Next’s Label/Mix creative director Gemma Metheringham tells Drapers how the retailer’s new own brand is making designer fashion accessible.
Next’s designer collaboration range Label/Mix launched on the Next Label website today (27 September).
Exclusively available online, Label/Mix is part of Next’s Label business, which sells third-party brands. It features a mix of collaborations with designers – 10 for autumn 17 – who have been asked to create exclusive pieces for Next. The Next team worked with Teatum Jones, Rejina Pyo, J Won, Osman, Lab, Whole9Yards, AV Robertson, Mimi Berry, Hudson Shoes and Rose & Rose.
New designers will feature every season to form an edit of “wardrobe staples” – investment pieces that remain affordable. Retail prices for autumn 17 range from £35 for a hat to £399 for a lace dress.
Quality, timelessness and telling designers’ stories are the collection’s cornerstones, creative director Gemma Metheringham (right) tells Drapers.
Why launch Label/Mix? Next is a brilliant retailer and it has a lot of very loyal customers, and within that Label is a great idea. The ability to use all of Next’s delivery options when buying brands is very clever and works well. We wanted to create something exclusive for Label and we’ve been working on it for a year.
Why did you decide to collaborate with designers? We felt that customers want to discover something different. People want to find new brands: they want a dress that no one else has and they want a story behind the product. There are so many brands and so much product in the market that, from a consumer perspective, it can be quite baffling.
One thing I’m passionate about, and have been for a long time, is emerging talent. There are so many brilliant brands out there who need exposure – you know people will love what they do, and it is about giving designers a chance to showcase their work. It’s a huge thrill for them to see someone wearing something they created.
The designers are also excited about the mix of products, as everything at Label/Mix is merchandised together to show the shopper how to wear it. More and more people buy one really great piece rather than a complete outfit from one designer, so that’s how we styled it. The idea is to create a sense of discovery.
Who is the target customer? All of the pieces are very wearable – that was so important. If shoppers are going to invest they need to be able to wear it season after season. Next has so many customers (the number of average active shoppers on next.co.uk increased by 4% year on year to 4.9 million in the six months to 31 July). We want to tap into that engaged audience, but we aren’t limited to them. We talked about aspiration but it needs to be relatable. They are pieces that will fit into your current wardrobe.
How did the process work? We approached all the designers – we had a hit list of people we loved. For us it was important that this was a holistic, mutually supportive project. They have designed the product and it is absolutely true to their DNA. We work however works best for the designers: some made the patterns and pinned the garments, while others like more autonomy – they choose the fabrics and have final sign-off. For the collaboration pieces we used Next’s supply chain. It has been fascinating to work with so many creative people.
What is your favourite piece? That’s like asking which is my favourite child! What’s great about working with so many designers is there are so many different styles and viewpoints. They have special details. We had to create a lot of things for this – such as custom-made sequins – and it really challenged my ingenuity. You don’t want to say it’s not possible, so we had to work it out.
How does the range differ from other collaborations on the high street or online? We have called it Label/Mix because it is about the mix. It is rare that people wear one particular designer or brand head to toe. You mix it up and have your favourite pieces you take back out of the wardrobe year after year.
The idea behind this collection is that they are pieces you treasure. They are the premium high spots in your wardrobe that you can wear with your Converse, or your Next jeans, or dress them up. They are not pieces you throw away. There is a Vivienne Westwood quote I love: “Buy less, choose well, make it last.”
We all lust after those designer pieces, so it is giving people – all of us – access to designers we wouldn’t have access to otherwise. The investment, effort and hard work put in by these creatives is worth celebrating and sharing.
How do you balance price with quality? We wanted to create aspirational pieces. Quality runs through the business in terms of quality of service, delivery and the products they create. We wanted to replicate that here, as well as offer great value for money. The price points are more of a “bridge brand” price point, but the quality is second to none.
How will the collections evolve? We will get new designers on board every season. Some may do more than one season, but do something completely different. We want to keep that sense of discovery, so customers will constantly see something different.
Trends change, consumer behaviour changes, what we all want changes, so the brand has to adapt, change and evolve. There are so many great brands and businesses that we want to work with – my list is very long.
The autumn 17 designers include:
Bold patterns and colours characterise knitwear label J Won, founded by South Korean native Jiwon Ree in 2013. Ree graduated top of the class at the Academy of Arts University in San Francisco, where she won the inaugural Alexander McQueen Scholarship Prize in 2006, and subsequently interned under Lee McQueen in London. Roland Mouret, Ports 1961 and Jas MB have all sought her knitwear expertise.
Catherine Teatum and Rob Jones helm London-based womenswear brand Teatum Jones, which puts innovative fabrics and bold colour at the heart of its modern designs. Trained at Ravensbourne and Central Saint Martins respectively, the duo, who show at London Fashion Week, were the first ever British Brand to win the International Woolmark Prize in 2016.
Born in South Korea and based in London, Central Saint Martins alumna Pyo set up her label in 2013, after a spell at Roksanda Ilincic. Her feminine – but never girly – designs draw on modern art and sculpture with blouson sleeves, nip-and-flare waists and confident colours.