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Friday, August 30, 2013

David Longshaw on Setting Up his Own Fashion Label

In this week's interview we talked to fashion entrepreneur David Longshaw, Founder and Designer of one of London’s highly regarded emerging designer brands.

David graduated from Central St Martin’s with a BA (Hons) in Fashion Design (womenswear) in 2005 and achieved an MA from the RCA in 2007, and has been nominated for numerous international design awards. 

In February 2010, after gaining experience as a designer at Alberta Ferretti and Max Mara in Italy, David returned to the UK to launch his own label. He won the BFC/ELLE Talent Launch Pad 2010 and was selected for the ‘ones to watch’ catwalk show by Fashion Scout and to show at the LFW Exhibition. Today, David Longshaw’s collections are sold worldwide in the UK, USA, Japan, Hong Kong, Dubai and more.

David shared with us some of his valuable experience running his own fashion label.

When did you decide you wanted to launch your own label?
I knew I wanted to start my own label before I went to Central St. Martins. This was the reason I wanted to go there and then decided to complete my MA at the RCA.

How did you decide when was the right time to set up the label ?
It was important for me to gain some experience before starting my own label and working for Max Mara gave me the chance to gain high end commercial experience. Once I learnt as much as I could, I felt ready to come back to England and start my own label.

Having gained valuable industry  experience but felt I had  my own distinctive style (in design) to offer. Also, I wanted to start my label before I got too comfortable with the job I was doing. 

What has been your biggest achievement so far?
That people enjoy wearing my clothes and take pleasure in my work. The likes of Isabella Blow (when I was at St Martins), Helena Christensen wearing my clothes and Mary Quant complimenting me on my designs.

What has been the most difficult obstacle in your career until now, and how did you overcome it?
Dealing with Maude’s ego (Maude is the fictional fabric mouse I created whilst at St Martins and have illustrated for various magazines including Vogue Italia and vogue.com)

What support structures have helped the business grow?
When my first capsule collection was selected for Fashion Scout's ‘one’s to watch’ catwalk show and for the LFW exhibition I was lucky to receive mentoring from them. At that point, different PR agencies also approached me to represent the brand. Another important element was hiring an accountant. Many young designers forget about the money side and think they can just spend all their time designing collections. You have to make sure that you are on top of the finances.

I also received support from the UKFT to exhibit in Paris for Fashion Week and our production is outsourced to a variety of different factories and individual machinists.  

What would you describe as the most important decision you have made in order to get to where you are today?
Deciding on the direction and style I wanted to develop for my label and to stay true to that idea was important in the development of my USP. Part of my brand positioning strategy was to showcase my creativity through multiple channels.

I created a weekly comic strip for Vogue Italia online and an animation for LOVE magazine, as well as collaborations such as a multi-media art installation for the last LFW. All of which adds to the label in general.

After the  ‘One’s to watch’ catwalk, I had to decide which route to take. I didn't want to invest all the business's money in to catwalk presentations. Catwalk shows can cost 20- 50K and grow to 100-200K, and this twice a year. It's just not a sustainable business model for young designers.

Catwalks work as part of the advertising and marketing strategies of big labels like Chanel. I didn't want to get too wrapped up in the (catwalk show) glory. As a young designer you need to sell the collection, and it needs to make sense as a business. That’s why I decided to exhibit in Paris and London where I can meet people who are relevant to my business such as buyers and press. At exhibitions you meet people face to face and can build relationships.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who plan to start their own fashion label?
Do your research! Absorb information about pricing, stores, range plans, etc. – talk to different people at different stages of their business journey. Networking and introductions are very important. As an example, through gaining funding  to exhibit in Paris I was invited to a party at the British Ambassador’s residence and introduced to the owner of a store, which lead to a collaboration.

With everything you are doing you must be extremely busy. How do you fit everything in?
I like to have several projects at one time I tend to work more efficiently when I'm very busy – the projects can all help inspire each other and when I'm resolving problems for one aspect of a collection it may give me an idea for another project…also I don’t get much sleep.........

What are the business goals that motivate you? 
To continue being as creative as possible and to create clothing, designs, animations that people love.

David Longshaw A/W 13/14

David Longshaw A/W 13/14

Illustrations by David Longshaw

Interview by Katja Widder 

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