After seven years of making luxury lingerie in the UK, Fred & Ginger founder Victoria Holt has made the tough decision to move her business abroad, but the repositioning, as Holt explains to Sarah Blackman, is set to give the brand a new lease of life.
This month, Victoria Holt, creative director and founder of luxury lingerie brand Fred & Ginger, is set to up sticks her London-based lingerie brand and make the bold move to China after seven years of making in the UK.
Holt will continue to design her collections from her Brixton office, but production will be handled in Hong Kong,
a manufacturing hub for hundreds of British and international lingerie and swimwear brands.
The move is set to help Fred & Ginger increase its profit margins and make the label more accessible to an increasing number of retailers and consumers who have expressed interest in the brand in recent years.
But the decision hasn’t been made lightly, says Holt, who primarily runs her business alone.
“It’s such hard work producing here in the UK because, actually, all that manufacturers do here is cut, make and trim, so what you need to do is get everything on the pattern-cutting table ready for production and in order to do that you’ve got to buy up fabrics, buy up trims, import underwires, rings, slides, you name it, and everything has got to be bought to match. With me being a one-man band it’s quite a difficult situation. Sending it abroad means that they do all that for you – you set them a deadline and it’s done.
“We have been looking at moving to Europe, but, again, it’s all very, very expensive and probably not worth the move, and actually their minimum orders are very high. So what we are going to do is move to Hong Kong and get it produced out there, which is really sad because I love producing in the UK and I love supporting British manufacturing.
“When you’re competing with the likes of Dolce & Gabbana, Stella McCartney and all the big-name brands, who are all producing out in Hong Kong, it’s really difficult because my prices are the same as theirs, but they’re getting a much bigger margin on their product, so it’s just one of those things,” she adds.
The plan to reposition the company coincided with the birth of Holt’s baby girl in December. Since then, the designer has put her wholesale business on hold to focus on her family and prepare for the restructure.
“I was always going to take some maternity leave anyway, but it seemed like a good opportunity to make the move at that point,” she explains. “We’ve spent the last few months working with the factory to produce a collection that meets our high standards of quality.
“I haven’t closed down the company completely – I am still selling wholesale, but from stock, and I’m also selling retailing from stock just to keep the company going. I’ve just slowed it right down, which has been quite nice because I have the baby. I mean, I say slowed it right down – it’s a bit bonkers,” Holt says with a laugh. “But it’s the production side of it that’s a real headache.”
By January 2015, Fred & Ginger will be in a position to wholesale again, just in time for Salon International de la Lingerie in Paris, where the brand will exhibit for the first time in three seasons.
“It’s a phenomenal show for us and it’s killed me to not have done it for the past couple of seasons because we get so much interest and so much business from it worldwide,” says Holt.
The goal is to return to the market with the same quality product Fred & Ginger is known for, at a reduced price.
“What we are aiming to do is get the price under £100 for a set. At the moment we are selling a bra for £155 and knickers for about £60 retail, so it’s a very, very expensive product,” explains Holt.
“I want to sell more at wholesale level and a lot of my potential suppliers really love the product and are interested in it, they just can’t afford to buy it. Selfridges actually asked us to do more collections per season to get the price down, so that’s kind of one of the reasons why we are restructuring – to get back in there.
“We were [stocked in Selfridges] for four years, right from the very first collection, but we just had one collection per season and I couldn’t afford to do more than that whilst working in the UK. Just producing samples costs three or four thousand pounds and to do that three or four times in a season was too much.”
The move to China and the consequent savings on production costs is also expected to help Fred & Ginger take on more distributors around the world.
“We are in talks with Russia, Brazil, South Africa and we’re working to get the product out there. We’ll have a team of people selling it around the world, rather than it just being me being a one-man band,” Holt says.
Plus, repositioning the company will allow Fred & Ginger the margin to raise brand awareness through social media and the label’s new website, which will be launched in the New Year, according to the designer.
“I really feel that since we’ve been going, we’ve been more of a wholesale brand and selling to gorgeous boutiques all around the world, which has been fantastic, but there needs to be a big emphasis on getting consumers to know the brand as well, which will in turn help the retailers on their side,” says Holt. “I’m aiming to get everything going in February on the retail side.”
For AW15, Holt has stayed true to her fun and unique design handwriting to create a lingerie collection with a marine theme.
“So there’s an electric blue colour with gold trims and really lovely detailing, like buttons and things like that. So it’s something a little bit different, but still in-keeping with our usual shapes; we’ve got the plunge and the balcony bra.
“And just prior to that, we are going to launch what I call the Gothic Night collection, which is all black and made with beautiful Chantilly lace, black velvet trims and quite wide crossed straps.
“The nice thing about moving to China is that we’ll have the scope to do some more everyday pieces, but at the moment they are still boudoir, which is quite nice because you can go a bit crazy.”
Fred & Ginger is also in talks with a major fashion retailer to launch a line of lingerie for the younger market called Just Ginger.
“It’s Ginger before she met Fred,” explains Holt with a smile. “So she’s younger, fresher and more naive. [The collection] will be very pretty and young, but the price point will be a lot lower. So we’re going to launch with the retailer and then and, after a year or so of that going ahead, we’ll probably take it back on board and continue it as our own brand.”
So how has Holt been able to design all these lines while looking after her retail business and starting a family?
“I spent most of the beginning of last year designing about 12 collections,” she says, almost unable to believe it herself.
“It was just in preparation of me having the baby a knowing that I’m a one-man band. So now it’s just a case of selling them at certain points of the year so we’ve got a lot coming up. It’s going to be a really exciting year