The co-founder of design agency BDA explains how to take an idea and turn it into a retail reality.
What’s the concept behind BDA London?
BDA London is the partnership of Barbara Hardinge and me.
It’s a creative agency focused on the fashion sector with the aim of working closely with brands or retailers to create a holistic strategy that can be extended through branding, product positioning or interiors. The overriding aim is to ensure our collaboration results in a quantifiable success in sales and increased positive recognition for the client.
So you are not just devising concepts?
The benefits of our work must be quantifiable and qualitative. So rather than just dreaming up a good idea, BDA wants to share ownership of the ideas with the client and assist in their execution by working with the buying and marketing teams.
How have you come to that conclusion?
It’s easier for agencies to produce ideas rather than executable working solutions. My early days in the business were working for Deryck Healey International, one of the largest product design studios in the late 1970s. Then I worked for one of the largest Marks & Spencer suppliers as a garment designer. In the mid-1980s I formed the Bureaux partnership with Barbara Hardinge and Barney Rodgers, which grew to be one of the UK’s best-known fashion design consultancies. In 2011, Barbara and I wanted to refocus on a new approach. This refocus and clarity of aims is embodied in the ethos of BDA London.
What’s the attraction of Spitalfields for your base?
The area is such an inspirational hub for my team, our clients and me. You can’t help but pick up fresh ideas and inspiration.
We hear you are big in South Africa. How so?
For more than 10 years I have been working with the Foschini Group, which is South Africa’s equivalent of Arcadia Group. Our relationship has extended through all its fascias. It uses us intelligently - as outsiders who can look into its businesses and ask the questions that may not be apparent to it. South Africa is a market with huge potential for UK brands and retailers. Walmart recently bought a South African supermarket.
What are the differences between a job in South Africa and the UK?
Ultimately the issues are the same in any fashion business. It always starts and finishes with the product. BDA London has a thorough knowledge of fashion product and can discuss stock turn, markdowns and clearance with the buyers. Our aim is to enable the client to sell more products at better prices.
What would be your dream brief in 2014?
Having experienced the last recession, we know this is the perfect time to reinvent and reposition a business or brand. Our ideal job would be either to create something from scratch or to take a struggling concern and refocus it to be a positive proposition for consumers.