How To: Get Your Brand Noticed By a Retailer
For designer and past FMR mentee, Sophie Spratley, rabbit is a brand that shouldn’t be reduced to a trend-led label. “Aesthetically, I don’t want to be pigeonholed and don’t enjoy being associated with one singular idea, as I feel rabbit is very fluid,” she tells The Hub. “rabbit is an outlet for my life and emotions. I use a lot of symbolism, such as the meanings of flowers to instinctual symbols. I reference film, musicians and pieces from my own wardrobe, usually vintage and hand-me-downs from my Mum or her friends. Each piece that I sell has a small poem attached to help explain the meaning I associate with each garment – I could go on about them forever.” It’s these personal touches that has led the Kingston School of Art graduate to getting scouted by Dover Street Market, who is now currently stocking Sophie’s AW22 collection. “A lot of people dream of what has happened to me and I know I am very lucky,” she explains. “It felt like a pivotal moment, but day to day everything is the same; I’m still making the clothes I love with my rabbit Nettle. I still feel so overjoyed about the whole surreal experience and the kindness of the people who work at DSM.”
Sophie credits the guidance of her mentorship as part of the reason why she’s where she is now. “The FMR started supporting me not long after my meeting with DSM, during that time I was awaiting confirmation,” she states, going on to explain that everyone she met, from “networking at the mixer at the beginning of the scheme” to the team at her mentoring brand Fred Perry, are industry connections that are eternally valuable. She recalls that her mentor Rob Barcock, Fred Perry’s Brand Manager went above and beyond for her. “He advised me on new stockists to approach as well as helping me with my business tone in emails, planning a launch party, and he even shared contacts for my twin who works as a freelance music and fashion writer,” Sophie says. “I also met a lovely designer at Fred Perry, who took me to a fantastic wool show where I bought yarn for my SS23 collection.”
What’s next for rabbit? “In the immediate future, I’m launching my website so people will no longer need to DM my Instagram to buy a piece, making the customer experience a little easier! Very importantly, I have my SS23 collection and my first ever show coming up. I am showing independently of London Fashion Week on 20th September – I can’t wait to share it with everyone.”
To celebrate Sophie’s first major stockist, we’ve shared some tips on how to get your own brand stocked by a fashion retailer.
Develop your own vision
“The reason my work stood out to the team at DSM could have been down to my distinct unique style,” explains Sophie. As new fashion brands appear everyday, it’s highly important to create one that will get noticed for its individuality. You’re creating a label that could last a long time, so it’s important to find an inspiration point that isn’t fleeting, as Sophie continues. “I am not impacted by trends, I create art that is inspired by what I see and what happens in my life.” Ask yourself, what is it you’re trying to say with your clothes? What’s different about your message? How do you see your vision progressing in the future? A great way of distinguishing yourself is by exploring brands that on the surface may be similar to yours, and then clearly pinpointing the differences between the two. This shows retailers where your position is within that market and how you’re unique.
Research who you want to be stocked by
When you’re starting off, it may be tempting to go for the first retailer that shows interest in your brand, but this could have consequences for the future. For example, if you really value craftsmanship and prestige materials, being stocked on a budget retailer could dampen your credibility. Make a list of retailers that align with your brand values, then use social media and their website to find out who the buyers are. While LinkedIn is a great resource in finding specific buyers and you can contact them directly, we recommend also following them on Instagram so that they can quickly understand your brand’s visual identity.
Build a brand identity outside of your collection
This leads us onto the importance of utilising social media. As the most accessible form of marketing when you’re on a budget, a strong following and community engagement can add credibility to your brand. See it as an extension of your visual identity; this is the place to inform your community about unique aspects of your clothes, like how Sophie will share videos of screen-printing her fabrics. Being involved with your social media content is also a great way of connecting with your customers and potential retailers. “I cannot get away from my brand even if I wanted to: this is something you should feel too,” says Sophie, which undoubtedly will have helped with her success. If you’re camera-shy, try asking questions to your followers/customers on Instagram stories so that they can engage with you that way.