The owner of agency Concept Fashion tells Marie Davies why he’s launched short-order brand Little Mistress.
What is your fashion background?
I started Concept Fashion six years ago. Prior to that I worked in various sales roles including six years at [sportswear manufacturer] DB Actif, which held the licence for the Elle brand, and six years as menswear manager at the Giorgio Armani store in Manchester. One of my first significant roles was area manager at [now-defunct sportswear retailer] Champion Sports, which was owned by Burton Group at the time. It was such a great grounding for how to run a team and get the best out of people.
Concept Fashion is a fashion agent. So why have you decided to start your own short-order brand?
[Women’s young fashion brand] Little Mistress started with a soft launch as a concession in New Look two years ago. For spring 11 we’ve started wholesaling. As sales agents we hear what the independents want, and over the past three years people have tired of forward order and want multiple collections a month. New Look was a great test ground for the product as we learnt what was and wasn’t relevant.
Who is the label aimed at?
It’s aimed at 25-year-old females, which we describe as a Friday-night girl. It’s 50% daywear and 50% eveningwear and is more feminine than other brands such as Lipsy or Unique Boutique, which are more aggressive in terms of structure and details. The range is priced between £10 and £16 at wholesale and includes dresses, jumpsuits and playsuits. We’ve focused on one-piece outfits and aren’t doing separates.
Which stockists will you be targeting?
Etailer Very, which is owned by Littlewoods, will be stocking Little Mistress and we are targeting [young fashion chains] Bank and Cult and also [etailer] Asos. We already supply Concept Fashion’s other brands such as [womenswear brand] Ichi to House of Fraser, so we will speak to them. We want to take the risk out of buying and enable daily and weekly replenishment. The mark-up on the collection is 2.8 to 3.
You are looking to manufacture partly in the UK. Why is this?
Price and speed. At the moment even with a five-week lead time you can be late to a trend, so manufacturing in the UK means it is possible to have a two-and-a-half-week lead time and you cut out shipping costs and duty taxes. Initially I imagine about 25% of product will be made in the UK and this will increase as reliability is proven with the factory.
Are there any plans to open any Little Mistress stores?
We’re looking to open two retail stores in 2012, definitely one in central London and possibly one in Manchester. It will be 80% Little Mistress with 20% given to other Concept Fashion brands.
What other brands do you admire?
[Women’s young fashion brand] Motel started on the social networking side of things much quicker than anyone else and it has got the distribution right.
Where do you like to shop?
I buy a lot at Hugo Boss, as I take advantage of having a friend who runs the wholesale side and I’m able to attend the sample sales. I also like Reiss (pictured) and All Saints.
Who is your favourite designer?
Giorgio Armani (spring 11 catwalk pictured) is the best for me personally. It is understated and quirky and every piece is an investment.
Who do you admire in the fashion business?
Julian Dunkerton [chief executive] of SuperGroup. He has the best eye in the business and if he has an idea he goes all in.
What do you enjoy outside of fashion?
I love football and am a huge Liverpool fan.
Mark Ashton is the owner of fashion agency Concept Fashion