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Project D

The contemporary brand may have a celebrity owner, but business is at the centre of its strategy.

There are few brands that have garnered better publicity than Project D in recent weeks, with co-founder and X-Factor judge Dannii Minogue wearing her creations in front of some 13 million viewers almost every Saturday night.

But far from being a celebrity hobby or one-season wonder, Project D is working hard to build a stockist base of reputable independents and honing designs to meet their demands.

Minogue, along with her business partner Tabitha Somerset Webb - who also has an eponymous accessories brand - defends the brand’s staying power. “This is a brand we still want to have in 20 years - it is where Dannii and I want our careers to end up,” says Somerset Webb.

“For the first two seasons, Dannii and I would sit there designing the collection with ‘L’ plates on,” says Somerset Webb. “Now we have a technical person on board for autumn 11 to help improve the grading and sizing of the collection.”

Autumn 11 is the third season for the brand and, despite its celebrity links and like most start-up brands, there have been teething problems.

The first collection comprised only dresses, but for spring 11 Project D expanded to include separates. But it moved into the category too quickly to “try to please too many people”, so for autumn 11 the brand will have a collection of 18 dresses and just two jackets. Wholesale prices range from £45 to £195.

Project D is best summed up as a day-to-night collection with a heavy slant on feminine and occasion-led styles. The black butterfly crochet dress (pictured) is a key piece for spring 11, as is the one-shoulder ruffle maxi dress (also pictured).

The founding duo met when Minogue went to look at Somerset Webb’s handbag collection to borrow a sample seven years ago, and they both take joint responsibility for the Project D strategy. Somerset Webb has the more hands-on role when it comes to selling and has focused on launching the brand with indies, including designer mini-chain Flannels, The Dressing Room in St Albans and Coco Boutique in Southport. All are still on board for spring 11 after buying into the first collection. Stockists have doubled to 22 for spring 11.

The brand is self-financed by the pair, but Somerset Webb says they have big ambitions. “We were keen to start small and look for investment for expansion, maybe in one or two years. Dannii and I have visions of eventually having a glass-panelled head office overlooking Melbourne [in Australia, Minogue’s homeland],” she smiles. “With a global lifestyle brand encompassing everything from fashion to home and bridal.”

Project D 020 7352 1796

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