How long have you been making hats?
Nine fabulous years! My first career was in events management and some of my table centre pieces were so outrageous and could actually be worn as hats, but It was when creative director, Michael Dye commissioned me to create headpieces for a fashion show at Milan Central Station 9 years ago with the theme ‘1950s Orient Express’ that I found my calling as a milliner. After the Milan show (my first foray into professional hat design), the entire collection – less one piece - was picked up by a Milanese boutique. On my return to London, I launched a studio and the next thing I knew, Harrods was on the phone, and I’ve been making hats ever since!
How did you become a judge on BNTM?
I was a guest on the programme Britain’s Missing Model and the producers remembered me from that and invited me for a screen test for Britain’s Next Top Model, and after a few meetings, I got the call that I was chosen and was beyond delighted!
How has being on Britain’s Next Top Model influenced your business?
My hats have been getting media attention for years, but after being on BNTM, I have personally been propelled into the limelight, which has lead to even more media coverage, more hits on my website, more sales, and more retail enquiries from shops like NET-A-PORTER.COM, so I can confidently say that being a judge on BNTM has positively influenced my business!
While filming the show was it a challenge to also run your business?
I have a great team at Louis Mariette who were instrumental in making sure orders were filled and the day-to-day operations of the business were dealt with, and my PR agency, Forward PR, looked after all the press enquiries and made sure anything that needed taking care of, got taken care of. I checked in regularly from the studio or from on location in Argentina, and everything was always running smoothly!
Do you think the economic climate will change the way people, your customers, will shop?
My bespoke service has been unaffected during my most busy time: Ascot, as well as for weddings, special events, etc., and my diffusion range, Bejewelled is ticking along sparklingly. The price points are not restrictive and in the first few weeks that Bejewelled was sold online at NET-A-PORTER.COM, the sell-through was shockingly high and the re-orders are coming in strong!
You’ve been involved in bespoke hat making for sometime, when did you create your Bejewelled range?
I launched the Bejewelled range at the beginning of last year (2008). I wanted to create a ready-to-wear range that would add a bit of sparkle to ladies around the globe. It’s so exciting, as pieces from my Bejewelled range have been worn by Pink in her video for ‘So What’ and on the red carpet, by Paris Hilton at Cannes, and by Amber Valletta on the cover of Italian Vogue’s couture supplement.
Has it been a difficult process creating the wholesale part of your business?
I’m a creative, and a pretty good businessman, but am most certainly not an administrative person, so the initial set up of the administrative processes wasn’t my cup of tea, but now that the processes are set up and we have a good handle on our supply chain, Louis Mariette is running smooth and I can focus my attention on designing gorgeous headpieces!
What challenges have you faced?
Most recently we’ve had a bit of trouble with platers, as the credit crunch has taken its toll on a couple of plating oufits, so trying to source new ones and establish relationships while doing a million other things has been a bit challenging. On top of that, we’re adamant about keeping all production in the UK.
How important is having an e-commerce site for your business?
The internet is where so many ladies are buying their clothing and accessories these days and it will only increase going forward. Having an e-commerce site is extremely important to capture the ever-increasing market of online shoppers. We have clientele from all corners of the world, so it is important to have a website to showcase the full collections globally and to service our international markets.