Michaela Wenkert has worked with Mulberry, Hobbs and Bandolino/Nine West Group all before starting her own stealth-wealth footwear brand - Lady Double You.
Tell us about your fashion CV
MW - I was privileged to be part of Mulberry’s re-branding strategy (as head of accessories) that transformed Mulberry from its rather sleepy home-counties brand identity, to its current luxury global style leader status. This included creating the now iconic metal oval postman’s lock and concept of the Brynmore and the Bayswater ‘it’ bags, that are still sold to this day, and the oval lock is still used on both the ladies and men’s bags and leather goods. This lock kick-started a fashion house frenzy for many brands to create their own unique hardware on their leather product offer, as a means of communicating a brand’s identity, rather than through logos. (I was on a tannery trip to Florence, had just found the perfect grainy, vegetable leather for the bags, and came across a post woman on a moped (!!!!!!!!) holding a beaten-up leather post bag with 3 oval brass locks, and just knew there and then, that this was the perfect look for Mulberry)
Head of Footwear at Hobbs, again very much involved in their re-branding strategy post an MBO. 2 years in NYC working for premium footwear label Bandolino/Nine West Group Inc. NY at the heart of corporate America, with over 1000 wholesale accounts and producing minimums of 40.000 pairs per style.(So you had to get it right!)
You launched your business at the beginning of the recession – how did this influence your launch?
MW - Lady Double You is a designed-in-London ‘guerilla’ contemporary, luxury ladies’ footwear and accessories label. Lady Double You products are sold as limited edition which are then retailed in surprising and exciting ways.
My first production run coincided with the market crashing, but thankfully I have nerves of steel and thrive on challenge! I am a firm believer in crisis and opportunity being often the same thing: as such, I used this challenging selling environment to really take another close look at the market, My Lady Double You brand values and really focus on my USP’s in a commercially viable way. The results I came up with were fascinating, insightful and ultimately very rewarding.
Part of my USP was and still is to collaborate with other creatives, as a means of telling the brand’s story.I have been really lucky to further evolve this concept by creating and holding pop-up shop events in interesting and innovative venues, including an arts salon event in cool London music destination The Paradise By Way Of Kensal Green, (regulars include Lily Allen, Kate Moss, Jade Jagger) and also being stocked in uber cool footwear boutiques who champion and deliberately seek out unknown design talent, to cater for the chic-unique hunters of this world.
In the past year I have deliberately focused on producing, delivering and holding available stock that is able to both lead in the trend stakes, but equally be timeless investment pieces.
I really believe that with this recession reaching the parts other economic downturns have been unable to reach – i.e. from the uber wealthy this time and down– luxury and boutique brands are looking for new ways to make their marketing budgets go further. They are using lower-cost approaches more commonly used by their smaller niche rivals, to attract and engage with customers who are looking to invest in durable, stealth wealth products that don’t date and that haven’t stylistically aged in one season.
In addition the ubiquitous and somewhat tired philosophy of disposable fast-fashion is beginning to pass its sell-by date, as the high street turns around ersatz designer knock-offs in two-week lead times, and it becomes cheaper to buy a new pair of socks than to wash them. To counter-act this, the luxury sector fashion opinion formers are leading the early adopters as well as the masses towards a less profligate and more considered approach to purchasing.
Tell us about your design philosophy.
MW – It’s all about high-octane fashion, stealth-wealth investment pieces that spurn the ‘one season and it’s over’ convention, and are more about evergreen style statements, and that manage to be bang on trend and stay that way for several seasons to come. A pre-requisite to this, is having a target market that is fiercely individual, intelligent and informed.
This is also where true design talent shines through. The aim is mix a perfect cocktail of products and brand identity, identifiable by the designs themselves that become tattooed on the target-market’s radar (and purchase list). This is rather like a lower-budget version of the luxury brand philosophy of having a ‘signature’ style that is able to simultaneously be a timeless classic and contemporary, whilst updating it ongoingly by colour/material/embellishment. These are brand values that Lady Double You insists on, and with that comes a certain level of integrity, that doesn’t fool the customer into an ‘emperor’s new clothes’ mentality, but equally allows my brand to sell products that have a healthy shelf life at full price.
Examples of stealth-wealth investment pieces
Mulberry-The Bayswater bag
Fendi-the Baguette bag
Vivienne Westwood:the Pirate boots
Chanel:quilted chain bags
Hermes: Birkin bag
Tell us more about your guerrilla approach to marketing.
MW - This increased market competition is making ‘boutique’ brands think afresh. They are resorting to ever-more creative, ‘guerrilla’ tactics that range from pop-up shops, private home shops, viral marketing, to the intimacy and privacy of e-commerce and strategic partnerships.
The benefits of this approach are several: these include a clear strategy in place to protect the business during and post recession, and the laying down of solid foundations that hold a continuity in brand values and identity, that remain constant whatever the economy. This ensures that once the market recovers, the business can evolve and prosper accordingly and appropriately and cashflow is protected.
I have therefore chosen to make ‘guerrilla’ Lady Double You collections my modus operandi during this difficult market, whilst continuing to build creative partnerships , so that the Lady Double You USP and brand identity remain the same. Once the market recovers, I can steer the sales strategy back towards a wider wholesale and/or retail route including future e-commerce opportunities.
For more information contact Michaela Wenkert at email@example.com