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Talking Business: Home or away? A British brand's dilemma

We had high hopes of making our new luxury accessories label Gyork London a heritage brand that is designed, produced and manufactured in the UK.



Donna-Marie Donalds and Shelley O’Neill

Quality is paramount to the team, and with UK-based manufacturers of leather goods renowned for their artisan craftsmanship, there was no doubt that a beautifully finished product could be delivered by a locally sourced manufacturer. It was crucial to source a superior craft metal company as our collections include bespoke hardware.

Much to our dismay, we found the cost to produce each unit had tripled

In 2014, we commissioned a UK designer who previously worked for brands such as Mulberry to create the initial Gyork prototype. Donna-Marie guided the manifestation of the Gyork concept and met the manufacturers on a weekly basis.

With some tweaking and several prototypes later, the final design was ready for production, and the Gyork team excitedly got into discussions about the first production sample. However, much to our dismay, we found the cost to produce each unit had tripled from the initial quotes, causing us to rethink the commercial viability of producing our goods in the UK.

We realised local production would push the brand into the ultra luxury segment and the price point would be inaccessible for our target audience. Additionally, the manufacturers advised production lead times would increase from four to six weeks to 10 to 12 weeks. So, price, lead times, and limited production capacity were the core issues, which changed everything and forced us to rethink our production strategy. Several other UK manufacturers were considered to maintain the dream of local production, but none were able to reduce product costs or shorten lead times.

The team sought advice from fashion industry experts on where to produce our bags, without compromising on quality. The answer: Italy.

We knew Italy was the fashion capital of the world, but the team was concerned about potential language barriers or having to frequently travel back and forth to perfect the design. Our search led to a reputable manufacturer based in Florence. They understood the dream and captured the essence of the brand, loved the product and promised to make a ”beautiful bag that would be better than the prototype”.

They did just that by offering some design embellishments and even brought in a local metal accessories sales agent for Donna-Marie to describe her requirements for the bespoke hardware. The prototype was finished within three weeks, and the quality of the leather, lining and hardware was outstanding. The production pricing quotes were half those of the UK based manufacturers.

More importantly, we were taken aback by the ease of doing business, the quick turnaround times and the level of assistance and consultation throughout the manufacturing process. Communication was mostly done through email and phone calls with only two trips to the manufacturer throughout the initial production cycle.

Gyork launched its online store in February. The brand has received great industry and consumer feedback and is currently in discussions with luxury retailers for distribution of the collection.

Donna-Marie Donalds is founder of Gyork and Shelley O’Neill is lead director




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