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Deborah Meaden

The TV Dragon leaves her stony-faced persona in the studio as she tells Khabi Mirza why she has invested in skate brand WeSC

It’s a funny time to be investing in fashion, isn’t it?
When times get tough people still spend but are more careful about what they spend on. I’ve invested in Lateralcorp, a Devon-based company which is the UK distributor for Swedish fashion brand WeSC. The brand is respected around the world, but under-represented in the UK. We were never going to conquer the world from Devon. The plan now is to take advantage of all the property deals out there and roll out retail, hence our first store in Carnaby Street.

Of all the brands out there, why WeSC?
Anything which I invest in has to have a certain something about it. WeSC is all about great clothes and I can’t roll off a half dozen other brands that do the same thing. That tells me we’ve got something different here. It’s streetwear with a really great heritage. It has got this feeling of when people buy into it, they really buy into it. The fact that I cannot pigeonhole WeSC means it has that special quality. Consumers are going to be very careful about the kind of brands they buy into and these brands have to have a distinct and recognisable personality.

How will your marketing expertise help WeSC?
We are working with PR and marketing agency Exposure, and to be honest I won’t be getting too involved. I believe in bringing the right people in to work on a project and then letting them get on with the job.

What are the key ingredients for any small fashion brand looking to survive the recession?
It’s important to consider your brand in its market and ask yourself whether it is still relevant. There’s no point in carrying on what you’ve been doing for years and years. Ask yourself whether you need to get it out in a different way. Does it need to be presented differently? How will the downturn affect you? Are your prices too high or too low? So just think about your brand in its particular market. That’s what we did at WeSC and we are convinced that we are going to do very, very well right now.

What is a realistic expansion strategy for any fashion brand of this size given the current climate?
If anybody is following a plan which they put in place six months ago, they are getting it wrong. We have to be ready to grab opportunities because the world is moving pretty fast at the moment and we need to be able to be poised and ready to go when it happens. And don’t stick to your plan of six months ago. Look at your strategy on a regular basis and keep asking whether this is your moment.

How do you think the retail landscape will look in 12 months time?
I have no idea. Anybody who believes they know what will happen in 12 months is wrong. We have got to change our mindset, all rules go out of the window. Plug into what’s going on out there and react to it.

What single piece of advice would you give to any brand looking to expand and grow their business?
Consider what your brand is doing right now in the marketplace and establish whether there is a reason for it to be a success right now, or whether you should be
content just treading water.

Douglas Cordeaux has designed for some of the most recognisable young fashion brands in the market. After training in fashion and textiles at Chelsea School of Art in London, Cordeaux began his professional career in the mid 1980s as a screen printer. From there he moved to Pepe Jeans to work as a textiles designer. In the early 1990s Cordeaux started a freelance career and later set up his own design agency, Cordeaux Design Studio, selling designs to Marks & Spencer, Tommy Hilfiger, Hollister, American Eagle, Gap and Abercrombie & Fitch. He currently designs the men’s fashion collection for Pepe Jeans, and will oversee strategy at distribution company Lateralcorp.

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