The founder and creative director of eponymous swimwear brand Emma Pake talks taking the plunge to launch her business and putting her expertise as a swimwear buyer to a brand new test.
Emma Pake co-founded her eponymous luxury swimwear brand with her boyfriend in 2015, having studied fashion at Central Saint Martins and built a career as a luxury swimwear and lingerie buyer with Net-a-Porter and Selfridges. With a focus on bold prints and bright colours, the range is now stocked by Selfridges and Bergdorf Goodman in the US, and is launching in Harvey Nichols in May. She spoke to Drapers about taking the plunge, and how she navigated the shift from buying to design.
Your background is in buying. Why did you decide to move into design?
I have been a creative soul since I was a little girl. Whether it was baking with my mum or mastering the art of cross-stitch, I have always had a passion to create. Having trained at Central Saint Martins, it wasn’t so much a move over to design as a return to something I loved. My boyfriend and I had dreamed of having our own business, and the more we thought about it, the more it made sense to build on my experience and passion for the category in which I was immersed. During a new year’s break in the sun, we decided to pool our savings, take the leap and create something together.
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What were some of the most important things you carried over from buying into design?
I needed to know exactly who my customer was. Where did she shop? Where did she holiday? Which brands did she already buy? This helped focus every aspect of the brand, especially product and pricing. I then needed to focus on creating something unique. I needed to create a collection that was instantly recognisable as ours.
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What challenges did you face when setting up the brand?
Getting out of the buyer mindset was challenging. Although I had a clear vision of what I wanted the brand to be, going from buyer to designer was difficult. At the start, I had to ignore the commercial formulas I knew so well, and focus on making decisions based on my vision for our brand and customer.
Is there anything you miss from the world of buying?
I miss choosing product. At Selfridges, I bought more than 100 brands across swimwear, lingerie, nightwear and hosiery, so I was buying all year round. I loved discovering new talent, nurturing brands and watching them grow. It’s like Christmas every day when you walk on to the shop floor: seeing the styles that you’ve bought – sometimes up to a year in advance – arriving, and getting excited all over again.
How do you keep yourself motivated?
It can be difficult as there’s so much to do and it can be overwhelming. I’m in a constant state of feeling both excited and unsure, which can be exhausting. I have a wire-bound “things to do today” book that I use every day. It’s really satisfying ticking off the check boxes when I’ve finished things. The creative process is almost impossible to place a timeframe on and I have to remind myself to stay relaxed. Things are not always going to go to plan and you need a clear head to allow you to think on your feet and find solutions.
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What’s the best business advice you’ve ever been given?
Have integrity in all aspects of your business. From your designs to your voice, and your packaging to your brand assets – everything should be in harmony, and reinforce your vision and values.
Tell us something about you not many people know
Rumour has it, my parents named me after Emma Peel from The Avengers.
Favourite clothing brand
Favourite places to shop
Net-a-Porter, Selfridges, Zara. For gifts, I love Etsy
Last fashion purchase
Acne Jensen boots
Brunch with friends, enjoying the wonders of London or heading out to the countryside with my boyfriend to take in the fresh air on a long walk
Porto Heli, Greece
Last book you read?
The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Last film you watched?