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Sarah Arnett

Renowned for its colourful nature-inspired prints and elegant collection of dresses, the Brighton-based women’s ready-to-wear label is stepping up its efforts to secure some new stockists for spring 09.

If, as certain style-watchers are predicting, the appeal of the dress is on the wane, then someone forgot to tell Sarah Arnett – or any of her customers. The Brighton-based print designer set up her eponymous own label four years ago with business partner Simon Beales, and growth has been steady ever since.The label has more than 80 accounts globally (half of those are in the UK and Republic of Ireland) which will be boosted in spring after it signed a deal with womenswear chain Whistles. It has also appointed a new agent in Italy and will appear at Los Angeles Fashion Week this month.

Designer Arnett believes the time could be right to crack the US in earnest now that pricing is more reasonable – wholesale prices for plain cotton dresses, which were
introduced last summer, now start at £70 moving up to about £170 for full-length printed silk jersey. “We’ve had US buyers take a look before and we’ve been working really hard on our price points. We’ve worked with our printers on alternative fabrics and now there is more daywear. When we first started it was just silk,” she explains.

In addition Arnett has been perfecting her craft when it comes to dresses. Some early forays into separates have been put on the back burner for now (although she is experimenting with some knitwear for autumn 09) while she gets the dresses just right. Each season 20 styles are produced, including wrap dresses, shirt dresses and maxi dresses, along with about 12 different prints in two or three colourways. Arnett says she tries to take all the major dress-wearing scenarios into account when compiling the collection, so there will always be a work dress or something to wear for a wedding, for instance. “And there’s always got to be a dress that covers the arm,” she adds. “Across a print, I will always do two styles, one younger and one more classic.”

Arnett takes her inspiration for her prints from nature and gardens in particular, hence the recurring fern and tree motifs in the spring 09 collection. What excites her the most, however, is colour. “It’s my real passion,” she says. “Everything to do with film, art and exhibitions all has an impact [on the colour palette].” For spring 09, pinks and oranges are already selling well.

Once the many prints she conceives have been edited down for the collection, they are printed in Como in Italy, and the dresses are then made in the UK or Eastern Europe. Arnett is not tempted to produce in the Far East to get price points lower. “I don’t want to go to China,” she says. “It’s all about quality control and lead times for me. Everyone going to China means manufacturers in Europe now look at smaller designers.”

With a growing supply base and a burgeoning archive of prints with more in the pipeline, there is lots of scope for Arnett to break out beyond dresses – and even beyond fashion – in the coming years.

Sarah Arnett 020 7486 4800


80-plus:Number of Sarah Arnett stockists worldwide
20:Number of dress styles produced each season
4:Number of years since the brand was established

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