Hello Nicolas, tell us about LABELL-D, your new start-up. It’s a sustainable fashion company isn’t it? What does that mean to you and Julia?
“We have both worked in fashion for more than 15 years, but with LABELL-D, we feel that we have finally found our purpose in the industry.
“In my fashion career I worked for companies including Hugo Boss, Bally and Harrys of London, in a variety of finance and merchandising roles, but I also knew that the industry is very polluting in its nature, and I wanted to do something about that. We’ve always been passionate about sustainable living and about 12 months ago, we decided to set-up our own company to sell sustainable fashion. The idea had been in my mind for a few years, but two things really accelerated our thinking: the birth of our daughter two and a half years ago and the COVID pandemic.”
And that’s where Visionnaires, our social enterprise, and our training arm, Capital City College Training came in, isn’t it? How did we help you?
“To be honest, I can’t recall exactly how I found out about the programme called Start Up Step Up London, it provides workshops, mentoring and coaching to help start-up businesses get off the ground], but it was a real help to me.
“Because I’ve always worked in big companies, I guess I have always thought big too – ten steps ahead – but Wendy, my tutor, brought me down to earth and reminded me that a new business has to start from zero. She and the 6-week course that she taught was very pragmatic and helped me focus on the basics and get them right first. The course sessions took place before the COVID-19 lockdowns started and it was great to be able to learn in-person, with other entrepreneurs, rather than remotely.”
And then we put you in touch with a mentor didn’t we?
“Yes. We had a Visionnaires mentor matchmaking event where I met Oreste Maspes. Oreste is a fellow Italian and has experience in the fashion and textile industry, and has worked in the consumer electronics, document imaging and printing sectors too.
“We bonded straight away and, as part of the programme, I had 5 hours of one-to-one mentoring with him. Oreste is very strategic and analytical and he pushed us hard – really looking at the strengths and weaknesses of our proposition and our strategy.”
That sounds really good. And since then, you’ve been working hard to set the company and your website up?
“That’s right. We took a couple of days off over Easter and it was the first time we’ve had off in months! We now have a beta version of our website which has already had a few sales. We’ve been testing and getting feedback on the site and we are working on getting the user experience right – making changes so that buying through the website is a great experience for customers – and we’re launching to the public on 1 May.”
What sort of clothes do you offer?
“LABELL-D has garments from a wide range of great brands big and small including Acne Studios, Nike, R3unite, Ecoalf, Burberry, Stella McCartney, Patagonia and Gucci, with others coming on all the time. Our items are all sustainable in how they are produced and our collections include many items which have recycled, organic, bio-based and sustainably sourced materials.
“For example, the uppers of our Nike Space Hippie trainers are made from recycled plastic bottles, T-Shirts and yarn scraps, and our Patagonia beanie hats are Fair Trade Certified – which means that the people who sew them are paid a premium for their work – and they are made from a blend of recycled wool and recycled nylon.
“It’s wonderful to see the site taking shape and we are really excited for the launch. But beyond the launch, we want to do more. We want to build a community of customers who care as passionately as we do about the social and environmental performance of their clothes. We will inform and educate them about the actions that brands have taken on their road to sustainability and we’ll show our customers how the products we sell have been produced and certified. The website is labelld.com.”
Thank you Nicolas. It’s been great talking to you.