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Maria Lemos

Agency RainbowWave’s founder tells James Knowles about the increasing appeal of young British designers

Are you finding it harder to sell new or untested brands to buyers that prefer established names they know will sell?

I’m impressed with London’s young designers. They’re more aware commercially now. A lot are doing pre-collections because they understand earlier deliveries. On Peter Pilotto’s pre-collection, without even trying we’ve had a lot of indies interested in buying a young British designer. If the product is right buyers will buy unknown labels.

You helped launch premium denim brand J Brand in the UK. What impact do you think it has had on the denim market?

J Brand created a different category, which is the fashion denim brand. The Houlihan [style] put J Brand on the map, not just as a denim company but also as a fashion denim company, and that is where the brand is heading with the introduction of ready-to-wear [for spring 12] as well. As a showroom, we’ve been lucky to have a denim company that crosses into fashion, and because we are purely a fashion agency we’ve married the two quite well.

What is the next J Brand? Who could really shake up the UK market?

I think [US brand] Rag & Bone could be big in the UK. It crosses into denim and ready-to-wear, and is opening retail stores. I’d say it’s one to watch. The brand is really big in the US already, but that hasn’t translated to the UK yet.

With more buyers buying in-season now, has that affected how you work?

We were working that way anyway – mainly on J Brand. We put a system in place about six months ago where we sell nearly every two weeks. So the buyers come in regularly, at least once a month. We have our seasonal brands that sell four times a year, but then we also have our continuity brands that sell all year round.

How do you plan to grow your business?

We’ve just started a press division, which is an area we’re keen to grow. We are also expanding into retail and we’re looking to open a store with Carven, and potentially open an outlet store for J Brand in Bicester Village. We also want to grow menswear, which started six months ago with J Brand and Carven.

What’s the best fashion show you’ve ever been to?

I used to work for John Galliano, and those shows were the best ever. The first shows in Paris do not compare with anything that’s followed – perhaps only McQueen. If I had to compare anything [with Galliano] it would be the early McQueen shows.

What rules your business decisions – your head or your heart?

My heart. I’m Greek and instinctive. Obviously as I progress in business, the head part takes over. It’s always there reminding you, but I do trust my instincts.

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