The managing director of branded accessories group Rawhide tells Melinda Oliver about the perks of working with licences such as Playboy and Pacha.
You started Rawhide Accessories 18 years ago. How has it grown?
I first started the company as a men’s belt manufacturer. We used to supply own-label belts for retailers such as River Island, Next and Debenhams. I later recognised a gap in the market for producing branded accessories. Initially, we approached Kangol and signed our first licensing deal for belts, which were a great success in the UK.
After that we approached Ben Sherman and produced belts and other products for them. Now we hold the licence to manufacture and distribute accessories for Playboy, Pacha Collection, Chupa Chups and Golddigga. Our infrastructure allows us to be competitive – we have the designers, graphics, marketing and distribution all in one company.
What are your responsibilities?
Day-to-day my main role is to drive the company and oversee all aspects of the business, from design to sales, distribution, marketing and suppliers. I do a lot of travelling. I go to Ibiza for Pacha, to Hong Kong where we have a sourcing office, to New York to see the Playboy team, and to Europe to oversee distribution. We have just opened an office in Poland, which I believe is a new market for branded accessories.
How do you ensure a brand’s identity shows through in a product range?
Just because a clothing brand is successful doesn’t necessarily mean it will transfer to accessories. At the beginning we research a brand from top to bottom. We look for the flavour of a brand and how it is viewed by consumers. We look at the brand’s heritage, lifestyle and the customer demographic. The brand graphics are an important part of the jigsaw. We then have a brainstorming session and make a plan for it to go forward.
What developments are in store for Rawhide Accessories in 2008?
In 2008 we are launching Chilli Pepper accessories, initially in the UK, then we will take it further afield for spring 09. For Playboy we are launching an Icon range of bags and jewellery. Chupa Chups is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, so we are releasing a limited edition collection. For Pacha we have signed famous DJs Erick Morillo and Sarah Main to produce a special collection of accessories.
What drives you?
The entrepreneurial spirit gets me going, as does success. Rather than a money thing, it’s the building process, seeing a range of products through all the stages and seeing the products sell through successfully.
What are your biggest challenges?
There are several. Around the world the cost of production is increasing, so it is a challenge to negotiate volumes and costs with suppliers. Another challenge is facing competition from private labels, because we have to compete against them but at a higher price. To do this we have to be innovative.
What are the perks of your job?
There are definitely some perks from the brands we work with. When we first signed Playboy, we joked that if we didn’t make any money, we might at least get an invite to the Playboy mansion – we went to the mansion for the 50th anniversary party with Hugh Hefner. And when we go to Ibiza, we get to hang out in the VIP area at Pacha.
Who is your fashion icon and why?
When I think of icons I think of people who dare to be different, but can carry it off. I think in the 1970s Bryan Ferry from Roxy Music was a style icon of his day. He was cool but different.
Profile: Bryan Ferry
As the lead singer of 1970s band Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry became famous for creating unique cover versions of songs and merging musical styles. He also launched a solo career and released his first solo album, These Foolish Things, in 1973. Ferry was renowned for his original dress sense and took ownership of a look that comprised the slim tailored suit, crisp yet dishevelled shirt, and loose tie. Onstage he was more adventurous, adding a theatrical zest to his image.
In 2007 he was famously signed then dropped from Marks & Spencer’s advertising campaign for its Autograph range, after he reportedly made controversial comments about Nazi imagery. However, his career is still going strong and he plays concerts in the UK and across Europe. His most recent album, Dylanesque, is a homage to rock star Bob Dylan.