We talk to ex-retailer Nayna McIntosh about her most personal project to date, her new womenswear label Hope
When Nayna McInstosh approached Make it British to help her find UK manufacturers for her new womenswear label Hope, we knew this was something that would be special.
Nayna has a wealth of experience in launching fashion brands after being on the management team that launched George at Asda in 1989 and then later on the founding team for Per Una in M&S. Her experience over the last 30 years has given her everything she needs to bring Hope to life, and we are proud to say that attending our Meet the Manufacturer conference in 2014 gave her the confidence to believe this could be done largely in the UK.
We chatted to Nayna to find out a bit more about Hope, which is due to launch in September this year.
Start by telling us a little but about the brand
The label is designed to empower and inspire the 40 plus woman who may feel invisible to the high street and online retailers. My aim is make this woman feel confident dressing, whatever her size or shape and to make her shopping experience easy, sociable and fun.
I gained my first experience of retail working on my mother’s market stand when I was 12 years old and Hope is my mother’s name. This brand is very personal for me and the team behind it is made up of 6 people who have all known each other for over 20 years.
Nayna, as founder of Hope you have a wealth of experience working with big brands like Marks & Spencer and George at Asda. How have you found working on a start-up company and what have been the greatest challenges so far?
One of the biggest joys of working on Hope is that this is not my first start up. When I worked on launching George back in 1989 with George Davis, it was at a time when the concept of clothing in a supermarket was unheard of.
From George I went to M&S to work on the launch of Per Una, which was likewise a start up brand with a small team to launch it. Over the last 30 years working on start up brands I have found that it is the entrepreneurial element that I love and that drives me.
What is different with Hope and what challenges me more is that this was just an idea 10 months ago, just a name and concept which I shared with my nearest and dearest only to receive a resounding thumbs up from them. Putting an idea out there like this is very exposing and very personal.
I attended the first Meet the Manufacturer conference in 2014 because I had a feeling that I wanted to do this and attending the show cemented this for me and made me believe I could do it. The show was a catalyst to me launching my business.
My personal contact with Kate Hills (founder of Make it British) was very significant, and Kate came back with 15 suggestions of UK suppliers I could speak to. I visited most of them and now 70% of the UK suppliers behind Hope came from Kate’s recommendations.
We know you are passionate about how and where your garments are made and you have worked closely with Make it British to source UK manufacturers. What challenges have prevented you from being able to manufacturer everything in the UK?
Sometimes our minimums were too small or sometimes the manufacturers didn’t have the capacity to take us on (which is great news for them). Some items in the range use Italian fabric or are made in Italy. Such is the case for our Foundation range which focuses on shape and sculpt.
We had to be careful to make sure the quality was what we wanted as our range averages around £100 so our garments have to be the right quality to suport this. I also had to be confident that the manufacturers had the longevity to support us further down the line.
How receptive have the UK manufacturers been to the brand and its vision?
We had great success with finding UK manufacturers and the reception from them was amazing.
Factories have agreed to do lower minimums as they believe in the Hope clothing brand and want to be part of it. I held a supplier event in June and invited both the UK and Italian manufacturers as well as the PR team so that everyone could meet and feel more involved in the brand as a whole. I revealed to them the name, the backer and the finer details, all of which they didn’t know until this point, which was a massive show of faith from them.
The manufacturers have had to get their head around our sizing concept. I wanted to get away from individual sizes with various lengths. 90 percent of the Hope clothing range comes in 3 sizes. Free Size covers 8-20, Dual Slim is for 8-14 and Dual Curvy is 16-20.
The idea is that these clothes will look amazing on any size and they are all tried and tested on real women. Our own team includes women ranging from 5 foot to 5 foot 10, and size 8 to size 18 and everything we put out there looks great on them all.
We also only have 2 lengths for our dresses and foundation pieces which gives a democracy in dressing. You wear the length you are comfortable with, you are not restricted to a length that is assumed to be right for an individual size.
Hope is an online destination store, but you also offer women the option to host a pop up boutique in their own home. Can you tell us a little more about this concept?
For most women the high street can be daunting and lonely. As you get older women don’t tend to shop in groups with their friends. Plus, our bodies change as we get older and we need brands to accommodate that.
I remember my mother going to clothes parties and it being a very social thing. I like the idea of being presented with clothes for your age group, presented to you by a stylist who is of a similar age and similar to you, all in the comfort of your own home. It allows women to loose some of the inhibitions they have when they shop on the high street. The internet can be great for speed and efficiency but it can be unemotional. This concept makes shopping pleasurable again.
At one of my home events a lady in her 70’s tried on a dress which looked amazing on her. At the end of the event she thanked me for a lovely time but also for changing the way she dresses. I found this very powerful and this kind of feedback is what motivates me.
Long term, is there the intention for Hope to be stocked in other stores or even have its own stand-alone stores?
I am not sure our model would work as a franchise, it hasn’t been designed to. Yes, from a personal point of view there is that dream to have an individual stand alone shop where people can come and have a look at what we offer but it is not what we are working on right now. My whole career has been in retail, from my mother’s market stand to a Saturday job in M&S when I was 16 so there is always that dream of having your own store, but for now our website is the focus.
And will Hope clothing always focus on Women or are there plans to help out the over-40 men as well?
I have been asked this a lot! The first product range I worked on was menswear and I really enjoy working with menswear. I think in the long term I would love this to evolve to be a lifestyle brand which could encompass lots of other areas and this is something I will be exploring in the future. For now though I am excited with what Hope is doing and the response it is getting.
And so are we! We look forward to watching Hope as it launches in September and working more with Nayna wherever we can.
Hope launches in September 2015. Find out more at www.hopefashion.co.uk