The co-founder of Skinnydip London on how his accessory brand has turned the humble phone case into a fashion must-have.
James Gold founded accessories brand Skinnydip London in 2011 with his brother and his best friend. The brand’s fun and innovative phone cases and quirky bags soon caught on and are now sold in more than 100 concession stores in 60 countries around the world, including Topshop and Asos.com, as well through flagship stores at Foubert’s Place near London’s Carnaby Street and Gatwick airport’s North Terminal.
Can you tell me a bit about your background?
I grew up in London and went to Birmingham University, where I studied law. Not the most typical route into fashion.
What sparked your initial interest in the industry?
My family have been in clothing manufacturing for two generations and I always liked the idea of working in an industry where creativity was encouraged. My father has been in the fashion industry his whole life. His company, Jon Adam, designs and manufacturers women’s and children’s clothing for high street retailers. Being able to benefit from his knowledge and experience in the industry has been integral to the growth of Skinnydip
Why did you decide to launch Skinnydip?
Skinnydip London was launched in 2011 stemming from a casual conversation between myself, my brother and best friend. It was around the time Apple had just realised the original iPhone and the three of us couldn’t understand why the only cases you could find were either black, white or grey. There was nothing different to accessorise your iPhone with and we believed there was a real gap in the market in making tech fashionable and selling to high street fashion retailers. Our design studio is based in Wembley and our showroom is based in Foubert’s Place, central London.
What’s it like working with the other co-founders?
It’s great. I never have that Sunday night feeling because I work with my two closest friends. Richard [Gold’s brother] heads up all our retail concessions while Lewis [Blitz, Gold’s best friend] is the most creative and a brilliant problem solver. I’ve always enjoyed making sales so look after this side along with exploring new business opportunities.
How would you describe the Skinnydip aesthetic?
Skinnydip London has pinpointed a niche in the marketplace by creating innovative product and reacting fast to emerging trends without losing our unique perspective. We’ve taken classic accessory styles and have made them fun and interesting, which I think our customers have identified with. [Wholesale prices range from £5 to £10 for phone cases, while bags range from £15 to £20.]
What do you think makes Skinnydip so popular?
The strength of our designs, continuously innovating new products and being fast moving and reactive all plays a huge part. I also firmly feel the passion and enthusiasm of the whole Skinnydip London team massively helps drive the business forward day to day
What does it mean to you to have launched a flagship store?
It really is a dream come true. The Carnaby estate is iconic and I’m very proud to see Skinnydip sitting alongside some major brands. The idea of our store is to make it a London destination and we want to offer anyone walking through the doors the best possible shopping experience. I would hope that over the next couple of years you see more Skinnydip stores in major cities around the world.
What’s the best thing about your job?
I don’t think I will ever tire of seeing someone wearing one of our bags or cases. It’s such a great feeling.
And the worst?
Trying to find that perfect work/life balance is hard. Skinnydip takes up my whole week with hours around the clock. Finding time to switch off completely hasn’t happened for five years yet.
What’s been the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
We’ve been fortunate enough to meet with some incredibly successful businessmen over the past few years. They have all given us invaluable advice, but have been unanimous on advising us to focus heavily on our products and making them as amazing as possible, which is what we always try to do. My father has also been integral to our growth. Without his continuous support, encouragement and most importantly advice, Skinnydip would never have got off the ground.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Seeing our concession business grow with Topshop has been amazing. We started our first one less than two years ago and now have over 100. That and the two stores we have opened this year at Gatwick airport and Foubert’s Place have been pretty special for me.
What’s next for Skinnydip?
Our aim is to expand internationally and we hope to open a US office by the end of this year with plans to expand the brand in America. We also see a large number of Japanese visitors on our website so Japan is a country we have our eye on expanding into.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Spending time with family and friends is always lovely. However, the thing I enjoy doing most at the moment is standing opposite our store watching customers enter and walk out with a Skinnydip bag. It’s honestly the best feeling in the world.