Design to Market – Interview with Natalie King

SR Fashion Start interview with Natalie King

SR Fashion Start interview with Natalie KingYou have an idea of a brand that you want to create, you’ve shown designs to friends and relatives who seem excited, but at the same time it might cross your mind that they are being kind and supportive. The reality is you want to make this work, you want the public to see and like what you’ve created and more importantly sell it!

This is always deemed as the hard part of the process. Yes, it isn’t easy but it takes time and perseverance. You will get knock backs but taking these on the chin is part of the process. Out there somewhere are you customers it’s just a case of finding them.

I’ve met many talented designers, one of which is the fabulous Natalie King, who I met about 10 years ago in the breathtakingly beautiful island of Isla Mujeres in Mexico. I was back packing, Natalie was interning in New York, was running out of money, but determined not to go back to rainy Ireland.

What I loved was the fact that Natalie had a massive suitcase of clothes and looked utterly stylish while I looked like a standard back packer- shorts, beer brand tee and a mass of messy sun-bleached hair.

We stayed in touch and I have since seen Natalie’s brand grow steadily, with a loyal following of customers. I asked Natalie a few questions about how her brand and vision has changed over the years. I think it’s always important to learn from others and often it’s about asking the right questions and listening. (look out for my Networking for Success blog post).

Natalie King Interview



Tell us about yourself?

I’m a womenswear designer in the contemporary/luxury end of the market, based in Ireland. I spent 7 years in the UK before returning to Ireland to set up my own brand. I studied in UCA and then went on to work with a number of designers and brands including Betty Jackson, Erdem and Dolce & Gabbana.

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by anything really. I guess strong women, interesting takes on art. I spend quite a bit of time going to exhibitions and shows. There are so many different opinions and takes on subjects that can really get you thinking and that’s where inspiration comes from.

Tell us about your brand? when did you launch, who is your target customer, what do you offer?

I launched in 2014 and have been steadily building up the brand since then. I sell to the woman who is interested in fashion, not just as a functional piece, but enjoys wearing something that is more artistic than that. They have disposable income and usually travel and go to a lot of events. They enjoy many aspects in life, good food, interesting art, retreats, holidays and generally are involved in business in some way. Which brings me to what I offer, I create collections which use a good mix of fabrics that you can wear to work and then continue into the evening. Most of these women don’t have the time to change and don’t want the hassle.

Did your vision for your business change?

I started the business with experience of different industry areas but I was very naive when starting my own business. I guess it all started with the more student-y ideals of designing interesting pieces and thinking about where to sell it but not really having a clue, when I look back on it. As I‘ve progressed many things in the business have changed. My approach to designing the collections has changed. You realise that the people who can afford luxury items are generally middle-aged and aren’t going to want to show too much skin but still want something interesting to wear.

How has your brand identity/ business strategy evolved?

I started out with the usual model of, I will create collections twice a year and wholesale them in boutiques but this has changed in many ways, over the last couple of years. It’s always going to be difficult for a new small independent brand when you don’t have the start-up funding that large company have when they launch a new brand.

Other issues arise when you look at the way people shop now compared to even 5 years ago. Online shopping has exploded and brick and mortar stores need to be heavily experience based to keep the interest of shoppers. There’s much more value placed on experience and not just the product now. For me this has meant finding ways to go into bespoke clothing for individual clients. They’re willing to pay more for an interesting garment.

The experience for them is that they are meeting the designer, face-to-face, whose collections they see in store. They’re taken through a journey with fabric selections and fittings to have something they really value at the end of it. I’ve found the people with the kind of income needed to buy luxury are tending to buy their everyday items online and want bespoke for special pieces.

A special item could be for each event they’re going to and they could be going to events a couple of times a week. This part of the business has its challenges. You’re making one-offs, so bulk ordering isn’t possible. As you are in the premium end of the market, it is possible to get fabrics made for clients which is interesting for us.

What are the main challenges you face?

The biggest challenge is gaining the trust of not only your individual clients but also of the buyers, which is on-going. As there are so many brands, getting your work known can be a challenge but you must keep plugging away at it. Keep people updated on what you’re doing. Even if they said no the first time, as you progress there could be something they see your brand being the right fit for. Getting good staff has been another challenge. You’re on a limited budget, especially at the start, and you always have to get the most out of what you’re spending. That’s important. Big mistakes can cost you money and cost you the ability to move forward due to lack of cash flow.

How did you find/ approach stockists?

This can be tedious but you just must get out there and online, anyway you can, and research, research, research. It’s very time consuming and can be painstakingly slow but this will really help with the business, as a whole. A solid and well-designed introductory press pack is a good way to get the relevant information out there. There’s been a mixture of directly calling/emailing stockists each season and making contacts at trade shows and by doing events that showcase your collections.

What would you change in the fashion industry?

I think it would be great to have a better platform for independent brands. There isn’t much out there really and you’re competing with multi-nationals which isn’t realistic. Smaller brands tend to get lost in a sea of huge brands which is a shame, as I get a large amount of feedback from clients saying that they want something different. They don’t always want to buy from huge brands because everyone has the same thing.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Right now, I‘ve expanded in sales, work space and staff so there are plans to acquire more stockists especially abroad. That’s the next focus. Hopefully in 10 years, I‘ll have a pretty established brand selling worldwide, but who knows, in the last three years everything has changed compared to what I initially thought would happen!!


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