Attire Accessories - Mar/Apr 2018 (Issue 69)

This change of direction has come about as we now have a London showroom, and I have noticed in recent years a worrying decline in attendance at trade fairs. We are choosing to take a proactive approach and we are one of the founder companies of Brands Collective, which is a ‘road show’ of British companies who share the same values. In addition to Helen Moore the companies are Owen Barry, Glen Prince, Samantha Holmes, Azuni and Chanii B.The pop-up shows in regional venues around the country will make it easier for buyers to view the brands without having to travel far. However, I will miss the trade shows, we have made many good friends amongst buyers and other exhibitors and the networking opportunities have been invaluable. When was the website launched and how does it support the business? We operate two websites, one for our trade customers (launched way back in 2003), which is only accessible to genuine trade customers on application, and one for consumers, which is an online store. As the brand grew there came a point in 2008 when we knew we had to set up an online sales platform. We were getting more and more non-trade calls and I also realised that the PR needs of the company meant that we had to offer products direct to the customer.The existence of the online store means that we have received a huge amount of press coverage in recent years, which in return has also benefited our retailers. Our trade website has been of enormous benefit to both us, and our retailers. On an administrative level, it allows retailers to place orders, which we can then import into our accounting system, thus reducing the risk of errors. It’s great that we can share our images for download to them via the site, too. What have been the key milestones in the business so far? The key milestone for me was when we returned to my first love – fashion and textiles. It was a time of great renewed enthusiasm. We employ about 50 people, the leap from employing a dozen to employing 50 seemed to happen very quickly. Suddenly there was a lot more red tape and the business had a life of its own. Moving into our current factory was a key milestone. At last we had the space to expand into. When we were featured on two whole pages in the centenary edition of Vogue last year I felt as if I had reached a milestone. It was probably just in my own head, but meant a lot, nonetheless. How do you view the current market and what trends, in both product and business, do you see emerging over the current months? There is no doubt that the current market is difficult. Discounting has made life difficult for everyone, especially small retailers. It feels like an uncontrollable downward spiral. We have a small archive section on our website, showing some of our classics from previous collections, but I am resisting discounting on our own website. We ignore Black Friday, perhaps at our peril – who knows? Brexit has been a double-edged sword, all the fabrics we buy in have increased in price by about 15 percent, which is too much of an increase to pass onto our retailers.This made last year difficult, but we have seen an increase in international sales because of the drop in the value of the pound. There is no doubt that Brexit has created uncertainty, resulting in orders being placed late in the season, when there was a mad rush, which we found hard to cope with during the run-up to Christmas. What are your plans for the business going forward? In the immediate future I plan to change our labelling as there has been so much discussion in the press regarding the mis- labelling of real fur as faux fur. I am very aware of the concerns of the general public and we need to make it abundantly clear that the Helen Moore brand only sells faux fur. I have been vegetarian for 48 years and I deplore the killing and rearing of animals for their fur. Being so seasonal has been a handicap, so while the value of the pound is low we are planning an export campaign to reach the southern hemisphere – the time feels right. The long term is another question.The one question I am frequently asked is when do I plan to retire? The answer is…one day perhaps, but this is something I love, challenges and all – especially the challenges. A Contact Helen Moore +44 (0)1884 860 900 ATTIRE 59 PROFILE