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Velvet

Since starting out with T-shirts the LA womenswear label has grown into a premium powerhouse.

Velvet may have just 75 UK accounts, but as a regular chart-topper of Drapers’ premium womenswear Indicator, it proves that quality can be preferable to quantity when it comes to brand distribution.

“We feel there are more accounts out there to be had, but for us it is important that we protect the interests of the shops we stock already and make sure they are buying deeply into our collections and achieving great sell-throughs,” says Lucy Wernick, UK and European distributor for the LA brand. “Velvet offers five collections a year and most of our accounts buy into all of them – there is no question as they sell plenty of Velvet product in store.”

It is 10 years since creative director Jenny Graham decided to launch a small T-shirt collection under the name Velvet. Initially with 45 pieces in various T-shirt shapes and 15 colours, over the past decade Velvet has grown from a simple basics offering into a chic casual collection which now features silk dresses and 100% cashmere knits, plus novelty ranges which include sequin tops, more directional silhouettes and more premium fabrications than the mainline.

Says Wernick: “We’ve been handling Velvet since it launched in the UK eight years ago, and watched it almost triple in size (the collections now stand at between 120 and 130 pieces a season) and evolve from those first T-shirts. It’s been amazing. The novelty collections are very popular – they usually have six to 10 pieces in them – but it’s great to have something different in the collection each season.”

Velvet’s cool, calm and collected attitude to design is mirrored by its approach to business. International expansion has been slow and steady, with territories gradually added into the Velvet mix. The brand is now available in 11 European countries, as well as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea. “Expanding Velvet’s distribution is important to us and it’s something we are putting a lot of our efforts into,” explains Henry Hirschowitz, managing director of Velvet and husband of designer Graham. “Yesterday we signed a distribution deal for Russia, and we hope the Middle East will be next.”

With this focus on expansion there are no plans to add new product categories to the collections for next season. “Cashmere is an important category for us and we will continue to expand that for autumn 09, mixing it with lace and chiffon,” says Toni Spencer, Graham’s creative and design partner who came on board in 2000. “We’ll be trying some new things with shape too; cropped shapes are going to be important, as well as pencil skirts, which create a more sculptured look.
“Jenny and Toni trialled trousers a few seasons ago but they didn’t really sell,” adds Wernick. “I think customers know what to expect from Velvet now, and they’re going to stick with what they do best.”

Essentials

£2.7m: Velvet’s UK turnover for the last financial year
75: The number of Velvet accounts in the UK
£11.7m: Velvet’s total European turnover for the last financial year

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