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It’s a London thing

Temperley London’s commercial director on the luxury womenswear brand’s spiralling success – and its royal seal of approval.

Temperley London HQ is not at all as ostentatious as you might expect it to be. Where you would imagine to find a cool black sofa, there is a wicker chair, and where you would envisage a sleek, glass-fronted building is, instead, Union Jack-painted brickwork. It’s no wonder the chic but understated Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, is a huge fan.

Over the past couple of years Temperley London has been propelled into the spotlight by the Duchess, one of the most photographed women in the world, who often wears Temperley gowns when attending events from film premieres to tennis matches.

Commercial director Lina Basma says any connection to the Duchess can only be positive for the British brand. “She’s an amazing icon for women and she always looks beautiful. Our customers are proud to be associated with the brand because of her,” says Basma. “What I love about her is that she is a great ambassador for British fashion, which we need more of.”

One contemporary womenswear indie that stocks Temperley London said the brand is a strong seller. “It’s doing really well, and people like [Catherine’s sister] Pippa Middleton are a great advert for it,” she adds.

The duchess is not the only great advocate for British fashion. Since launching at London Fashion Week in 2000, British born and bred Temperley has gone from strength to strength. Creative director and namesake Alice Temperley certainly loves to fly the flag and Basma explains this outward Britishness does wonders for the brand internationally, which she notes is one of the biggest growth areas for the luxury market.

“The climate is challenging but as a brand we are still showing growth,” says Basma. International retail expansion is on the cards, with Temperley scouting out a location for a New York store, while Basma adds that Asia presents a “massive opportunity”, saying that the brand would love to have a Hong Kong store and expand via retail there. Temperley is yet to have any presence in that market but this will change shortly, as the brand has hired an agent to launch an Asian wholesale business.

It is not just the international markets that are bringing success for Temperley. Across the mainline, year-on-year growth is expected to be 10% to 15%, with diffusion label Alice by Temperley expecting 20% to 30% growth.

Etail has reaped further rewards, with online sales trebling over the past six months, fuelled by the performance of Alice by Temperley. The site has been prepped for a revamp in September, and removing Flash from its key shopping areas and combining the collections to create a more user-friendly site has been a reason for the growth, says Basma. She adds: “Also our product has, with the launch of Alice by Temperley [for spring 10], become much more commercial, because we can offer a lower price point and a daywear element. So that’s really driving the web business.”

The brand extension and new product offering has prompted the company to cook up further expansion plans. A new flagship store is first on the agenda, set to open in November on Bruton Street in Mayfair, showcasing the trio of Temperley brands: Temperley London, Alice by Temperley, and Temperley Bridal. The two-floor, 2,500 sq ft store will also house an  appointment-only private shopping area.

Basma cannot expand further on what the store will feature but says it will be the “whole home” of Temperley. “The store is going to be really exciting. All I can tell you is that it’s going to be one of a kind in the whole area,” she says.

“Alice was not interested in doing a clinically white marble store with edgy fixtures. We’re interested in doing a store that people want to come to and hang out in and really enjoy the shopping experience.” Basma says the experience in-store is of upmost importance if retailers and brands want to get shoppers into bricks-and-mortar stores instead of shopping online. “People are going online because the experience [in-store] isn’t pleasant, it isn’t fun and you’re not going to get anything special.

So people aren’t bothering,” she says.

Retail expansion is “key”, Basma adds, with plans for further international flagships and product development. Although a little cagey on discussing the exact plans for Temperley’s product expansion, she flags up accessories as a huge growth area. In May, the company announced it is to launch a new line of scarves. The initial six styles will launch in November but the brand is not stopping there.

“Handbags are definitely on our radar,” she says, with a launch likely in the next couple of years. “It’s a big expansion opportunity but we need to make sure we are ready and we will do it right.”

However, she cautions: “We get asked for them a lot but the handbag world is tough and has been tough throughout the recession. People have only bought into very identifiable brands and have not experimented.”

Basma says menswear will also follow; with men’s knitwear stocked in Temperley’s three stores (in London, Los Angeles and Dubai) selling “phenomenally well”. However, she does not put any timescale on this and says kidswear and homeware will come first.

“We’d love to do kidswear tomorrow,” says Basma. “We are looking at opportunities to collaborate with someone on kidswear, or to license it out. Right now it’s on our list of things to tackle in the next two to three years.”

Basma says she is constantly approached about potential partnerships. Its collaborators include British heritage brand Barbour and department store chain John Lewis. Basma says the Britishness of the two played a part in Temperley deciding to team up with them.

John Lewis head of womenswear Jo Hooper reiterates this: “We share some of the same values of Britishness, quality and quirkiness. We don’t have any other brand like this in-store and it will also mean that Alice can appeal to a wider audience.”

The John Lewis collection, Somerset by Alice Temperley, is exclusive to the retailer and will comprise 60 pieces including a full range of accessories. It will launch across 29 stores and online on September 4, with retail prices ranging from £29 for a scarf, £99 for a day dress to £1,000 for a thick sheepskin coat in seal grey.

Basma speaks animatedly about the John Lewis collaboration: “John Lewis stands for quality and is trusted by everybody in the UK. We all use John Lewis in one way or another and you know it is a fantastic company, has fantastic quality, its customer service is always amazing. We wanted to reach out to a wider audience and I think John Lewis brings that to the table. We want every woman to experience the Temperley world and we felt with John Lewis that was something we could give.”

Alice Temperley has worked closely with the John Lewis team on the collection. “They’ve advised us of their best-selling categories and we’ve designed into those. And they’ve advised us on their best-selling shapes and we’ve designed into those,” says Basma.

She is continually looking at what is selling across the Alice Temperley collections and how they can be more commercial. Michelle Birkins, owner of womenswear indie Michelle B in Barrowford in Lancashire, says: “The collection is getting better each season, and seems to be even more glamorous.”

Basma says in both Temperley’s wholesale and retail arms, best-selling pieces are usually very similar. “It’s rare that a wholesale best-seller doesn’t become a retail best-seller,” she says. “A best-seller is a worldwide best-seller.”

With Basma on board, religiously scouting out the most popular categories and styles, it seems almost certain that Temperley will continue to have a full house of best-sellers.

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