Honey Birdette founder Eloise Monaghan thought “I could do better” when she saw lingerie in a store, and is proving her point with her rapidly expanding brand.
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Luxury lingerie brand Honey Birdette operates more than 50 stores in its native Australia and, since last summer, three in the UK. Founder Eloise Monaghan talks to Drapers about what sets it apart and her ambitious plans to grow sales in the UK and break into Europe.
Why did you start Honey Birdette?
After working in London for several years, I returned home to Australia. I was shopping for a hen do and I went into a [lingerie and sex toy] store and just thought, I could do this better. I went out for dinner that night and came up with the concept, and Honey Birdette was born. I almost forgot the name the next day because of too much champagne, but three months later we had stock arriving. I didn’t know anything about running my own business – it’s been a very steep learning curve.
Why chose the UK for your first international location?
I felt like I knew this market better and provocative lingerie has always been part of the UK’s culture. The UK fits with our brand – it’s lingerie that’s designed to be seen. We can see it with the sales: the styles that do well here are quite provocative. There are things about operating here that we don’t have to think about in Australia, such as making sure the changing rooms are warm enough, but we’re getting stronger week on week.
How does Honey Birdette differ from other lingerie brands?
If you go into any Honey Birdette store, we have a really firm signature. We look to the fashion shows and catwalks, rather than other lingerie brands. An upcoming piece has been inspired by 1990s Versace. When you’re flipping through a magazine, you want something to stop you in your tracks or else there’s no point, and that’s how I feel about lingerie.
What has been the biggest lesson in running the brand for 10 years?
There have certainly been times I’ve thought: “Oh my god, what have I done?” When we started, we were selling other brands. They were big labels, but it wasn’t the product we wanted and the wholesalers were the ones making the money, so we learnt the power of going vertical very quickly. The biggest learning has got to be that product is king. If it’s not 100% perfect, customers will go to the high street and buy something for £5.
Why is it important to react quickly to trends?
Not having a new collection out every week can really hurt us in terms of sales, which is funny when you look back to people doing bi-annual or seasonal collections. We’ve banned the words “on trend” in the office – we need to be ahead of the trends. There are no longer ongoing collections within the business and we try not to repeat products. Retail has changed and I’m not sure lingerie has kept up.
Where next for Honey Birdette?
We launched a North American website in May, which is going gangbusters. Eventually we’d like to have 20 stores in the UK and 20 across Europe. We think Germany is probably the next big market for us – our German market online is very strong.
Why the UK is the right market for Honey Birdette