Watch and accessories label Abbott Lyon recently launched a womenswear range. Founder and managing director Jezz Skelton tells Drapers why the brand is branching out.
Somerset-based watch brand Abbott Lyon unveiled its debut womenswear collection last month. The 26-piece autumn 18 collection, which includes tops, bottoms, playsuits, jackets and coats, is sold exclusively through its own website. Described as sophisticated but with a party-girl edge, the collection claims to offer “the complete luxe look” for less than £200. Retail prices range from £24 for a camisole to £79 for the Alexa blazer.
Drapers catches up with founder Jezz Skelton to find out more about the brand’s history, and the move into clothing.
What inspired you to launch Abbott Lyon in 2015?
I started an online direct-to-consumer brand called Mango Bikes in 2012 while studying business management and marketing at Swansea University. It sold quality bikes at half the normal price. After winning the BBC Three show Be Your Own Boss later that year, the company thrived, but I left in 2015. I felt there was a gap in the market for selling fashionable watches to women online, with the luxury appeal of big names like Michael Kors or Chanel.
Where did the name come from?
A friend who worked in a nursery school told me about a boy who sounded super-dapper – he had little suede Chelsea boots, a Ralph Lauren shirt and a charming personality. Although he was just four, it sounded like he had an amazing attitude, and that became inspiration for the brand. It’s based on his name.
Where are the watches stocked?
We’re stocked online at River Island, Topshop, and House of Fraser, and we have concessions in five House of Fraser stores across the country. Our focus is to be the best digital brand we can be – wholesale makes up about 5% of our business.
Why launch womenswear?
We noticed how saturated the market is with cheap fast fashion, and saw a gap for a brand to deliver clothes that have a luxury feel, are good quality and stylish, while remaining at an accessible price point. That’s where Abbott Lyon comes in – we want women to be able to achieve “the complete luxe look” from jewellery and watches to well-tailored longline blazers, so they can turn up for an occasion in a whole outfit that feels special, but costs less than £200.
What inspired the “complete luxe look” concept?
We listened a lot to what our customers and followers on social were saying. From the beginning, whenever we put up one of our styled images we were bombarded with questions about where the bracelet was from or what brand handbag they were wearing, to where they could buy the whole outfit.
We saw there was a real love for shopping a whole curated look. We have a talented team of women who have worked in fashion for years and are experts in styling. So, we introduced “complete the luxe look” to allow our customer to shop everything we had styled for them, from the outfit to the handbag and the matching rose gold watch, giving them the feeling of a luxury personal shopping experience for less.
Who is the target customer for clothing?
Our womenswear collection is built around our current demographic, which is an aspirational hard-working young woman aged 23 to 35, who looks up to designer brands and trend-setting celebrities or bloggers. She’s always got her eye on the latest must-have styles.
How often are you planning to bring out new collections?
We’ve started out with a broad test of styles we think reflect the Abbott Lyon woman, and we will bring out new shapes for each season.
How will you develop the clothing range and brand?
We want to perfect our brand and attain global recognition. We have big plans, but they lie in becoming a household brand that women recognise. We’d love to have a store, or even a few of them. We’ve dabbled in pop-ups and concessions, so now we’re looking for the right location to launch our own physical shop. Wholesale is still of interest, but it is important that we only work with a small number of high-performing partners.
How is Abbott Lyon currently performing?
The company has been trading for just over three years and has doubled every year, while maintaining a strong EBITDA each season. We have noticed a slight slowdown in the UK market, but that seems to be the case across the board. Overall, we are still growing very quickly, and our focus is global. This year we are on track to double again and I have every confidence we will continue to do so going forwards.
It’s been a difficult time, especially as Abbott Lyon had such quick growth in the first five test stores. Off the back of that success we had planned to roll out into a further 20 stores by now. However, we’re not sure exactly what’s going on and have put everything on hold for the time being.
We appreciate it has been a tough time and, to be honest, they have tried to look after us, although like many other suppliers we won’t get paid for quite a large chunk of sales, which obviously isn’t ideal. Mike Ashley clearly knows how to build and run a profitable retail operation, so we will have to sit tight and see what he comes up with.