Cassie Holland has taken quirky British knitwear brand Hades from a hobby to an award-winning international business
Irreverent slogans and bright, bold colours – magenta, tangerine, scarlet and sky blue – make Hades a knitwear brand with a difference. Once a hobby for its founder, Cassie Holland, the British label has slowly gained a following among stylish shoppers in the know since it launched in 2015, and is now poised to ramp up international expansion.
“Hades has come from really small beginnings,” Holland tells Drapers. “I started making jumpers just for myself and my friends as a creative project, and got a really good reaction. So, I started calling around knitwear manufacturers in Scotland until I found someone prepared to make a tiny run of 32 jumpers.
“I set up an Instagram account for the brand and we started to be followed by some influential people in the fashion industry, such as buyers and bloggers, and it exploded from there.”
Hades will not reveal precise sales figures, but says it has doubled its direct ecommerce sales “over the past 12 months” compared with the previous year. Its jumpers are all made from either lambswool or merino wool and retail for £160. It declines to reveal wholesale prices.
Its pieces are still manufactured in knitwear hub Hawick, in the Scottish Borders, and Holland believes that decision is a boon for the brand: “Producing in Scotland means we can be incredibly flexible. We can do shorter runs relatively quickly, and we can also produce exclusive colourways for our stockists. There are smaller minimums in Scotland than there would be if we were manufacturing abroad.”
Holland’s design influences are broad, varied and undeniably quirky. Previous collections have been sparked by rock bands, song-writers and authors including Virginia Woolf.
The autumn 18 “Iconoclast” collection celebrates rebellion and subversion. Slogans reading “Female trouble”,“Cynic” and “Cultural chaos” in bold fonts sit against block-colour backgrounds.
“Customers like the contrast between the classic style of the knitwear and our bold, fun designs,” Holland explains. “We develop a full concept for each collection. For our Iconoclast collection, for example, we have developed four prints that will be gifted to customers when they buy a jumper. We develop the typography for the brand ourselves, and we’re very experimental with our colourways. That’s why our customers are prepared to pay a higher price point.”
Stockists include luxury department store Fortnum & Mason, Bath independent Found, and London independents Diverse and Darling & Gold. So far, the brand has prioritised direct-to-consumer sales, which make up around 75% of its overall business. Holland would like to see the split between own sales and wholesale move closer to 60:40, which she hopes to achieve by targeting larger stockists.
In September, Hades took home the Award for International Fashion Potential from delivery company DHL and the British Fashion Council, which recognises promising British brands and helps them with international growth. Vintage-inspired premium womenswear label Rixo London was the inaugural winner in 2017. Judges, including Drapers editor Keely Stocker, whittled down a list of more than 100 applicants to five finalists, naming Hades as the winner because of its eye-catching designs and “clear and compelling international strategy”.
Hades will use the £20,000 prize from the DHL and BFC award to develop a stronger online offer for international customers, as well as expanding its six-strong team, Holland explains: “We’re investing in the website to make the user experience better for customers from outside of the UK – so, introducing global currencies and speedier delivery internationally, as well as potentially reducing postage costs.”
The US, Australia and Japan have all been targeted as key markets for further expansion for both own sales and wholesale stockists.
“We get a natural uplift in the US because the product resonates with the character, so big cities such as New York are an obvious place to expand,” Holland says. “Australia is another territory we’re exploring. Our product can be seasonal, although we do offer the lighter merino wool in the summer, so Australia’s reverse seasons are interesting for the brand. Japan is another focus, because they love knitwear and they love the brand’s Scottish provenance.”
New product categories are also on the horizon. Holland says Hades will launch it first range of cardigans for autumn 19: “We didn’t want to get distracted until we felt we’d nailed knitwear and jumpers, but we’re at that point now where we can start to offer something new – it’s exciting.”