A familiar face in the young fashion sector, most recently at Gio-Goi, Dawson is now busily defining his new role as brand owner and agent.
Seated at a rustic wooden table in his Shoreditch showroom, Juls Dawson tries to describe what kind of agent he is. It’s a task he takes very seriously. “Today I went and got some dictionaries and looked at the definition of agent, well several definitions, and I’m certainly not the one that comes to the top of the page, which is simply somebody representing the other one,” he says.
“I prefer the definition further down the page, which is ‘the means by which an effect is produced’, and my aim is to produce results for both the vendor and the retailer, and it can only be measured with one unit – success for both parties.”
With almost 20 years in the fashion business under his belt, Dawson is something of an industry stalwart, having worked with young fashion brands including French Connection, Scotch & Soda and most recently Gio-Goi.
His departure from Gio-Goi is still fresh. He left the brand at the beginning of the year and it clearly still holds a place in his heart. “Gio was a fantastic seven years,” he reminisces. “After four years we won Young Fashion Brand of the Year at the Drapers Awards, and we were the second fastest-growing privately owned company in The Sunday Times Fast Track 100. It was a fantastic team, which I’ll miss, but an opportunity came along that I couldn’t ignore, so it was time unfortunately to move on.”
And move on he has, setting up his own agency, Just Consultancies, and even trying his hand at launching his own short-order men’s young fashion label, Friend or Faux.
Dawson describes Just Consultancies as “a three-pronged one-stop-shop for the discerning retailer”. The first of these prongs represents forward-order brands such as men’s sports heritage brand Admiral Gold, outerwear brand Stone-Dri and Danish men’s casualwear brand NUNC (Nordic Union of Novel Camouflage). “I wanted to try to be a one-stop-shop, so nothing crosses over in here and I’d like to think there’s something for everyone,” says Dawson.
The second service he provides, to both indies and multiples alike, is a sourcing service delivered through a selection of suppliers, importers and manufacturers from the Far East, Europe and the UK. Dawson says retailers can use this for own label opportunities although he is reluctant to talk in-depth about it, not wanting to divert too much attention away from his stable of brands.
Just Consultancies’ third prong is its line-up of close-to-season/short-order stock from brands including women’s young fashion brand Pop Art, T-shirt label Rum Knuckles, Dawson’s own Friend or Faux label, and men’s young fashion brand Bellfield, which looks set to be a big success after its coloured chinos, which wholesale for under £8, proved a hit with retailers. “It’s gone through the roof,” says Dawson.
Friend or Faux, which for its debut spring 12 season is made up of printed T-shirts and sweatshirts at wholesale prices of between £8 and £10 for T-shirts and £16 and £20 for sweatshirts, also received the thumbs up from retailers, with 40 to 50 stockists signed up.
David Weeks, buying director of Scottish mini-chain Xile, saw Friend or Faux at streetwear show Bread & Butter Berlin and is particularly impressed by its 2.7 margin. “The product is really good. There are some good graphics on it and they’re different to what other people are doing at the moment, with some of them political,” he says. He adds that, as Dawson is intending to expand the range beyond T-shirts and sweatshirts, he has “high hopes” for the brand.
Such high praise from top indies will certainly please Dawson, who is a huge advocate of the independent sector.
He says indies can help build brands and aid both the “birth and growth” of brands due to the fact that most indies’ owners and buyers work on the shop floor, hence their enthusiasm can help sell a brand.
“High streets can look like clones – an indie always gives it a bit of individuality and flair,” says Dawson. He picks out London premium menswear indie Present as a personal favourite. “I think the guys around the corner at Present do a fantastic job with their unorthodox off-the-beaten-track sourcing – they certainly don’t do the traditional shows in the calendar … if you print that, does it mean I’ll get discount off Eddie [Prendergast, Present’s co-owner]?” he jokes.
As for the high street, Dawson is in no doubt as to what is the biggest change he has witnessed over his almost 20 years in fashion: “Without a shadow of a doubt it’s the shift from bricks-and-mortar to etail. Everyone still wants to touch and feel the product – the key to bricks-and-mortar retail is to have them touch and feel it in your shop [and buy it in your shop rather than] going online and ordering it.”
He adds: “Landlords need to wake up to this and respond by looking at rents and service charges on the high street and evaluate realistically reduced rents.”
He also flags up issues with parking and the rash of discounting on the high street as among his biggest gripes about the industry today. “The Government stepping in and getting a high street figurehead – a tsar – to go and do a report on the high street is just to appear like they’re doinsg something. It isn’t really going to hit the mark.”
It’s not all bad though, and he is optimistic about the future of branded fashion: “The key to branded retailing now is mixing in the non-branded [own label] or margin-making products with the branded,” he explains.
“The consumer, especially lads, will always wear brands. They are key and will always bring people into the store; lads always want that badge or insignia on their polo. But at the moment the younger generation are walking out of the store with a branded polo in their bag and then going next door to the high street to buy their non-branded chinos, so the branded retailers need to take that hard-earned money that kids have got while they’re in that branded store.
“It’s about having the right product at the right price at the right time – it’s all that young kid wants to some extent – but brands are still critical to the formula.” l