The Little White Lies owner just needs Morgan Freeman to read a bedtime story and all her dreams will have come true.
Before she founded contemporary womenswear label Little White Lies in 2012, Angie De Napoli worked as a sales agent, running her own showroom Rubywear in London, which is still going. Having spent time working with up-and-coming British designers, she saw a gap in the market for a fresh label and Little White Lies was born. An industry veteran, she has seen most sides of the trade but her enthusiasm has never dwindled.
You worked in your first store with your family aged just 16. That’s an early start in the industry.
They were Benetton franchisee operators from 1984 to 2001. I’m one of four children and half-Italian so it was never going to be a quiet affair. We’re a very close family and it was easy to be professional working together until someone told you to do something, then it reverted straight to sibling squabbles, which was pretty colourful. The best part of it was our collective drive to make it work. We eventually sold the six leases to Starbucks.
So did you always want to work in fashion?
I was always making things out of scrap materials and embellishing things with crystals or jewels that had fallen out of my nana’s old necklaces. I have a flamboyant imagination and loved playing dress-up. Fashion was a way to play all of these roles and entwine them into everyday life.
What prompted your move into wholesale, when you launched the Rubywear agency in 2002?
It was a side of the business I had only been part of for the Benetton franchises and I was curious to see how it worked with multiple brands. I lookedafter names such as womenswear labels Bebaroque hosiery, TBA (To Be Adored), Alexia scarves and many more.
How did you go about setting it up?
My brother [Johnny] became my business partner and helped me set up a showroom in central London. I named it aftermy daughter, Ruby.
Is it harder selling your own label, Little White Lies, or being an agent for others?
Little White Lies is my dream brought into reality. When I sell Little White Lies, I’m selling my dream with my heart. My whole aim is to listen to the customer and give them what they want so they can grow with the brand, and I in turn can be flexible. Being an agent doesn’t carry this luxury - the brand and designers have their vision and they want the brand sold in a particular way. When you are a small brand you can’t always be who you want to be, you have to listen to the market trends and the buyer’s needs. I’m lucky that I can do this and have the freedom to make on-the-spot changes.
How did you meet Donna Kernan, the designer for Little White Lies?
We worked together on a brand she was designing for called Once Upon a Time, between 2002 to 2003, and we worked really well together so it was a natural fit.
How involved are you in the design side?
[Donna and I] source all of the fabrics together. We range plan and I give her my inspiration, ideas, images and direction of certain elements I need her to build into the collection. I pass on customer feedback in areas I feel will help us grow and the direction I feel Little White Lies should be moving in. Then Donna goes away and works her magic. We’re lucky in that we have a mutual understanding of what we both want to achieve.
How did you come up with the brand name?
Easy. My brother Johnny is the backbone of Little White Lies. He manages all the back-office invoicing and marketing and keeps me from getting carried away. While setting up the brand, we had a bit of a tiff and it popped out mid-sentence and bang - there it was. I had a friend who conducted a market research group and she put forward three different brand names to the target group over a three-day period and 99% of them preferred Little White Lies. The other options were Rain and All About Me.
You’re in several major stores and 400 websites including Urban Outfitters, Topshop and Asos.com. Are there any other stockists you have your eye on, internationally or in the UK?
I’d love to be represented in Selfridges and I’m in talks with [US retailer] Saks Fifth Avenue. The development of our Gold Label, the more premium offering, has opened up a whole new world of clients. [Wholesale prices for the Little White Lies mainline range from £25 for tops to £69 for coats. For Gold Label, prices range from £80 for tops to £150 for dresses.]
Have you ever told a little white lie?
Erm… yes, but it wasn’t so little. I eloped when I was 23 and didn’t tell anyone.
You’re about to introduce two new collections; high summer and swim. What else is in the pipeline?
Soft lingerie and loungewear are in development. High summer and swim launch in April 2015 and lingerie and loungewear will show for the first time at [London trade show] the Lingerie Edit in January, delivering in September to November.
How did it feel to be nominated for Young Fashion Brand of the Year at this year’s Drapers Awards?
I spent most of my time thinking, ‘Is this really happening?’ To have come so far in such a short amount of time [two years] is an incredible achievement.
What’s the best part of your job?
Targeting a client and then sealing an order with them. It’s an overwhelming feeling and I feel very lucky every time.
And the worst? The travelling. Going from one time zone to another, I lose track of the time and it takes me forever to get back into the right zone when home.
If you were given £1m tomorrow, how would you spend it?
I’d get Morgan Freeman to sit in a giant armchair covered in blue Swarovski crystals and read me bedtime stories every night!