EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Lepel London

After quietly introducing Lepel London to the market last season, testing the waters at various trade shows, business owner LF Intimates is now keen to promote the brand through an official marketing campaign. UK sales and marketing manager Peter Cronin explains how the lingerie industry has responded to the young, fashion-forward label.

Can you explain the concept of Lepel London and what you hoped to achieve when you launched it?
The concept of Lepel London stems from the ever-changing face of retail and online shopping and the influence social media channels play on design. Market research is at our fingertips, making it possible for us to tap into new channels and take a look at what’s influencing consumers. We can become very close to the consumer to see how they are styling themselves and, more importantly, what they are purchasing and from where. London is such a melting pot for design, fashion and changing cultural landscape. It made real sense to incorporate this as part of the bigger brand, and hopefully this comes across through the design elements of the product.

Why have you waited until now to promote the brand through an official marketing campaign?
Although it was always our intention to grow the Lepel London brand, we didn’t want to be overexposed in the traditional sales sense. It was important that it felt more organic than formulated and that it came together like a start-up brand, rather than as part of a bigger brand concept. This is not about getting bogged down in best sellers; it’s about what’s important to the end consumer and how we maximise their needs.

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Where did the idea for Lepel London stem from?
The idea was always there from when [marketing manager] Steve Hazlehurst and I first arrived at LF Intimates. However, at the time, it was more important to focus on developing the right product portfolio for Charnos and Lepel before embarking on a new challenge. As it happens, over the seasons, we spoke more and more with key buyers about how lingerie was changing, what was important for their consumers and where the synergies crossed over with the Lepel brand. Many of the buyers mentioned that they had seen a shift towards a younger consumer and suggested that this shift could well suit a new category – hence Lepel London.

How does the Lepel London differ to Lepel?
There is always some cross over within the brand as consumer needs continue to change and develop, and we have had to be aware of this whilst formulating Lepel London.The key audience for this is slightly younger than Lepel; it is aimed at 19 to 25 year-olds who are not so much focused on the traditional elements of lingerie, but are inspired by detail and finish beyond the practical essence of a bra. They are looking for lingerie that at one time would have been seen as more as boudoir. This category has been moved on to be worn as everyday lingerie. Price point has been key in delivering this into the market as it enables the consumer to be more experimental with their choices whilst not having the income to afford some of the higher-priced brands. Everyone seems to want to push the consumer higher in there spend, but they still want mass sales.

What makes Lepel London different to other lingerie brands that are targeting a younger audience?
We feel that Lepel London is almost unique in the current branded lingerie sector. There is no other brand offering this type of product range, which focuses on styling, colour and sizing at a low price point. We have introduced bralets with a recommended retail price of £14, with matching briefs at £6 in three to four colourways. Take Paloma, for example. This is fantastically styled and has become a key piece within the collection. It merges boudoir with everyday wearability.

How do you keep your price points so low whilst retaining quality?
We are very lucky in that the Lepel London collection is produced in our own factory to the highest quality and we are able to pass on our savings to our customers. The price is right for the consumer we are targeting. We want to be able to offer high quality without it being a massive purchasing commitment to the consumer.

Where is the new brand stocked in the UK?
Lepel London has had such a strong reaction from buyers, so it will come as no surprise that several stockists have taken on the brand in a short space of time. Lepel London is now available at ASOS, House of Fraser, Figleaves, Shop Direct and all Fenwick stores (with the exception of Bond Street) and around 200 independent bricks and mortar stores. The feedback in many instances shows that a high majority of customers have already seen a sell through of over 50% of the product bought. We are very proud of that.

How do you expect international buyers to respond to the brand?
The export market is highly competitive as there are a lot of own-label lingerie stores located in key areas. However, if the reaction from UK buyers is anything to go by, then we should have tremendous success in Europe. This product enables buyers to offer something that is competitive on price and design, and is an alternative to own-label lingerie.

How would you describe Lepel London’s AW16 range?

We have introduced new products into the collection; an underwired bra in the Paloma range – one of our best-sellers –and a French velvet bra into the Tamara range. Sophia also has a new gorgeous body with plunging neckline. The whole collection is very strong and extremely well priced. Our buyers have had a lot of input into this, which you will see has been reflected in our AW16 range.

How do you intend to grow the brand over the next five years?
A key aspect of reaching this end consumer is via all social media channels, and it’s really important that we are engaging with them constantly, by sharing the brand and what is stands for. This also gives us a great insight into that consumer and what’s important to them. We intend to grow the brand by offering constant newness within the collection and for it to be forever evolving. The collection has a young designer focused on it who is attuned to this market. She is the Lepel London consumer and she understands the type of product needed. As we continue to gather momentum with the brand, international markets will become more and more important to us.This will enable our distributors to speak with new customers. You can get caught up in chasing the same space and not looking for new opportunities available. Having shown AW16 to key accounts last month, we are convinced that Lepel London will be immensely successful.

Do you plan to launch Lepel London swimwear?
Currently, there are no plans in place for Lepel London swimwear, but you can never take it out of the equation. Lepel swimwear is really successful for us and we don’t want to be creating sub brands for sub-brands’ sake. We feel we are able to encompass any requirements currently with this range. It’s important that swim offers great value for money alongside good fabrics and we wouldn’t want to compromise on this. Our key focus is on Lepel London lingerie; this is still in its infancy and we don’t want to take our eyes off it. This is a very exciting time for us.

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