Highlighting small, independent brands and emerging designers is what we do at Estila. And so it’s nice to come across, and support, other passionate businesses who are trying to do a similar thing not in media but in retail. I interviewed Bethany Rowntree who recently launched Studio B, an online store which is championing craftsmanship, independent brands and their stories, and bringing them together in one style focused place.
What has been your journey so far?
I’m originally from the North East and went to Uni in Manchester. After studying a fashion related degree and working part time as a sales assistant in the Mulberry store, I was offered an internship within the Buying & Merchandising team at Mulberry in their London head office. I stayed at Mulberry for about 4 years, I loved it and made some great friends there, but then the brand changed direction, had new management and a new ‘more luxury’ strategy, which just wasn’t what the brand had been about for me. I then left and went to Matchesfashion.com for a year; I had wanted to try a multi brand, which this was a good test of, but there was just too much product. I wasn’t feeling involved and didn’t know anything about the brands or their product; I loved the website but just couldn’t actually afford anything!! At this point it got me thinking about all the smaller premium brands that offer something more unique at a more attainable price point.
I should have just done it then but was offered another job at Anya Hindmarch, pretty much instantly I knew this just wasn’t for me anymore and I was feeling pretty frustrated and disillusioned by the way all these ‘big luxury brands’ operate. I stayed for 2 years, which yes is a long time, but I began researching for Studio B and it took me a while to have the courage to leave. I finally left at Christmas and we launched Studio B recently.
How did you come up with the idea for Studio B?
I’d been thinking (and thinking) about Studio B for years! I actually bought the domain name over 2 years ago… but still remained in my job at the time. I’d studied a fashion related degree at Uni in Manchester, I’d worked in fancy stores and I then worked for almost 7 years in luxury fashion in a mix of buying and merchandising head office roles. I’d worked for Mulberry where I started and loved at the time, then Matchesfashion.com and then lastly Anya Hindmarch. Each company was different but also similar and the roles began to blend into one. Even as you moved higher up, I still felt I wasn’t making the most of my skills; I’d always wanted to work in fashion but just felt I still wasn’t doing what I loved. Most people, who work at big brands, will probably tell you it’s not always what it seems from the outside and I just began to feel a bit disillusioned and kept thinking there must be more!
I loved ‘stuff’ and finding something new or special, but began to not really enjoy shopping (shock horror!). Especially working in luxury fashion as I couldn’t actually afford anything I was surrounded by! I also found whilst I was at Matches that they had so many super brands that the smaller ones just got lost. I kept finding smaller more independent brands or newer brands I didn’t know so well on Instagram and started thinking: Wouldn’t it be amazing to put them all into one edited place that looks amazing, that tells people more about them, and is easy to shop? Where everything is at the same level of premium, but attainable, so you know what you’re expecting price wise (by attainable I mean I’ll eat tinned tuna for a week, not half the year, to buy an amazing dress!). I just kept asking myself if you didn’t want fast fashion, premium high street or super luxury, and wanted something a bit more unique, where did you go?
What is different about your business?
I try to find brands that are a bit different, a bit smaller and under-the-radar that you maybe haven’t heard of, and then mix this with some more established names such as Rixo (love) and two bigger Danish brands but that are newer to our market, Baum und Pferdgarten and Gestuz. I’ve also mixed in made-to-order brands, which a lot of sites don’t do, mostly jewellery, such as Jessie Harris, Chalk and Rosita Bonita, which I think adds something special as these products are actually handcrafted for you once you order. I also think the product selection makes the site more unique, I really aimed to curate an edit that is different but simultaneously all works together, so you can mix many of the brands on the site to make an outfit. Plus, I’d say I’ve selected different buys from the Danish brands, as I’m looking for more statement pieces at this price point, than perhaps some other retailers are.
Who is your customer?
Our customer is the kind of woman who loves clothes, loves style, knows fashion but isn’t so focused on trends. She wants something different but doesn’t necessarily have time to find it! She’s sick of normcore and likes statement pieces, colour, prints, or modern shapes and classics with a twist; generally, a contemporary feel and likes to dress the same piece up or down. She likes premium, well-made, knowing a bit more about what she is buying and would rather invest in something she absolutely loves and will wear more. I think we appeal to women across a wide age range who are looking for something a bit more unique and wanting under-the-radar brands that feel that bit special but aren’t unaffordable. I, myself, love everything in my late twenties but so does my mum at sixty!
What is your strategy in terms of marketing and brand awareness for your business?
Growing social and social engagement is a big part of our strategy, Instagram is huge for brands like us and we’ve already grown this since launching. We also have the right kind of followers, of which I’d rather have fewer but better-quality followers – similar to our ethos! We’re also working with more online platforms and independent magazines, for example The Pool featured a pair of earrings from us the other day which was great! We’re also focused on telling our story and having a more business angle, as well as attending events from women’s platforms such as The Step-Up Club, Future Girl Corp and Women Who, again to tell people about our brands but also our career/business journey. Plus, we’re in touch with some select influencers who work well with us. We’re holding a small launch event soon too and hoping to launch some pop-ups and shopping events next year.
What is your ultimate goal?
Big question! As we’ve only just launched the plan is to keep pushing marketing and press, and gain a loyal customer base. So far, we already have some key customers who have been following our journey and love the products, which is fantastic! Next is also to plan some pop-ups or shopping events for next year, I think a lot of the products, including Monc, speak for themselves when you actually see them. We’re also already adding new brands and have a batch in the pipeline waiting to be added, plus we’ll be introducing the next collections from our more seasonal brands Baum und Pferdgarten, Gestuz and Rixo just before Christmas.
Further into the future we’d love to have a physical studio space to host our office and our brands. A lovely space where customers can come and try all the brands in a really relaxed environment and have a lovely shopping experience. Plus, hopefully they’d find some new brands to love forever.
Please visit Studio B website to see what amazing brands they have!!