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Jane Lewis

The founder of womenswear brand Goat – most famous for its chunky cashmere knits – tells Drapers how she is developing her collection.

What made you start your own label?
The starting point was increased frustration at being unable to find discreet, versatile pieces that had longevity. It was an exciting venture because I have had neither formal training nor any prior experience at running my own business.

You’re now sold in some high-end boutiques, such as London mini-chain Matches. But how receptive were buyers in the beginning?
As a small independent brand it is almost impossible to get buyers to view a collection, harder still because Goat is understated and my initial collection was so small. I’ve been very fortunate that a couple of key buyers saw the potential, bought into the collection and gave me their support.

What have been the highlights of the Goat story so far?
The successful launch of the Library collection [a lower-priced sister line] in 2006 was exciting. It has enabled us to significantly increase our customer base in a short time.

Where do you produce the collection?
We mostly use Italian yarns and fabric for the main collection, which we then produce in Italy and the UK. The Library range is made in Asia. I source and collect vintage buttons and often have them made to my specifications. There is still cachet in UK production and where possible we strive to support British manufacturers. It’s a great shame that we are unable to do more here, but we do evaluate the situation every season and where possible keep it close to home.

What advice would you give designers who aspire to launch their own label?
Believe in your designs and have courage, but know that the business of fashion is every bit as important as the design element. You are only as good as your last delivery.

What do you think of the fashion available on the UK high street?
It is diverse and varied – it has changed the way we shop and dress. The emphasis has shifted towards disposable fashion but the tide is turning and people are again creating a demand for investment shopping – better quality, longer lasting and value for money.

Where do you shop yourself?
I am a big fan of Matches, Aimé [a Notting Hill boutique specialising in French labels], Gap and Alfies antique market in London’s Marylebone for vintage furniture. I also love Wild at Heart – the florist and also the boutique on London’s Ledbury Road. Owner Nikki Tibbles has a great eye.

What did winning the FedEx-backed New Exporter Award last year at the UK Fashion Exports mean for Goat?
We were delighted. It was rewarding to have recognition for the hard work my team and I have put into marketing the brand overseas.

What further developments can we expect from Goat?
We have some plans in the pipeline for an additional range. We will keep you posted.

Would you move into menswear?
We have had a lot of requests for it, in addition to kidswear. But at the moment we are committed to increasing Goat’s brand profile in overseas markets.

Would you ever consider opening your own boutique?
Yes, absolutely. It’s a matter of waiting for the right opportunity.

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