How 6 fashion businesses have adapted to lockdown
- Credit: Archant
From jewellery makers to independent boutiques and Royal favourites, we find out the creative ways in which the local fashion industry has adapated during lockdown.
Whale of a Time Clothing
Ellie Wales, is founder and designer of Whale of a Time Clothing, which is based at West Acre, near Swaffham. Ellie began the label while studying design in sixth form. Combining a flair for fashion with an entrepreneurial spirit, Ellie’s first sweatshirt was inspired by a retro design. Designed in-house and manufactured in the UK, the brand is sold at shows across the country, is a favourite of many influencers and has frequently been worn on TV by Made in Chelsea cast members.
Ellie says that during lockdown they have continued to focus on social media to connect with people.
“We have tried to keep the running of the business as normal as we can,” says Ellie. “Our marketing and customer service teams are working from home so our usual day to day work continues. We have really focused on social media to continue to connect with our customers and potential customers which has worked really well. I continue to go into the office by myself and pack the huge volume of orders that come in each day which is definitely keeping me busy!
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“The only challenge we have had is getting our new Spring Summer 2020 collection and restock. We are so proud that each and every one of our pieces are designed in Norfolk and made in four artisan factories across Britain. This did, however, mean that one of the most significant implications of Covid-19 was the closing of their factories when the UK went into lockdown, which saw production of our SS20 collection put on hold.
“As an independent brand, we’re so fortunate to be able to work with our makers, to adapt our strategy in response to the restrictions, with the aim of getting back to manufacturing as quickly and safely as possible. This approach enabled our first SS20 collection drop to arrive just in time for customers to enjoy throughout the summer months.
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“During the three-week isolation period, the factory managers created a safe and protected working environment to enable workers to return to the factory. Machines were moved to be at least two metres apart and teams have been put on shift rotas to ensure minimum amount of people are present at any one time. This does mean the manufacturing process is much slower, hence the collection will be dropping in stages, and with smaller product runs.
“I’m incredibly grateful to our loyal customers for their continued support during this difficult time, and so pleased to be able to launch these new pieces, which I hope will bring a little colour and comfort to people at this time.”
Click here for the website.
Fairfax and Favor
Co-founded by Marcus Fairfax Fountaine and Felix Favor Parker, the growing shoes and accessories brand Fairfax and Favor is based at Narford Hall near Swaffham. They’ve built up a following at country shows and sporting events around the country and last year opened their first boutique, at Holt.
With the store closed and the summer events calendar cancelled, the pair has ‘amplified’ their presence on social media to stay connected to their customer base.
“As a brand we have always been vocal and approachable on our social media platforms but during this current situation we have tried to amplify this further still. Now more than ever we are constantly staying in contact with our audience and as such, have loved seeing the community of our brand grow and an example of this would be our hugely popular Club Page on Facebook,” says Marcus.
“In terms of the day to day running, we have an incredible dedicated team at HQ who are abiding by lockdown rules and social distancing whilst continuing to work tirelessly to keep the ship moving and getting all orders out,” says Felix.
When it comes to challenges during lockdown, they agree that it has mainly been communication.
“Creativity has actually increased because we are having to think on our feet and come up with new ways to engage our audiences – it’s certainly been a shakeup, but for the best, and we’ve learnt lessons we can employ and build upon moving forward,” says Marcus.
When it comes to what has been popular during lockdown, they says they have found that despite holidays shaping up to be very different this summer, customers do seem to be looking forward to the warmer weather.
“The espadrilles have been so popular,” says Felix. “It’s nice to have a summer collection that is relaxed, with pieces that customers can look forward to wearing around the house and in the garden, even if we can’t escape on holiday.”
Click here for the website.
Based in the Norwich Lanes, specialist lifestyle boutique Mod One is run by David Hanton. When full lockdown came, the challenge was to stay connected with the Pottergate shop’s enthusiastic community of Mod afficionados.
“Having that space for customers to come in, chat with our staff, try things on and talk about all things Mod is so important, as we’re a community as much as we are a shop, and our customers are also our friends,” says David. “Luckily we already had a healthy social media presence which has been a life-saver, and our sales assistant, Susie, has been continually updating our Facebook and Instagram with images of stock that can be bought online, our general news and thoughts and sharing news about the Mod scene in general.
“We have been encouraging people to send in photos of the shop taken during their daily exercise which has proved very popular and has been lovely to see. We are also running a competition involving people sending in photos of themselves wearing Mod One purchases, which we’re sharing on social media, and our favourites will win gift vouchers.”
And with it being announced that shops can re-open from June 15, the focus is now on working towards welcoming customers back, safely.
“At the moment we’re just planning for the immediate future by thinking about when we can re-open safely and give our customers the confidence to return,” says David. “Like everyone else, we realise that things won’t be the same, but we’re confident that our customers will continue to support us, and Mod One will be able to adapt and thrive.”
Click here for the website.
Wake Up Little Susie
Susie Pritchard runs vintage clothing company Wake Up Little Susie. She has a collection at the Vintage Hub in St Benedict’s Street in Norwich and would usually be seen at vintage events and markets around the county.
“Selling vintage clothing for me has been in the main, a very hands on experience, with the buzz and sociability of chatting to customers and fellow enthusiasts at vintage fairs and events being one of the main reasons that I wanted to make it my living. Of course, from a customer point of view, seeing items of clothing in the flesh and having the option to try them on and chat with the retailer about the history of the piece is a big part of vintage shopping. So, with all that gone for the time being, thank goodness for the internet. Luckily I have been using social media quite a lot anyway and have an online shop, so my main change has been to use the internet more. I have upped my Facebook and Instagram activity, which is a great way to interact with customers, share images of new stock, post news updates and generally let them know how I’m feeling. It has been a good opportunity to fill up my Etsy shop and start to update and revitalise my website, which is still a work in progress.
“The biggest challenge has been losing all physical outlets. Luckily, we’re a creative bunch and the vintage fair organisers have been trying to find solutions to help both traders and customers as well as keeping their own businesses afloat, I took part in the first Virtual Little Vintage Lover Fair, which should have been held at Mannington Hall, which was great fun. I set up my stall in the garden and posted stock on Instagram all day.
“I’m confident that I will be able to keep my business going and I will continue to love what I do in the future, but I can’t deny the huge feeling of uncertainty as to what that future will look like.”
Click here for the website.
One of a Kind Club
Carol Robinson runs Norwich-based jewellery brand One of a Kind Club, which she launched last year. With the makers’ markets where she would usually be found selling her empowering designs off for now, she’s been stepping out of her comfort zone and connecting via Instagram Live and has found the small business community to be hugely supportive.
“Although I have my online shop and social media channels, which continue to be busy, I loved launching and participating at local makers’ markets as I enjoy chatting to customers and getting real interaction. In the new normal of the virtual world, I’ve been doing lots more Instagram Lives – always with bold earrings in, and occasionally with a child appearing! Having worked in advertising and marketing for a long time, this has made me step out of my comfort zone as I’m used to being behind the camera not in front of it.
Carol says that small businesses have been rallying round to support each other.
“The biggest difference is that markets have gone virtual. I’ve done more than 10 in the last few weeks, and I would never have been able to do that in normal life physically, and it’s been amazing to see all the fab market stalls from people’s lounges, gardens, bedrooms and even from their baths.
“I have a six year old and one year old to try and keep in the same room while I run the business around them, but it’s about organisation and flexibility which is luckily one of my strengths.
“Another challenge is not wanting to be ‘salesly’ but having to be. My jewellery is about feeling good, so I’ve always used that in my messaging and continue to do so. I realise not everyone can buy at the moment, but if I inspire confidence through my brand then that’s an achievement alone.”
See @oneofakindclub on Facebook or Instagram or click here for the website.
Hicks and Brown
Sisters Alice Leet-Cook and Rosie Turner set up accessories brand Hicks and Brown in 2014, with a focus on millinery: their Suffolk Fedora has been worn by the Duchess of Cambridge. During lockdown, social media has enabled them to keep in touch with customers – but they’ve also noticed the phone making a comeback.
“We recently ran a “Thinking of you” competition on Facebook, followers simply had to tag the name of a person they were missing to let them know they were thinking of them. The prize was an item of choice from our collection posted directly to their friend to make them smile. We received so many entries, lots writing such lovely messages about their friends and why they deserved to win,” says Alice.
“Our phone line is also very much open and we’ve found an increase in orders being processed this way, it’s been lovely to be able to have longer conversations with customers who have really welcomed a friendly chat,” adds Rosie.
The sisters usually attend many events throughout the year with their pop-up shop and they are also stocked in more 80 independent shops.
“As you can imagine this has proved a big challenge but we are thankful that customers are online shopping and coming direct to us more than ever,” says Rosie.
“Retail therapy appears to be playing a big part in making people feel good. Our Summer Fedoras are proving really popular at the moment. We’ve been lucky to have some good weather over the last couple of months and our customers appear to be ordering them to enjoy wearing in their gardens or on their walk for the day,” says Alice.
Click here for the website.