EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: SuperTrash owner Olcay Gulsen

SuperTrash owner Olcay Gulsen talks exclusively to Kat Slowe about the launch of her first UK store, this month, and her plans to debut a new intimate apparel chain in 2013.

“It is rather hectic at the moment,” SuperTrash founder Olcay – pronounced OJ – Gulsen gushes over the telephone. “I am in New York. I just had a show. I am so happy that it is over with, it was such hard work.”

The exhausted entrepreneur is in the midst of recovering from the launch of her first SuperTrash fashion store in New York, which she celebrated with a catwalk show in the capital on the first day of Fashion Week. Her next port of call will be London, where she is set to launch her first UK boutique this month.

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Gulsen set up SuperTrash with her partner, L. A socialite Eva Lily, in 2004. She was responsible for the European side of the business, while Lily took care of the American region. “Of course, Europe became a huge success and America did not,” reveals Gulsen.

Five years later, Gulsen bought out Lily and took over the entire company. Since then, the business has gone from strength to strength. It has not always, however, been an easy ride for the Netherlands born boss.

“I started nine years ago,” she says. “I was 23 and a baby. I did not know anything about the industry and I think that was the best thing that could have happened to me. Knowing what I know now, I might, maybe, not have started the business 10 years ago.”

The London store will be the company’s 14th boutique worldwide, a figure that is even more impressive when you consider the business’ estimated 1500 global stockists and nine year lifespan. This month, Gulsen will be moving to London for six months to watch over proceedings in the UK, where she predicts the brand could see massive growth,

“I am, like, a number one London fan,” says Gulsen. “If I could choose London, I would choose London over New York any day. They are not punishing me by sending me for six months to London.”

Gulsen is currently planning the launch event for the new store, which will open towards the end of October. The boutique has been designed to express a natural feel with white walls and a herringbone wood floor. This look was chosen by Gulsen in an attempt to ensure that it fits in with its neighbouring stores on Central London’s South Molton Street.

“It feels so local,” she says. “South Molton seems to have really sweet, boutique-y streets, so we really wanted to keep it simple and a bit more natural.”

The store furnishings and decoration may be simple, but the process of getting the premises was not. It took the SuperTrash team almost six months – and a lot of work – before Gulsen could sign the lease.

“It seems to be very, very difficult to do absolutely anything in the UK,” she says. “You have, like, lists and lists of permits, so it has been a lot of research about UK registration laws and that, for me, is something that I am really not good at.

“Normally, I fall in love with this location and the next day I can sign. But, it does not really work like that in London… It sends you back seven years in time and makes you realise that you are really a start up again.”

Gulsen is already looking for a second location in London. She plans to roll out between three and four boutiques in the coming two years and claims if a good opportunity comes up in the right location, she will definitely take it.

And, it is not only the retail side of the business that the chief executive is determined to develop. A small sales office will be located above the new London boutique, which the SuperTrash team will use in a bid to cement the brand’s presence in the UK market. Gulsen currently has just 60 stockists in the UK, a number which she is determined to grow.

“I think the UK could definitely become our second biggest territory after America,” she reveals. “Because, I feel the UK has such great potential and the consumers are so fashion forward and they really are into that.

“We can also start building more brand awareness, maybe start doing shows during Fashion Week. So, I am really looking into expanding the business and creating an actual household name for the UK. But, you know, that is going to take some time. It will take us at least four to five years to get there. But, we are an ambitious young company, so we will get there.”

Lingerie is only a recent development for the fashion brand, which produced its first intimate apparel collection for the AW12 season. The range already has around 150 stockists worldwide and has reportedly received a ‘great’ response since it entered into stores in July.

“We decided to really launch it as a separate brand and to target retail stores that only do lingerie, so it was a completely new industry for us,” says Gulsen. “The sell through and the reaction of consumers has been really, really good…”

For SS13, Gulsen is expanding the lingerie range from 250 to 300 pieces and introducing an additional swimwear line. She admits the number of pieces was very high for a first season, but explains that she wanted a large selection of product to sell in her own brand stores.

“My dream is to have a little chain of lingerie stores,” exclaims Gulsen. “I should, don’t cha think?”

A dutiful noise of agreement is, as anticipated, entirely redundant. The eager entrepreneur has – it turns out – already started scouting locations in Amsterdam and hopes to have the first Madame Supertrash store open by spring, next year.
Amsterdam, Gulsen explains, is a good place to test out new concepts because it is quite small and ‘you get feedback directly.’ Should the store prove a success, she will then take the concept elsewhere.

“It has been a great, great 10 years and I am looking forward to another 10 great years,” she says, “I feel that I have still only done 10 percent of what this business could be.”

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