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James Leslie

The owner of retailer Trilogy on its expansion plans and keeping up with premium denim trends.

Where did the idea to launch Trilogy come from?

I left Marks & Spencer’s buying department in 2006, and Lesley Torson, Mark Cocozza [Trilogy’s co-founders] and I wanted a fresh challenge. We saw the opportunity for a new chain of indies, centred around premium denim, a market that had grown significantly in the US. We thought customers in London deserved a better service experience when buying designer jeans and we didn’t believe there were any independents in London offering that proposition.

How did you pick the locations for your five stores?

We opened our first store in Chelsea, having targeted the King’s Road area as the ideal location because of the customer demographic and their lifestyles. All of our other locations [Marylebone, Kensington, Hampstead and Wimbledon] are affluent shopping destinations where the customers value service highly.

Would you open a store outside London?

We never say never, but there are more London locations we’re keen to explore before we move outside. Online retail gives us an opportunity to take the Trilogy concept outside of the capital, so we’re happy with having multiple London locations for now.

So ecommerce is a big part of your strategy?

It’s a key part of us extending the reach of Trilogy. Currently its size is akin to one of our stores and is growing every year. This year it will probably account for 20% of our business.

Why is premium denim so popular?

Premium denim brands [Trilogy stocks labels such as Citizens of Humanity, Koral and MiH] have become a key part of the luxury fashion sector.

It is an integral part of customers’ everyday wardrobe. The market growth in the US, where premium denim has become the fastest-growing area of the luxury segment, has reflected that.

But is there room for all the premium denim indies in London?

London’s market size means it’s more than capable of housing the competition. We all offer a different proposition in terms of buy, exclusives and experience.

What denim label do you wear most often?

I wear AG, J Brand or Paige.

If you were a pair of jeans, which would you be?

I would definitely be a clean-cut straight leg - I will leave the fashion highlights to Lesley and Mark.

What differences have you found between working in high street and independent retail?

They are worlds apart. There is nothing like the feeling of having your own business. I have a great deal to thank Marks & Spencer for - it provided me with a great training and grounding in retail and customers. It’s ultimately our foundation in the industry, but we’ve learnt so much through growing an independent business.

How did your father Andrew Leslie’s work with Topman and Topshop influence you?

Dad has influenced me in every stage of my life; I blame him for my career in retail. He was involved in the launch of Topshop and Topman [while a director at Burton Group] and my childhood was dominated by the success and growth of those businesses - it gave me the drive and aspiration. Every Saturday from the age of four I travelled with Dad round the country visiting stores, so it gave me an interest in retail and entrepreneurial spirit.

Where are denim trends coming from?

The US is still where most of the trends originate. Fabric development still comes from Europe and the Far East, but the US is still the most key and influential market.

Where is your favourite place in London?

White Hart Lane, Tottenham is my release. I’ve been going regularly with Dad for 40 years.

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