Laura Jackson talks to owner of contemporary brands Uttam and Yumi Uttam Nepal about fast fashion and making a brand mark.
What is the difference between the short order and forward order elements of your business?
We are primarily an in season brand and that is where we learnt our craft and earned our success. We started producing forward order product this January with our first collection for autumn 08, and we now have 30% of our orders as forward order. Retailers in the UK prefer short order as the trends move so quickly here, but by offering advance collections we are able to tap in better to the European market. It is definitely a different process managing the two sides of the business.
With short order, if you react quick enough to trends and produce the right product at the right time you can turnover a lot of pieces, whereas planning a collection so far in advance takes a lot more research. We are finding that short order is getting tougher though, as retailers are demanding shorter and shorter delivery times. It is hard trying to balance everything.
What are the differences between Uttam and Yumi?
Uttam has been around for 10 years now and started as a hippy chick brand. From the start it had its own distinct handwriting, inspired by the Far East, very colourful with lots of intricate handmade detailing. About two years ago we started producing more youth-focused product, such as printed tunics, which became instantly popular. We were aware of not wanting to lose Uttam’s originality yet we could see we were beginning to tap into a really big market with the young fast fashion trends.
And so Yumi was born. We launched the brand at Pure in Febraury last year and billed it as the fresh, younger sister of Uttam. The target age bracket is teenagers to 30 year olds, and the product is all about reacting to fast fashions and producing good quality and good priced trend-led product. We have also just launched Yumi Boutique, a slightly more expensive arm to Yumi which features more intricate designs and detailing.
How do you stand out from your competitors?
It is very hard now. A good item used to last six months, even a year, but now everything is so much faster, product just doesn’t carry over. You have to be extremely careful to price your product just right, and get your pieces on trend. Retailers are as price conscious as the customers, but we offer a 2.83 mark-up and we get an 85% sell through so we must be doing something right!
Would you ever consider launching a menswear arm?
To be honest, we’re just too busy at the moment. I think it is harder to make the impact with menswear too, there is more spending power for women and in a sense it is easier to create as trends move faster and there is more scope for design. Maybe in the future we’d consider it though.
What are this year’s business goals?
We are working on a flagship store at the moment. We already have stand alones in Notting Hill, Bluewater and Camden but nothing that really counts as a proper flagship shop. We want something which really shows the total concept of our brands. York is one destination we are looking at for opening a new Yumi store too, but we have to pick locations carefully as we don’t want to upset nearby independents who stock our brands. We’re hoping for two or three new stores this year.
Who is your fashion icon and why?
I have a real penchant for colour and I am always impressed at how Diesel always does something interesting with colour each season, whether it is pink, or purple or green. And of course the denim is fantastically cut too.
Founded 30 years ago by charismatic Italian Rene Rosso, Diesel has become synonymous with great denim, cutting edge product and youth culture. Its first flagship store opened on New York’s Lexington Avenue in 1996 and the brand now has more than 300 worldwide shops in over 80 countries.
Born out of a love from denim, Diesel has extended its unique design arm to also produce lingerie, swimwear, sportswear, a kids line, a luxury arm called Diesel Black Gold, as well as signing deals with big name brands such as Fossil to produce watches and L’Oreal for its fragrances, the most recent of which, Fuel for Life, was released last year. It is estimated that more than 3,500 people work for Diesel across the globe and most of the production remains in Diesel’s spiritual home of Moldeva in Italy.
Diesel has further boosted its youth brand credentials by sponsoring various projects including the Diesel Wall artistic programme which runs competitions for new and emerging artists.