In the small village of Alderley Edge in Cheshire, there’s an independent lingerie boutique with bold ambitions to expand on an international scale.
Ayla Rose was launched just two years ago by former primary school teacher Juliet McLeod, who spent months juggling a full-time position whilst researching and buying product, before securing a store on George Street in October 2013.
Since then, the business has recorded a steady growth in sales and, as a result, has expanded to include a ‘Resort Room’ on the first floor, which stocks swimwear and cover-ups.
It has also grown its luxury brand offering to include premium intimates labels such as Bordelle, Sumarie, Eberjey, Gilda & Pearl, Paloma Blue and Holland Street, whilst providing a professional bra fitting service and private appointments.
The retailer has attracted a loyal customer following, both to its store and its website, with local customers regularly topping up their lingerie wardrobes.
But despite Ayla Rose’s healthy position, McLeod isn’t content with steady growth on a local scale; she wants her business to be known by lingerie-loving consumers far and wide.
“I want Ayla Rose to be thought about as a national and, hopefully, global brand, but I simply do not have the skills or knowledge required to make it so.”
To help her achieve these ambitions, McLeod has recently taken on a new creative director.
Fashion photographer Tom Fraud is handling the retailer’s marketing activities as it strives to expand on a global scale.
“I wanted to work with someone who understood the industry, Ayla Rose and the direction in which I want to take the business,” explains McLeod.
“One of the first places people look when researching a brand is Google. I needed to create a website that would stand out for all the right reasons, be talked about and leave a lasting impression. So hopefully that’s what has been achieved.”
Commenting on his new role, Fraud said: “My aim is to focus on the brand and how it is seen worldwide. We are working on a killer campaign and new website, which will be launched soon.”
Fraud owns London-based creative agency Factory311, which produces photography for a range of companies, from established global brands, to emerging labels. Clients include famed football teams Arsenal and Manchester United, along with sporting and clothing labels Lacoste, Nike and JD Sports.
The agency has also worked with independent lingerie brand Lascivious, as well as Red Bull, Ray-Ban and singer Adam Lambert.
Fraud’s recent move to Manchester led him to a chance encounter and his new role at Ayla Rose.
“The reason I got the job is because of a wonderful lady called Rachel Mamalock. Rachel had – and this is not the point of the story – but she had grade three breast cancer and was at a charity event making a speech,” he reflects.
“I’d just moved back to Manchester after being based in London for five or six years, so I was back for about a week and this wonderful woman came on stage and did this incredible speech, which touched everyone’s hearts. So I went over to her and said ‘I’m just back in Manchester and I’d love to take your picture’.
“She thought I was an absolute weirdo,” Fraud says, laughing. “Especially after having looked at my website, which, at that time, was full of boobies and lingerie.”
Fraud went ahead with the shoot and Mamalock became his northern agent.
“Rachel had been living around Alderley Edge and Wilmslow for about 30 years. She went to Ayla Rose and got talking about me, and Juliet actually recognised my name because she stocked Lascivious. So that was how it all came about,” Fraud explains.
“I went in, we had a meeting and we hit it off. I completely got where Juliet wanted to take things and it was great to meet someone who knew of my work.”
Fraud met McLeod in August and was appointed as Ayla Rose creative director in September.
“It’s all been incredibly quick. It’s great working with someone like Juliet because she has an open mind and she’s not afraid to speak her mind if she doesn’t agree with something.”
Fraud is responsible for Ayla Rose’s creative vision; the look, the feel, and the tone of a brand.
“I will look at Ayla Rose as an international brand and not pigeonhole it as a small boutique in a small village in Manchester. My background has always allowed me to think of things internationally and that’s what I really want to do with Ayla Rose – to make it into a global brand. It will be a small global brand, but it will be accessible to everyone around the world,” he explains.
“I just think, in this day and age, it’s much more possible to do that kind of thing. Image is everything, I’ve always said that.”
So how does Fraud plan to expand Ayla Rose’s customer reach on a national and international level?
“I think it will start from the foundations really – getting rid of anything that cheapens the product, cheapens the brand and makes it look nothing less than a million dollars,” he says.
“The people around you are a true reflection of the brand and I think we need to shake a few of those off and tap into the people that I’m associated with.”
Fraud has already enlisted supermodel Missé Beqiri to front Ayla Rose’s forthcoming campaign.
The Swedish star appears in new AW15 campaign images, which can be seen on the retailer’s revamped website, which went live last month.
In the images, shot by Fraud, she wears lingerie and loungewear currently stocked at Ayla Rose.
Fraud met Beqiri in 2011, when she graced the cover of a newspaper published by Factory311.
“Ever since then I have kind of fallen in love with her. She’s just incredible.”
Explaining the new-look website, Fraud says: “We’ll be keeping things simple and the main thing we are trying to focus on is generating as many sales as possible.
“So it needs a simple navigation and a simple payment method. There are places where you can download images to your phone and your computer, and there is a blog feed. It is more interactive than what it was. I think online shopping has changed and you need a special reason for someone to visit your site now.”