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Sem Per Lei

The mainstream brand’s 40- to 50-year-old female customers are being given a younger look for spring 09.

Walking into Sem Per Lei’s showroom during the first outing of the spring 09 womenswear collections in Dorf was like a breath of fresh air. UK buyers wandering around the German fashion houses were greeted by a mass of wet-look jackets and animal print at every turn, yet Sem Per Lei bucked the staid trends with its acres of bright shades, on-trend draping silhouettes and new fresher feel.

“The customer is changing and it is really important to recognise that and adapt accordingly,” explains Paula King, UK brand manager for Sem Per Lei. “Mature women don’t want to dress like their mothers did when they were 40 or 50 – they want to look younger and more stylish.”

To this end, Sem Per Lei’s 420-piece separates collection opts for a younger route for next spring, with product which is beginning to reveal a more trend-led aspect to its mainstream personality. “As a German brand we have that comfy, slightly larger Germanic fit, which is more forgiving for our customers,” says King. “But by combining it with beautiful Italian yarns, interesting fabric mixes such as silk/cashmere, and a more vibrant palette focusing on yellows, pinks and corals, we have really freshened it up.”

Since its inception 18 years ago, Sem Per Lei has grown from a knitwear-focused collection into one with a wider scope of separates. Started by husband and wife pair Peter and Sabine Loh謍 in Dorf, the label debuted in the UK eight seasons ago.

UK operations and sales manager Keith Dixon says: “One of Sem Per Lei’s key strengths is that it bridges the divide between classic and designer product, and people are looking for more fashionable styles now.”

This is reflected in autumn 08’s orders, which were up 15%. “We are bucking the trend at the moment with great growth, but it just shows how strong our collections are,” says King. “We want to keep our customers happy, and we know they are calling for something less old and stuffy. Yet at the same time, we have watched our competitors suddenly target a whole new age bracket in a bid to add more customers, or add an extra few per cent on prices to try and squeeze more out of shoppers, and we are really aware of not going down that route.”

Sem Per Lei has about 80 accounts in the UK, all independents. “We aren’t looking to be stocked in huge multiples, as it is important for us to protect the interests of our independent customers,” explains Dixon. “We have some great accounts, such as House of Elliot in Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, and Ebony & Ivory in Nantwich in Cheshire, and these perform very well for us.”

King adds: “Customers are definitely making that return to more quality product. People are prepared to pay a little bit more as they want their product to see them through for longer than a couple of months. That longevity is what we feel we can offer.”

Sem Per Lei 01625 529529 www.semperlei.de

Essentials

8: Number of seasons that Sem Per Lei has been available in the UK
80: Number of the brand’s UK accounts
11: Number of countries in which Sem Per Lei is available

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