An interview with Sue Hadi who is the Marketing Director for Charming. Charming have just launched with their first season (ss10) and have already racked up over 200 independent stockists!
How did you get to where you are today – who are the people behind the brand?
SH -Teamwork is the key to where we are today. Every member of the team is fiercely passionate and has worked extra hard to reach where we stand now. I came on board as role of general and marketing manager to assist my director Ken Kwok launch Charming as a new womenswear brand in the UK. The Charming collection is designed in Canada/ Hong Kong and manufactured in Hong-Kong/China.
What was the key to your success with sales?
SH - When we do Trade shows, such as Pure last season, we have buyers who are (positively) shocked when they see how reasonable Charming’s wholesale prices were for such well made-and wearable garments. This is what we feel has been the key to our success so far – picking 200UK stockists after our first season has left us pretty chuffed!
What’s unique about the brand?
SH - Many of our designs are suitable for many occasions. A dress and jacket will provide the perfect look at work or hanging out with your girlfriends during daytime, but remove the jacket and you have a sexy glamorous dress that’ll dazzle at any party. The collection is designed around a woman’s wardrobe – we don’t specialise in just dresses or just coats, instead we play with interchangeable looks and a carefully think about a woman’s needs - providing a comprehensive and wearable range that’ll take you anywhere in style.
Can you tell us about your fabrics and embellishments – where are they sourced from?
SH - A lot of the materials are in fact produced in our own factories in Hong Kong – however we try to seek out new fabrics each season so they’re actually from all over the world. In our last SS10 collection there was a lot of Eastern/Indian influence. It’s not only the fabrics that we make ourselves too – much of our beading/sequins/stones we make ourselves which is rare for any designer from high-street to catwalk. Our biggest rule is quality – if the fabrics aren’t good enough they won’t be going into the collection – quality control so important to earn the trust of your customers.
What’s Charming’s deigns process?
SH - Each season our design team will come up with at least 100 styles and pick out 90 for the collection. They’ll try to add some new in season styles for our exhibitions (as so many buyers are now buying in season!) but mostly they’re for the upcoming season. In the process of designing they’ll search for new materials almost every week. They come up with amazing ideas and create pieces which may seem simple, but are genius in design and function. One of our best sellers this spring was such a simple frilled shirt dress with big pockets at the front and a waist tie at the back. Buyers loved the pockets – so easy to do but I’ve not seen anything else like it on the high-street. We also do many of our styles in a variety of different colour-ways.
What woman do you design for?
SH - The Charming girl is a fun-loving, confident and sexy looking woman. If you forced me to say an age range it’d probably be 25-35 style conscious women who enjoy going out too. However so many different pieces of the collection appeal to different markets – in reality our customer ranges from 15-55 – I think that this too is as a result of the quality of garment and its flattering fit.
Why would people choose to wear Charming over the major high street brands such as Lipsy, Oasis, Monsoon etc
SH - If you removed the tag from one of our Charming dresses and held it next to a dress from any other major high-street retailer I’d bet anyone to tell the difference. I think what we have on top of these big brands is that we’re still new to the market and the consumer is always hungry for the next thing.
What is the key to marketing a new fashion brand in such a saturated fashion industry?
SH - Finding a point of difference – which is hard but if you are creating pieces that nobody else is making, that itself is unique. At the moment Charming is heavily focused on seeding the brand amongst fashion consumer and trade press with presence at Trade Shows such as Pure and product placement in magazines and on celebrities. We’re actually doing a big catwalk show at Pure this summer so we’ll be making a big splash and the new Charming collection is really special.
What has the general reaction been to the forthcoming Autumn Winter line?
SH - So far from customers we’ve had only positive feedback to Charming which our sales figures show. People we show the collection to seem to want to try pieces on which I always take as a good sign. We presented the collection to the press for the first time for AW10 and got wonderful comments from fashion editors of magazines we read and admire so much, including Drapers – this alone gives us a huge sense of pride and achievement.
What are Charming’s long-term vision – where do you see the label in 5 years time?
SH - Wow - I’ve not even quite decided what I’m going to wear tomorrow yet! I think what any brand wants is longevity and we’re very excited to watch Charming grow each season until hopefully in 5 years time we’ll be a household name. It’d be wonderful to have brand recognition throughout Europe… but for now we feel quite content to rest on our laurels for a very (very!) short while before the gruelling task of selling next season.