Anabel Calvo and Ben Bailey, two Londoners with a passion for wearable, functional and timeless clothing, decided to start their own business and opened an online shop in 2016, when they found themselves “tired and fed up with faddy, poorly made garments from unethical high street retailers, we found a lack of online stores offering stylish clothing made right here in the UK.” This marked the beginning of their Studio British webshop that stocks both established names such as Sanders & Sanders, Mackintosh, Gloverall and John Smedley as well as up-and-coming designers such as Genevieve Sweeney, Yull and Baia Bags. They’ve visited factories and seen all the care and attention that goes into each garment made in the UK. Brands available also include Private White V.C., Trickers, Fibre & Hide, Johnstone of Elgin, Pringle of Scotland and Mackintosh. “While many people know about the cobblers in Northampton and the intricate weavers in Scotland, after scratching the surface we found there are hundreds of exciting, skilled and often unheard-of manufacturers based right here in the UK,” they say. “From that moment, we made it our mission to bring these talented people in the British fashion industry all under one roof.”
Anabel Calvo and Ben Bailey recently shared the low-down on the site with us….
You operate a shopping address focusing on British-manufactured fashion. What was your motivation and what is your professional background?
We were motivated to start Studio British because we are both passionate about British manufactured clothing, but were finding it difficult to locate brands we loved in one place. Anabel has a background in helping transform large businesses while I have grown start-ups. Although neither of our backgrounds are in fashion, our joint passion for British brands along with our experience has created a perfect combination to help take British manufacturing mainstream.
Why do you think this is a successful concept?
Historically, Britain has been well regarded in terms of both manufacturing and creativity. However, years of off-shoring in the name of fast fashion has shifted the focus away from those things we are well known for. There is still a huge appetite for British goods across the world, but we do need shine more of a spotlight on our brilliant designers and manufacturers in order to help them to grow.
What is important for you in terms of the shop design, usability and product presentation?
There are lots of interesting things going on with e-commerce in terms of usability. Creating an online experience which takes the best of offline, such a efficient dispatch, sizing help and store flow are all important. For us, as we are selling luxury products at a premium price point, we want the experience to match. This means beautifully shot clothes with a simple aesthetic focusing on the quality of the garment. Equally, when the customer receives their order we want it to feel like a present so there is a lot of trial and error to make sure the product arrives in just the right way.
What are the anchor brands? Which brands have you recently added to the assortment?
Our core brands are what we call the “heritage” collections that have stood the test of time. For example, John Smedley has been manufacturing in the same factory for over 230 years, while Mackintosh has been in existence for nearly 200.
We recently opened a marketplace to give smaller luxury brands the chance to grow their business with us. There are some great young designers like Tamara Harvey and Teddy Edwards who are flying the British flag with incredible clothing and accessories. We hope to continue adding to our marketplace over the course of the next year.
What are five products you couldn’t live without right now?
This season I find myself wearing Trickers boots and a Private White V.C. pilot’s jacket wherever I’m headed. I’ll mix that up with different brands like a roll neck from John Smedley, or a cable knit from Gloverall. I just bought a briefcase from the Cambridge Satchel Company which I absolutely love and is great for meetings.
What are the bestsellers?
Classic knitwear always sells well and we have a strong worldwide demand for classic shapes from John Smedley, for example. Britain is also well known for its outerwear, probably because we are always in need of it! Classic duffle coats from Gloverall and performance coats from Private White V.C. have a very strong following.
And what are the most promising newcomers of the year?
Two of my favorites brands that I think have a bright future are Genevieve Sweeney and Justine Tabak. Both produce amazing womenswear, which is well designed, made from beautiful material and looks fantastic. It’s so exciting to see such an array of British talent and we look forward to discovering more over time.
Did your shop’s sales increase or decrease over the last year? To what do you attribute your gain or loss in sales?
As a relatively new business, we are pleased to report that sales are always growing. We hope to continue this trend as we add products and grow our brand, and look forward to the reaction to spring/summer ’18.
Is it an option to open a brick-and-mortar store as well?
We have plans for brick-and-mortar stores in the future and are currently looking at locations around the world. There is strong demand for British clothing in places like Beijing and Tokyo so it may be that our first store isn’t in our hometown of London.
Who is your typical customer? What do you like about your customers?
Our customers tend to come from all walks of life, but they all share an interest in quality, well-made garments. I often answer the customer service line myself as it’s a pleasure to have a chat with people who may have worn our brands for many decades. They are fiercely loyal to their brands, but that is exciting for us as we can introduce them to new brands that meet the same high standards as their favorites.
Is there a kind of model shop for you? Some shop (worldwide), which inspires you?
There are some great competitors doing interesting things. Of course, I’m a huge admirer of Natalie Massenet and what she has managed to achieve with Net-a-Porter. I am a loyal customer of theirs and think their clothing choice is excellent. I also like the innovative marketplace model of places like Farfetch.
What is the biggest challenge for e-commerce right now?
E-commerce comes with a lot of challenges, but when you are selling luxury goods conveying the product without the shopper being present becomes a more acute challenge. We have to curate clothing which isn’t too similar and then we have to do a great job at selling it. Getting the photo coloration right, the texture, description and sizing are all things we have to pay careful attention to.
To what extent does the Brexit affect the fashion world in the UK? What has changed? And does your business benefit or suffer from this?
We’re yet to see the major implications of Brexit, but I believe it will have a big impact on British manufacturing. It’s very important that we secure trade deals as soon as possible. British manufacturers export billions of pounds worth of goods a year and we need to ensure frictionless trading continues as it does currently. There could also potentially be upsides, whereby we start taking local manufacturing more seriously, which would be great for job generation.