashion & Textile Assocation
– Diane Houston, Founder, Gilda & Pearl
– David Finlayson, Director, APM Agency and founder, The Lingerie Edit
– Emily Bendell, Founder and CEO, Bluebella
– Michelle Taylor, Founder and creative director, Tallulah Love

Paul Alger
“There is a lot of effort going into supporting independent designers and, in the case of the UKFT, encouraging them to export. We continue to lobby the government for additional support for smaller companies to attend key export trade shows. However, intimate apparel designers struggle to secure their first sales in the UK. Ours is a market dominated by large retailers whose business model leads them to prefer already successful brands. This is a tragic situation for the biodiversity of our market. Those UK retailers who are supportive of UK designers must battle with increasing rents and the inexorable race to the bottom on pricing. As a country, we need a much stronger indies sector to support emerging brands and improve the quality of our high streets. #supportyourindies."

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Diane Houston
“I think the lingerie market in the UK is a very exciting and directional one, it’s a pleasure to be part of such a dynamic industry. It’s also a very close knit industry and I feel personally that there is a lot of support on offer. Trade shows such as the Lingerie Edit in London, for example, are both accessible and a fantastic launch pad for any new brand, giving brands the exposure and platform they need to enter the market. Organisations like the UKFT are also helpful, giving advice and sometimes even grants to new brands to access international trade shows and trade missions. Gilda & Pearl has benefitted also from Scottish Enterprise, Prince’s Trust Scotland as well as advice from industry experts like APM Agency. We’re fortunate to have so many opportunities available helping to support us. However, this support alone isn’t the key to success in the industry. Ultimately, designers need to be business minded in order to drive our brands forward and make them work.”

David Finlayson
“It is a challenge for new brands breaking into the industry as traditional trade fairs are expensive and often prohibitive to new brands trying to launch. As founder of The Lingerie Edit trade fair I have put a lot of consideration into how to support emerging and established independent brands. I try to mentor as much as possible and have worked with several brands over the past few years that are flourishing. Within my network in the industry there are several consultants offering preferential pricing for start-ups. However, they are few and far between. At the end of the day, new brands are the lifeblood of the industry and set the trends, so we all have to think carefully about how to support them.”

Michelle Taylor
“The lingerie industry is the only one I know and I’ve always felt it’s where I belong. As a young, independent brand, Tallulah Love is ambitious to grow. In a market where growth is hard to come by, we understand the need to be reactive and creative in our approach. We do not expect special treatment; just the opportunity to prove that Tallulah Love designs are worthy of retailer’s space – whether that be in store or online. Competing with the well-established brands is never easy. Offering lovely products at competitive price points is the first step, but we also understand that sometimes we must be willing to share the risk in order to earn our place on the shop floor.”

Emily Bendell
“I have found both buyers and agents to be very supportive of us as a new brand and they have happily been willing to give us a try to see how the market reacts. I think retailers have been surprised by how provocative their customers are and, with strong sell through, we have been able to build up our stockists without a billion dollar marketing budget, but with fabulous product, beautiful imagery and clever PR.
I think trade shows are far too expensive for small and new brands, which is a shame and something that should be addressed for the benefit of everyone. Exciting new brands really work to freshen up trade shows for the established brands and the buyers, so it is in everyone’s interests to support them."






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