Former sculptor Beverley Calvert turned her artistic talents to luxurious, lounge-worthy jersey when she launched Hommebody as a menswear label in 1998. Since then, it has expanded into womenswear and maternity-wear, rebranded as Homebody and has 110 stockists worldwide. Distributor Marchpole bought a 51% stake in the business in July 2006.
- How do you balance your time between your shop in London's St John's Wood, wholesaling to 110 stockists and your mail order operation?
And my four kids ... But now we are with Marchpole, lots of things have changed. We are closing the shop and offices in St John's Wood because we have outgrown them and want to focus on wholesale. The retail side was never our main focus. The strategy is to grow our stockist base, first focusing on the UK and US markets and then expanding worldwide. Marchpole has offices all over the world, which will help us. We have already doubled our menswear business in the year we've been under its umbrella.
- You started life as a menswear brand in 1998. What challenges did the move into womenswear in 2000 bring?
The idea was born after I had my third child. I was inspired by looking at my husband and thinking he should have something other than track-suits to wear around the house. It was that new millennium time where everyone was thinking their work vs home balance was going to shift to spending more time at home. Buyers seemed to struggle with the concept at first but eventually Harrods placed an order, which was great motivation to keep going. Womenswear was easier in that regard, as the yoga and life-style movement had kicked off.
- Why did you decide to rebrand Hommebody as Homebody?
The 'homme' obviously related to the menswear, so it made sense to change it when the brand was expanding. I remember showing Hommemummy to buyers at Galeries Lafayette in Paris and they just couldn't get it. The Americans have always called us Homebody, so it wasn't any great change for them.
- Didn't you used to manufacture all of your product in the UK?
Yes, we did until recently. It is very frustrating as British designers and a British company that the organisation and logistics necessary for our manufacturing is no longer available in the UK. The system has been broken down so much that it barely exists. We are moving all our production to the Far East. What is important to us is that the quality is the best it can be without pushing prices up.
- How important to your business is maternity sub-brand Homemummy?
We launched the maternity range as a tester 18 months ago and it already accounts for about 40% of our business. We are stocked in Harrods and Selfridges, but other big stores are reluctant to carry maternity-wear for some reason. For us, maternity was a natural progression. We also plan to launch jeans and an accessories collection in the maternity range.
- What's next for Homebody?
The most exciting thing at the moment is the launch of a transactional website before the end of June. In terms of new product categories,there is so much potential in the brand, whether it be in homewares, accessories or kids - so watch this space.
THIS FASHION LIFE
- What is your biggest fashion weakness?
Shoes and bags. This season I love Roger Vivier and that whole 1960s vibe.
- What was your best fashion moment?
Being photographed for Vogue wearing Homebody outside the Emanuel Ungaro show in Paris.
- And your worst?
The skin-tight Olivia Newton-John-style trousers I used to wear when I was 16.
- What would you be doing if not fashion?
I've always loved art and used to be a sculptor - it's what I do in my spare time.
- Who is your industry icon and why?
Coco Chanel and Jean Muir. Both were iconic, with classic pieces that showed their understanding of what women want to wear.
- Where do you shop?
I love department stores, especially Harrods and Selfridges. I also shop online at Net-a-Porter.com and eBay.
- What are you reading?
A biography of Jean Muir. She was so brilliant; I find her particularly inspiring, especially as she was a woman British designer.
- Who is your style icon?
My mum. She's the person I most aspire to dress like. She has passed away, but I have a lot of her wardrobe and it really helps me.
- Who is on your iPod?
My musical tastes are quite old fashioned, but in terms of music and fashion, both Kylie Minogue and Madonna have their own style and have made so many changes which I really admire.
- Who is on your mobile's speed dial?
Nobu restaurant, and friend and business partner Susie Draper.