Laura Weir asks Sarah Walter (right) and Sam Jones about their premium womenswear site Style-Passport, which launches next month
Style-Passport (www.style-passport.com) is aimed at the niche, holidaywear market. What is the website’s potential and why did you opt for a web proposition after more than 10 years’ working for high street chains?
Sarah Walter: It is an unexplored niche that is scalable. Holidays are to do with good times. The [business] plans are fairly aggressive and incredibly achievable.
£1 in every £20 is spent online and, in 2020, this is expected to increase to £1 in £5. You just have to look at the figures to see that [traditional] retail is stagnant, or increasing marginally. My children can make a computer pirouette and that is the future.
When exactly does the site launch, and why launch it now?
SW: March 8. I’ve wanted my own business since my 20s. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and regret not having done it. It’s the icing on the cake.
Sarah, you spent nine years at New Look as head of fashion communications and you pioneered the idea of high street chains collaborating with celebrities on product design. What was that like?
SW: The high street stuff taught me about retail. I loved New Look. I used to stand in the shop and get a frisson of excitement when customers would buy the collections. Seeing people purchase things you’ve created is intoxicating.
I started my career at Vogue and it was all about the supermodels. Putting that with the high street experience - well, one informs the other.
Which part of setting up a business have you found toughest? SW: The energy of setting up a business is tough. Receipts, VAT, the premises, the alarms, distribution - it’s not fun and creative, it’s pretty overwhelming.
Sam, you bought footwear for Pied a Terre in your previous role. What has the transition between buying shoes and buying clothes been like?
Sam Jones: Really easy, and really natural. It felt so normal and it’s the same set-up - margins, agents, salespeople. There is an element of learning for us all as we’re starting from scratch, so it will be interesting when we start seeing trading figures coming through.
Which brands are you most excited about getting on board for the first season?
SJ: I’m really excited about French womenswear label Ero - it’s such a nice surprise. It’s cool and not found in too many places. We’ve all got our personal shopping lists already written out at head office.
Which is your favourite shop and why?
SW: Tom’s Dock in Ladbroke Grove, west London, because everything Tom designs or chooses for this shop should be in my home.
Who inspires you?
SW: My husband [GQ editor Dylan Jones], my parents, the Style-Passport advisory board [which includes former New Look chairman Phil Wrigley] - sensational people who get the balance right.
What was the last thing you bought?
SJ: We both went Acne mad the other day. We bought some denim shorts, Sarah bought a jacket and I bought a little silk tank top.
Where is your favourite holiday destination?
SW: Baros in The Maldives (pictured) and Wales. The Maldives because it is the most beautiful place in the world and the fish are astonishing. Wales because our cottage there is ‘home’.
Sarah Walter and Sam Jones are founder and managing director, and managing director respectively of premium womenswear etailer Style-Passport