Launched as a younger sister brand to Milla, contemporary women’s label Prophecy is fast outgrowing its sibling.
Just because we were once on the Indian millionaire’s list doesn’t mean we’re trying to be the next Alan Sugar,” smiles Barry Dass, co-owner – along with his brother Paul – of contemporary womenswear labels Milla and Prophecy. “People can get swallowed up in the money-making side of fashion, but it’s about time we gave something back.”
That something is a set of daycare centres attached to Dass’s manufacturing hubs in India, where the company’s clothing is made. “It really touched my heart to visit factories and see women trying to sew while rocking their babies to sleep at the same time. That just isn’t right.”
Instead, Dass has begun negotiations with the factories to use their spare land to build and operate nurseries, with the first due to open this July. “The factories provide the space, and we provide the medical and running costs to care for the workers’ children,” explains Dass.
It is clear that there is more to Dass’s life than number crunching and balance sheets, but it is his strong business sense that led to the launch two years ago of Prophecy, the younger, lower-priced version of his directional premium line, Milla.
“Prophecy actually came out of discussions we had with Asos,” explains Dass. “The buyers there wanted to stock Milla but at that time the price points just wouldn’t fit in with the rest of their offering. Instead we said we’d manufacture the same kind of clothes using cheaper fabrics and present it as an exclusive line for Asos.”
For example, where a silk Milla dress retailed at £200, Dass and his team would create the Prophecy version in polyester satin, which sold at a much more reasonable £85. “Where Milla is for celebrities to wear (fans include Gwyneth Paltrow), Prophecy is for celebrity wannabes to wear,” says Dass.
After beginning as an Asos collaboration in summer 2006, Prophecy launched as a wholesale brand for spring 08 at London trade show Pure, and Dass now sees Prophecy as his main focus in the future.
The figures speak for themselves – where Prophecy has racked up an indie stable of 50 UK accounts, plus online at Asos and in USC stores, Milla has kept just 20, and Prophecy now accounts for 60% of Dass’s profits.
With this in mind, it is full steam ahead for the younger label in the UK. A short-order offering is set to be launched for spring 09, alongside an extension of autumn 08’s natural product jewellery line, while for autumn 09 there will be a range of bags in conjunction with an as-yet-unnamed designer and a small lingerie collection. “The main focus for Prophecy now is to become a really strong UK wholesale brand,” says Dass.
But he is quick to remind us that it is not all about money for him. As he explains: “The most important part of achieving success is using it to make a difference. As Ghandi once said, ‘you should be the change you want to see.’ That is what I am trying to be.”
50: Number of UK accounts for Prophecy
35: Number of pieces in Prophecy’s spring 09 collection
60/40: The split between Barry Dass’s profits from Prophecy and Milla, respectively