LPA: Tell me a little about your background. Where did you grow up, study etc…
JS: I grew up in a small commuter town in the Sussex countryside and studied at the University of Manchester, which I loved. Who wouldn’t love a city that has the biggest student population in Europe, and was home to the Happy Mondays and the Hacienda? Brilliant.
LPA: What was your first job in fashion and how did you get it?
JS: My first job in fashion was as a fashion model with Select when I was 17. My brother sent off some snaps to a magazine modeling competition and I won! It was very exciting but I was definitely overawed by all the people I met. My heroes were always the ‘behind the scenes’ people on the magazines so to meet people like that in ‘real life’ was amazing and seeing how they pulled together a fashion story was very inspiring. I wasn’t the best model by a long stretch but it did help to fuel my love of the fashion world.
LPA: Setting up a company is always a high risk move, especially given our current economy. What prompted you to launch Atelier-To-Go? Did you feel fairly confident that it would be successful?
JS: You absolutely have to believe that you are going to succeed, so yes! I also think that whilst the UK economy is in a parlous position, it is in testing times that new, creative ventures can flourish, as people tend to be more determined and resourceful in these situations. Plus, the wider picture is that the online market is doing incredibly well, so I hope that we are actually well positioned to take advantage of that. The reason I launched Atelier-To-Go is because I felt there was a real gap in the market for a curated compilation of luxurious, transitional brands presented in an accessible, friendly and engaging way.
LPA: One of the things that particularly struck me when I first saw the Atelier-To-Go brand book and website was that that is feels really personal in a way that doesn’t come across as cheesy or artificial. Why was this kind of connection with your customers so important to you ?
JS: Because I am one of them! I get a real thrill when I see all the beautiful clothes that we’ve photographed for our editorial shoots or when we interview one of the stylists, because I experience it as if I was a customer. And I want to convey that sense of excitement in everything we do.
LPA: From ASOS to Net-a-Porter, most major online shopping destinations now include trend edits and other fashion features. How does Atelier-To-Go provide something different to the editorial content these sites already offer?
JS: Clearly they do what they do phenomenally well, but I would like to think that we can carve out our own niche. Just as there is a space for different types of magazines on the newsstand, or different stores on a street, I would like to think that the same applies online. Essentially, we want our editorial voice to be colloquial and chatty – like shopping with your slightly cooler best friend. And none of the other online players in this space really do that.
LPA: The past year has seen a significant number of Fashion Editors leave positions at magazines and move into the retail field. In your opinion, why is this increasingly the case? Do you think it could spell the end of the fashion glossy ?
JS: I certainly hope not! There is nothing better than sitting in a comfy chair and flicking through a wonderful, glossy magazine. I think that this is happening more and more because the retail market is trying to capture that feeling you get when you sit down with a magazine – and translate it into a different medium, and for a different purpose. For me – coming from a traditional print & TV media background rather than fashion or retail - it makes it a very interesting and fertile medium in which to try and push the envelope.
LPA: A feature of Atelier-To-Go that I definitely approve of but don’t entirely understand is the way you can ‘earn points’ which build towards getting sent a personalized surprise gift. Tell me a little about this…
JS: I liked the idea of a loyalty scheme but just felt that gathering points to get discounts is a bit like shopping in a supermarket. Every woman likes to be treated so I thought about what I would like, and I’d very much prefer a beautiful, beribboned little gift than get loyalty points – enough to put a smile on anyone’s face! The idea is that there will be a ‘tier’ element to the scheme – so the more points, the lovelier the gift!
LPA: Talk me through a typical day as CEO and Director of Atelier-To-Go.
JS: It sounds like a cliché, but there is no typical day. I deal with all aspects of the business, from the creative to the financial so it’s a very hands-on role. It ranges from visiting showrooms with our Retail Director, to meeting a stylist about an upcoming shoot, to devising budgets (and not sticking to them!) with our Head of Finance. I also like having a hand in the copy and tone of the site, as well as doing the off-camera interviews for the stylists videos, so it really does vary every day for me!
LPA: Where do you hope to see Atelier-To-Go in 5 years time ?
JS: I’d love for us to be up there with the big players of the online editorial fashion world – but still have a small, passionate (and very lovely) team. I’d also like to explore new and exciting ways to develop Atelier, and be as creative as possible. I believe that success and longevity in the online fashion market is all about building a brand that resonates with its target audience, but is also nimble enough to stay ahead of the game.
LPA: What advice would you give to someone hoping for a career in fashion ?
JS: Show your enthusiasm and excitement for fashion to whomever you approach, make it clear that you have done your homework on the company, always try to be polite, modest and thoughtful and – when you get the job – work hard and feel passionate about it! I think that applies to most things in life though?
Love Ella. X