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Nicky Santomauro

Lavenham’s managing director tells Graeme Moran about taking a careful approach to collaborations and overseas expansion.

What can we expect from Lavenham for spring 14?

Lots of new stuff. We’ve realised that with global warming and the ever-changing climates, a quilted jacket works very well for periods during the year when you need a bit of warmth, but there are also times when you need a cover-up
but don’t necessarily need the warmth. So for our men’s collection we’ve taken the wadding out of some of the styles for the first time. We’re also using some nice sanded canvas with colour-woven check linings.

Lavenham has collaborated with lots of great brands including Kenzo, Eley Kishimoto, Hackett and Edwin. What’s next?

We’ve collaborated with YMC for both men’s and women’s for spring 14, which is really exciting. They are a great team to work with and they have put together some really nice twists to our contemporary styles.

Do you think collaborations are important?

I think they are, but you have to be really careful with them. If you do too many, your customer will lose track of who you are. So it’s important to collaborate with the right people and not overdo it.

Which have been your favourites?

Certainly Kenzo because they pursued us quite heavily so that was really exciting. I think my favourite last year was with Joe Casely-Hayford.

You have a big international market in Japan, so is more international expansion on the horizon?

Every three to five years I like to try and look at a new market, so we went to North America and visited [New York trade show] Capsule and found some key customers across both coasts of the US and Canada. To evolve the brand properly in new areas we need to first of all get to the right top stores, and from there it becomes a trickle-down effect. All the stores on the next tier down look to the top and the market starts growing.

After the US?

Then it’s China, which I’m quite nervous about because it has massive potential but you need to get it right. For now I’m just trying to learn everything I can and find the right partner to work with.

What advice would you give to other brands looking at international expansion?

I’d say stay strong to your roots and make sure you find an agent or distributor that gets you and totally gets your brand and understands your philosophy. And don’t expect it to be massive instantly - it needs to be slow and organic because that will keep you there in the long run.

Where do you see the brand in 10 years’ time?

I’d like to see Lavenham expand and wholesaling in a lot more countries. I must be crazy but I’d like to have our own stores too.

It’ll all take some doing but I’d like to. I think it could be a very busy 10 years.

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