Innovation and quality are the secrets to Suzy Radcliffe’s success in building a rapidly expanding denim brand.
Radcliffe Denim is cementing its reputation as a quintessentially British women’s denim brand. Its collection of jeans is inspired by and named after London postcodes, logos on its designs are printed in traditional British typefaces and the buttons are inspired by the one pound coin.
These details reflect founder and creative director Suzy Radcliffe’s desire for it to be recognised as a premium denim label, with quality and detail akin to a luxury brand.
“Most jeans don’t bother with all the hardware. But if you look inside Radcliffe Denim’s jeans, it is all so well-finished,” she says.
Radcliffe started the brand two-and-a-half years ago, and counts herself a pioneer of now ubiquitous black skinny-leg style.
“When I launched in Barneys in New York in November 2005 we were the only dark blue and black skinny jeans on the floor, in a sea of pale blue denim,” she says. “We were doing something really different, but the market has caught up with us now.”
Radcliffe Denim produces two main collections per year, as well as smaller follow-up collections. The range now consists of nine ongoing styles with seasonal supplements.
It has patented the Heels2Flats cufflink system, which consists of a button sewn into the ankle area of the jeans so they can be folded up to suit different shoes. Other developments include using two-way stretch denim for extra comfort, and a three-inch waist at the back so the jeans are easier to sit down in.
Radcliffe Denim has also branched out into womenswear, with trousers, waistcoats and a jersey separates range, which Radcliffe works on with Savile Row-trained tailor David Chambers, who is now part of the design team. However, Radcliffe says she intends to focus primarily on perfecting the denim offer. “It’s very tempting to go and do other things, but we still have so much further we can go with our jeans,” she says.
From a handful of stockists, the brand has expanded to almost 100 accounts across the UK, US, Hong Kong and Russia.
In August 2007, with Radcliffe Denim’s turnover at about £1 million per annum, brand house Pentland bought a majority share of the company. Radcliffe says the move has increased her business’s growth opportunities and will improve the production process and quality control of the product.
Pentland will handle US operations, excluding sales and marketing, while in the UK, though still under Pentland’s umbrella, Radcliffe Denim will act independently.
To drive growth, Radcliffe Denim has established an in-house sales team to improve customer access to the brand. It also has showrooms in London and New York.
The brand does not advertise, although it does have a PR-based strategy to raise awareness. Its website is set to shift from a pure sales platform to provide a broader brand experience which it hopes will help market the brand to a wider audience.
Radcliffe Denim 020 8964 6230
2005: The year Radcliffe Denim launched
15,000: Number of pairs of jeans Radcliffe Denim expects to distribute between January and July 2008
£55: Average wholesale price of Radcliffe Denim jeans