Drapers speaks to former fashion editor and co-founder of young fashion ecommerce site Own The Look, Olivia Cantillon, about “outfit dressing” and the pursuit of newness.
A former fashion editor at Hello! magazine, Olivia Cantillon founded womenswear ecommerce site Own The Look in March 2017, born of a desire to create a platform built around “outfit dressing”.
Focusing on under-the-radar brands such as Aeryn, English Factory and Stay Sunny Chicago, the site stocks more than 40 brands and offers worldwide delivery.
Price points range from £9.99 for earrings to £385 for a metallic leather jacket.
Having experienced record sales in March, in April, the site launched a crowdfunding initiative, which surpassed its target of £175,000 within two weeks of launching. At the time of writing the fund sits at 132% of its target having raised more than £230,000.
What did you do before starting Own The Look?
My background has always been in fashion. Straight after I finished fashion school [studying styling and buying at the Fashion Retail Academy] I started interning at fashion magazines and I got my first job as a fashion assistant at Star magazine.
I worked my way up to deputy fashion editor and then moved to Hello! Middle East as its fashion and beauty editor. From there I worked across a selection of monthly magazines as an in-house stylist.
Why did you decide to launch the business?
My day job was to create aspirational looks for glossy magazine spreads, but I never felt this fashion-forward ethos of styling made its way into multi-branded ecommerce. I wanted to transition my skills into a digital business and build a platform that made outfit dressing easy – we launched the business in March 2017.
How did you get started and were there any unexpected challenges?
We spent a year in research before launching and this period of learning was invaluable. Although it felt like we had a very large mountain to climb as we were starting something from scratch, it gave me the time to understand every aspect of the business I was building.
One of the biggest challenges throughout this period was getting people, suppliers and the industry to believe in “just another online start-up”. In such a saturated market, I had to make people believe in not only me, but in the niche of the business we were yet to create.
How would you describe the business?
We’re making outfit dressing our focus and doing it with brands that don’t yet have a heavy UK presence. We’re able to be an introducer and be a voice for not only what to wear, but how to wear it.
Our USP is that we provide a two-click process to “owning the look”, whereby our customers can browse through the site and buy a head-to-toe look in two quick clicks.
These looks are trend-led and give an alternative offering when it comes to traditional ecommerce styling. I strive for Own The Look to be an ecommerce platform that goes beyond individual products and has a stylistic offering at its core.
What do you look for in the brands you stock?
There are three main factors that I consider when on-boarding a new brand. First, the brand’s aesthetic. Although we are a multi-branded platform, it’s vital that each brand fits within the overarching brand we’ve created.
Second is price point. And third is where else the brand is stocked. Finding brands that are new to the UK market is where we drive our brand research and focus.
Do you go to trade shows?
Absolutely. As we are searching for such niche brands, it’s key that we have feet on the ground to discover new talent. We attend as many global trade shows as we can. I find shows in Copenhagen, Paris and Madrid deliver a great selection of new brands. The US shows are so valuable for the scale of offering they deliver.
What is the latest brand you’ve discovered?
Our newest is UK brand, See You Never. It launched this year and it totally embodies optimism and playfulness delivered through a collection of elevated everyday wardrobe essentials – everything we stand for at Own The Look.
How do you keep yourself motivated and creative?
It’s fairly easy to stay motivated when you’re doing what you love. Don’t get me wrong: there are times when I’m head deep in numbers and it’s not always enjoyable. But Own The Look was built on passion and knowing that I’ve created something that enables me to do what I love each day is an achievement. My drive to stay ahead of the curve is what keeps me creative and always wanting to deliver something new.
Is there anyone in the industry you particularly admire?
There are so many. I particularly aspire to women that have once been in my shoes: [Net-a-Porter founder] Dame Natalie Massenet, [Matchesfashion co-founder] Ruth Chapman, [Ann Summers founder] Jacqueline Gold and [Avenue 32 founder] Roberta Benteler are just a few women that have inspired me throughout their business journeys.
What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?
My dad has always told me that nothing worth having comes easy, and the journey to success is never straight. I’m a self-confessed perfectionist and I’ve had to quickly learn that there will be highs and lows, not in only business but in life.
I live by the saying: “A strong woman looks a challenge in the eye and gives it a wink” and believe the journey is just as important as the finish line.
Favourite clothing brand
Cubic at Own The Look!
Favourite places to shop
I’m a Zara girl. I also love the US site Pixie Market.
Last fashion purchase
Oversized, jewelled earrings
Last book you read
#Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso
Last film you watched
Den of Thieves (my fiancé made me!)
Sales assistant at Miss Selfridge
An FBI agent
What would we find you doing at the weekend?
Eating popcorn at the Everyman cinema