Fashion Boutiques: The Backbone of The British Economy

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London Fashion Week 2019 certainly put on a show to remember. The day to day news of the event was all anyone was talking about, and this year’s fashion week is predicted to generate over £100 million in clothing orders. Cha-ching!

Of course, it’s not just about the money. It’s no lie that the world renowned fashion designers, brand ambassadors, models, VIPs, and spans of celebs flock to London Fashion Week to get a first-hand glimpse of the future of fashion and to share it far and wide. Without it, would you even know what today’s latest fashion trend is? I think not! And if you’re scouring the news and social media for updates on the event, remember to keep an eye out for our very own home-grown British fashion designer, Molly Goddard.

What about the little guys though? What about the smaller fashion boutiques and stores in the UK that drive our GDP? It’s safe to say that these boutique brands and stores are the backbone of the British Economy. Think I’m taking it too far? Well think about this, our little fashion sector here in the UK contributes a gobsmacking £32.3 billion to the country’s GDP. Yes, you did read that correctly. And when it comes to jobs, the fashion sector secures over 890,000 jobs for people in the United Kingdom. Bug again we come back to, what about the little guys? The smaller boutique stores that aren’t drumming up the international media coverage that world-class, deep pocketed big brands and designers are? Our team gave some thought as to how we could show our support, and our Little London Fashion Week campaign was born. 

Showcasing Boutique Brands

At SME Loans we come face to face with businesses every day, and talk to entrepreneurs struggling to get their businesses off the ground for one reason: funding. Too many business owners have had negative experiences obtaining High Street bank loans but there are alternative funding options out there. 

For our Little London Fashion Week, we chose 5 UK-based boutique brands to provide inspiration to the entrepreneurial fashion community. Founder of Alice & Blair Deirdre O’Flynn’s sentiment resonated with what we are trying to achieve, ‘funding is a major barrier, even for successful small businesses, which is a great shame given how many touch points we have in the economy and how many jobs we create! There are some really interesting solutions beginning to be offered in the fintech space which should help lots more businesses like ours grow, so hopefully this opens up more opportunities for others to create beautiful products and of course opportunities’.  

Little London Fashion Week

So, while the world watches with eyes glued to television sets drinking in the visuals of the 2019 London Fashion Week event and its 250 exhibitors, we would like to present to you our 5 local showcases for our #LittleLdnFashionWeek campaign.

Day one saw us speak to Jennifer Bailey, founder of Calla Shoes. Jennifer designs and manufactures a range of shoes specifically for people suffering from bunions. In our interview, Jennifer speaks about the challenges of starting her own business, the fear of her product being rejected, and how surprised she is to see how much it costs to grow a business, even if the product range is already successful. 

Another business that caught our eye was that of Careaux, run by two Sisters, Laura and Rachel Beattie. This company’s story inspired us as it was their Grandma who sparked an interest in their design idea. The Careaux Concept is one where every woman can find a garment that perfectly suits her body proportions, by matching top and bottom sections by means of hidden zippers. You have to see it to believe it. The sisters talk of their love of fashion and maths, and give a bit of insight into how they funded their idea on Kickstarter. 

On the third day we showcased Doc Cotton, another success story that we felt worthy of a Little London Fashion Week 2019 mention! Doc Cotton is a unique garment production house in that it makes up its own range, produces ranges for other designers, and can even produce custom pieces for end user customers. The company offers discounts on future orders when clothing is returned for upcycling. In our interview with the CEO, James Pickard, he spoke about his passion for making sustainable clothing.

As previously mentioned, we also chatted to Diedre O’Flynn about her Gossip Girl inspired head band brand, Alice & Blair. In our interview we go intohow she manages to juggle a full time job whilst growing hair accessory business. Diedre provides insight into taking it slow and watching the business grow at a steady pace. 

Last but not least, we spoke to Jane Asple of Emma by Jane who tells us about pitching her jewellery business idea on Ireland’s Dragon’s Den and actually being awarded funding, only to turn it down after giving it much thought. This is a great read for someone who is unsure about investors or angel investors providing them with start-up capital. To learn more about how Jane funded her business, read her interview here.

That’s a Wrap (for now)

That’s all we have to show you from Little London Fashion 2019 for now! At SME Loans we don’t just want to provide loans and funding to entrepreneurs. We take pride in offering industry advice and support to growing UK businesses. We believe that sustainable boutique brands are the future, and whilst London Fashion Week 2019 contenders are worthy of praise, the ‘little guys’ deserve our attention too.