As Drapers launches the ninth 30 Under 30 search for the fashion retail industry’s brightest rising stars, we revisit an alumna to find out how she has grown her brand since being recognised by the initiative in 2014.
Jade Holland Cooper is the brains and driving force behind luxury lifestyle label Holland Cooper. She started the business in 2008 aged just 21 and was named one of Drapers’ 30 Under 30 young names to know in 2014. The brand has been stocked in Harrods since 2012 and has been spotted on famous faces including David Beckham and Zara Tindall. Here Cooper talks to Drapers about being part of 30 Under 30, how to grow a brand without a business partner and supporting UK manufacturing.
How has the brand changed since you first started?
The brand has grown up a lot. I started it when I was at agricultural college because I was going to country events and there was nothing to wear. Everyone wore the same jacket, almost like a uniform. As we’ve grown, it’s become about more than just countrywear, and Holland Cooper is now a full luxury lifestyle brand. (Prices range from £35 for a cable-knit bobble hat to £5,000 for a cashmere cape.)
We’re about to launch our first Holland Cooper standalone store in Edinburgh as a franchise and are looking to add more locations over the next six months. Like-for-like sales are up 150% on last year and we moved into our custom-built headquarters in the Cotswolds in April. We’re also just about to double the size of our Harrods concession to 1,000 sq ft.
What has being in Drapers’ 30 Under 30 meant?
It was great to be included and to be recognised for what I do. The 30 Under 30 project highlights the talent in this business and demonstrates young people achieving things, which is so important. We have to show young talent that, if you’re driven, you can succeed. You bump into so many people who have seen Drapers’ coverage and say, “Oh, I remember you from 30 Under 30.” It’s an accolade and a recognition of what Holland Cooper has achieved.
What challenges have you faced?
The hardest part is juggling the design with business and being commercial. I am very business minded. Yes, I want to create a beautiful collection, but it has to sell. It is hard, and I’m learning all the time. Every day I do things I’ve never done before, and the buck stops with me, whether it is HR, business plans or franchising.
Why champion British manufacturing?
I was passionate about British-made product anyway and, as a luxury brand, we are at a price point that means we can make in the UK. We use five factories in London, Milton Keynes and Suffolk, three of which we dominate now. Customers want to understand the origin of a product.
It’s been a learning curve. When you first start it’s difficult to find the right mills and the right factories, but you have to keep asking and keep hammering on doors. There’s huge talent in UK manufacturing, but we need more young people coming into the business. The openings in areas such as pattern cutting are unbelievable.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you started?
What you have to do in this business is learn from your mistakes, learn very quickly and never make them again. It’s important to understand what you’re good at and if you’re not good at something, quickly get someone in who is. At the start, we probably took on too many opportunities because it was so exciting and things were coming from every angle. Now, we’re much more considered.