“The clothes are the evidence, but it is the brand that tells the story”

As part of BrandCap’s Palm & Co entrepreneurial initiative, we’ve been working with London based, contemporary women’s fashion brand, Simo (simocollective.com) to drive growth and communicate its unique positioning within the market.  Founded in 2015, the brand was created by a collective of pioneers, united by their belief in the need for a new design code for modern women.

With the brand fast gaining traction in the very fickle fashion market, we asked Andrew to share his story.

Getting started

What’s your background?

Management consultancy. As far away from the fashion world as you can get!

What was the impetus for starting Simo?

A few years ago my wife, Astrid, who works at the Belgian embassy in London, was perplexed. She just couldn’t find a brand that represented her outlook and lifestyle. She was looking for a style that evoked intelligence and independence of spirit, that also combined simplicity with individuality. She also wanted a brand that went from day to evening, and worked across her many interests and roles as a modern woman.  She jokingly said we should launch a label as her friends had the same problem. The idea nagged at me and wouldn’t go away. I had to do something about it. I therefore took a work sabbatical and waded in feet first.

Creating the brand

What was the role of the brand in helping shape the journey/ experience?

Brand was more implicit than explicit at the start.  Our initial chain of logic was fourfold:

  1. Identify customer problem
  2. Create beautiful products
  3. Build channel to market
  4. Define marketing strategy

Brand wasn’t something we hugely focused on. But as we gained more experience in the fashion world we realised that we needed to forge an emotional connection with our customers and brand would be instrumental to achieve this.

Often as an entrepreneur you have a vision for the brand at the start.  Is the brand your vision, or did the journey open your eyes and take you down different paths?

Our brand has always been in our DNA, but we needed help to articulate it and bring it to the fore. I was initially skeptical, but it is the brand journey that has enabled us to evolve and grow as a business.

Moment of triumph?

You would have thought it would be seeing our first dress in our London factory, but I actually felt really nervous as all I could think about was the amount of working capital tied up in the production run! My proudest moment, therefore, was looking at the results of our first beautiful photo shoot with Phil Dunlop. It was then that I knew we had created something really special.

Moment of fear?

Taking the plunge! I’d raised all the money (which in retrospect was the easy bit) now I had to deliver (the hard bit).

What’s been your biggest learning? 

In a sector as fast moving and reputation-based as the fashion industry, strength of brand is absolutely crucial. This is without a doubt the biggest learning we’ve had so far. The clothes are the evidence, but it is the brand that tells the story.

What would you have done differently?

Taken things more slowly. Building a brand takes time and there can be no compromise. Once the DNA is there, then you can think about scaling.

Biggest surprise?

The fashion industry revolves around reputation and personal contacts. There are lots of unwritten rules. I had underestimated this hugely. If you don’t have either it takes a lot of hard work and tenacity to achieve anything.

Top tip

With my newfound knowledge of the importance of brand, ensure that all decisions are made through a brand lens. Don’t be afraid to say no to commercial opportunities if they are not right for the business.