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Emma Crosby of London à la Mode
Freitag, Nov. 26, 2010, 16:06 / United Kingdom
London à la Mode is a showroom and an agency providing commercial guidance for emerging UK fashion design talents. The concept is to give designers an affordable option to show their collections as a collective group in a central location. In the past few seasons, London à la Mode has gained momentum, with a high calibre of buyers popping in to view, including London’s finest: Browns, Liberty, Selfridges, Feathers and Matches. International and online attendees include Penelope, Tessabitand Biffi of Italy, Pixie Market and ASOS.
TribaSpace has talked with Managing Director Emma Crosby: a visionary, facilitator, natural networker and engaging personality.
TribaSpace: How did you come to work in the fashion industry?
Emma Crosby: You could say I fell into my career. It began right at ground level in 1986 as a part-time sales assistant while I studied Business and Finance. In the years since I’ve worked in both retail and wholesale across all levels including buying, merchandising, range planning, sales and account management.
What was the driving idea and the vision behind the London à la Mode agency?
EC: The experience I gained over the years gave me more than a basic understanding of how everything interlinks. A few years ago I became frustrated that there were no apparent jobs on offer that needed someone with the knowledge I’d gained first hand. London à la Mode was reborn through London Denim with me as a curator for a selection of new designers, presented to buyers in an environment that took the personal service aspect of a showroom, but without the hard-sell that is more fitting with a sales salon or exhibition. It’s a concept that continually evolves, and has become more about giving new designers the knowledge and tools they need to be prepared for buyers requirements, and also to build relationships with buyers rather than being fully sales driven. I listen to buyer feedback, and it’s relayed to the designers from an objective viewpoint. New designers need to consider who their potential customer is, and apply it to their collections, without losing who they are or their brand identity.
It’s so important for designers to be realistic in their brand positioning in the first couple of seasons. Trying to pitch yourself alongside Peter Pilotto, Jonathan Saunders and Vivienne Westwood should be a long-term goal, so I encourage them to look at other options that are more realistic in the short-term – this is where price, press and profile come into play. Determining where the strength lies within their work, and aligning this with the end customer’s perception of the brand helps focus the development. I’ll also look after the after-sales with clients, as well as brand development, sales strategies and forecasting, setting up systems within their office and providing document templates.
In the run up to the showroom, new designers are briefed on what is needed to facilitate sales – in most cases I have all the templates they need so it gives them more free time to design. In four seasons the concept seems to be generating more interest than I could have hoped for when it first began. While London a la Mode is it’s own entity, the ethos behind it is more personal with emphasis on collaboration and symbiosis between companies and individuals who have the same goals and aspirations. Vauxhall Fashion Scout , Felicities PR, Rebekah Roy, The Clothes Whisperer and Maverick Agency have all been integral in getting this far.
How has the British fashion industry evolved throughout the last years? What were your personal highlights?
When I began working in fashion, there wasn’t the extent of quality and choice there is today. Fashion trends were reported seasonally, with more left to the consumer about what personal style to choose. While the onslaught of internet and weekly magazines have their benefits, I think that we have ultimately confused our customer, with what they should and shouldn’t be wearing every week. The quality of the High Street is at an all time high, and with their collaborations between celebrities and power brands, it leaves little room for newness. What many designers don’t realise is that they do have to consider what is happening on the High Street. In the past, you could put your customers into ‘boxes’ – this is a high street shopper, this is a vintage shopper, this is a designer shopper etc. Now we just have ’shoppers’ who have X amount to spend and will consider every option before parting with their cash. In the past, it was relatively easy to launch a new brand or designer, and you could guarantee X amount of orders with an average spend seasonally. This is no longer the case, with a lot of the factors above being the reason. We’ve been through a long spell of caution, but this looks set to change. In what can be a cut-throat industry, I am working with people who tell me that they learn a lot from me. They have built my confidence in who I am and what I can provide, and that means a lot.
Tell us a bit more about the business side. Why London? Did you have many orders already? And do you have plans for Paris or other locations that might be as well successful for the clients you represent?
London is the creative hub of the UK, and has been my home for 16 years, so it is natural for London à la Mode to be here. This has been the most successful season to date, and includes confirmed orders to date from Harvey Nichols, Harrods, Pixie Market (USA) and a potential international distributor for one of the designers. All the major London department stores have visited, as well as international buying agents and key independents. The international recognition will keep London à la Mode in London for at least the next 2 seasons, but other locations haven’t been ruled out.
What are the projects you support during the coming fashion weeks?
I started working with VFS in February 2009 organizing the buyer invites for Ones to Watch, which has since progressed to include more designers who need that extra boost on the buyers side. VFS launched their own sales exhibitions last season in London and Paris, for which I manage buyer invitations and provide the ‘back of house’ support and information to the designers taking part. VFS also host mentoring evenings for designers pre and post Fashion Weeks, at which I guest-speak from a sales – and commercial perspective.
Your plans and your vision for the future?
Streamline, focus, develop!
Appointments can be arranged via info (at) londonalamode.net
68-72 Redchurch Street
London E2 7DP
T: 44 (0) 7957 307787
Natasha Binar | TribaSpace
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