Co-Founder and CEO, Own The Look
"No matter where you are in life, I would never say don’t do something because you’re fearful."
By Alexandria Dale,
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The Fashion Retail Academy: Fashion Buying and Styling
Fashion Assistant, Star Magazine
Fashion Stylist, Star Magazine
Deputy Fashion Editor, Star Magazine
Fashion & Beauty Editor, Hello! Middle East
Freelance Stylist, Emirates Women
Fashion Stylist, Mojeh Magazine
Co-Founder and CEO, Own The Look
Own The Look has just celebrated its first birthday, can you tell us a little about the company and how this year has been for you?
Own The Look is a multi-brand online womenswear store, we launched in March 2017 with over 40 international brands. The majority of our brands don’t have a heavy UK presence, they’re emerging themselves, so we’re bringing them to the UK marketplace and giving them a voice here.
We make outfit dressing our focus, so we put outfits together that are really fashion forward and trend lend, and the purpose of that is so the customer can browse through the looks and buy any look within two quick clicks.
It’s showing women how to dress in a really fashion forward way, but doing it with ease. We want to be seen as a styling platform as well as an e-commerce platform.
We’ve done a lot in our first year, and I would say now we are a community of fashion forward females that stand for directional fashion and self-expression.
You’ve worked in the fashion industry for a while now, how did you go from interning to creating and co-founding your own fashion company?
Perseverance. I interned at Star Magazine for a year and even though I was only doing one day a week, if ever there was a shoot I’d take time off school and go. I made that my priority, I was consistent in the team and they respected that. And they knew that I’d stayed that long so I was obviously dedicated and I could do the job.
Perseverance, I think that’s how it happened. And good timing!
How did you go from dreaming about launching an online fashion site to actually making it a reality? Was there a lot you had to learn?
My day job is styling, I love putting outfits together, but I thought how can I make that a business? The most natural thing for me to do was style up looks and put them on a website, but that wasn’t niche enough.
When I was at Mojeh we worked with a lot of regional designers, and there is so much talent in this world and so many brands out there that we don’t know about in the UK.
That’s what started to trigger the idea, what about if we take all these cool brands that nobody’s ever heard of and style them up into cool looks? Then we have a strong USP.
So, I came back to the UK and the first thing I needed to do was find the brands. I quit my job and did two seasons of trade shows. I hopped on a plane and went to every trade show in Europe and the US, I walked them for days.
I started to find these brands that were in the corner of the trade show that no one was even looking at because they were so small, but I was like, “these are gems”. I collected about 40 brands by the end of the first year.
Once I had the brands, I started approaching web development companies and got the ball moving on that. It took a year to build the site and that’s really how it was born.
It literally went from my job, what I loved doing day-to-day, to how can I make this a business and grow something from the ground up, whilst continuing to do what I love.
How have your previous experiences in the fashion industry and life in general contributed to the Own The Look venture?
I was always a yes person. Within every job I was always like “I’ll do it” and I think that’s how I built my way up so quickly, because I was always willing to do everything.
But also, my family. My family are all really entrepreneurial. Everyone has their own businesses and that was something I’d been surrounded by and sort of told if you want to make a success, why don’t you try doing it yourself? So, I did.
You’ve just announced Own The Look will be crowdfunding, what made you decide to go down that route and how valuable do you think platforms such as Crowd Cube are for growing businesses?
I think crowdfunding platforms are so valuable. For us as a start-up, we can’t go to a bank and try and get a loan, it would just be unrealistic in this market. To have the opportunity to pitch your idea to the public and to people that do invest in companies, I think it’s incredible.
We went down this route as I think it’s the most viable avenue for the stage the business is in and I like the fact that people are going to be involved in it. It’s not just going to be one investor, this is really building a business. We’re giving customers the chance to be involved in it too and we believe so much in community, so it’s really nice for me that the customers who have bought with us, the people that follow us, and the network that we’ve built can get in on it.
We’re looking to raise £250,000 for 25% equity to embark on a major digital advertising campaign. Essentially, we need to touch the consumer and that’s where this funding comes in. Whether that’s through social advertisement, digital advertisement, influencer or celebrity, we need to get out there. The name needs to be sitting alongside Topshop, River Island, H&M, and the only way to do that is to market it.
That’s why this investment is so key for us at this stage – we built a brand that’s super respected, but getting the consumer familiar with it is key.
Where do you see yourself and Own The Look in five years time?
In five years, I hope we’re a major competitor and we’re seen as a platform and a voice for fashion forward outfit dressing. I want to be known. I want to be walking down the street and if someone said “Own The Look”, you’d know what it is. T
o be growing in this market and as a start-up is really difficult, so the fact that we are is a success, but there’s so much more that can come.
Girl power seems to be a common theme within Own The Look. You frequently use #OTLGirls across your social media platforms and the site features designs with girl power slogans on. Would you say Own The Look strives to empower women?
100% percent. Absolutely. I mean for me, when I was approaching brands before we launched, Own The Look was just an idea and I had to get people to believe in me. So, me believing in other people, it just feels like it’s full circle and right.
Obviously, people bought into what I wanted to do and believed in me, so now it just feels like it’s natural that we do the same as a company.
My whole team is women, not intentionally, but it is, and I love the girl power that we have. We work with a lot of influencers and women in general, and we’ve created the #OTLGirls which is really important because that is a community right there in that hashtag, we’re building a community within social media.
Fashion is taking that route in terms of slogans and I love the term ‘womanhood’. I want to build a community of not only influencers and celebrity women, but customers that are part of this #OTLGirls group so that we can all grow into this womanhood.
When I’m buying the collections, the minute I see something with an empowering slogan, I’m initially attracted to it. So, anything that says “goal digger”, “business woman”, “womanhood”, “girl power”, that to me is like I have to buy it because it represents what I’m trying to build in terms of social, in terms of community, in terms of all our other avenues. I
t’s where we are in the world and it’s so nice women are starting to become equal and respected. I feel it’s only right to align ourselves with that and I think it’s really important as a woman to support other women. It’s definitely a theme I want to continue on.
You’ve had a really successful career in the fashion industry so far, what’s the best piece of advice you can offer anyone wanting to break into the industry?
Don’t stop and always say yes. Just keep going, because you will get the position you want. If you work hard enough, you will get it. Say yes to everything, don’t be the no girl even if you don’t want to do it. Just say yes, because they’ll come to you next time there’s something that you do want to do.
What advice would you give women who are already in a career but looking to make a change, like becoming their own boss and launching their own idea?
Don’t be afraid. I literally quit my job and put every penny I’d ever saved into my business and started travelling the world trying to find brands. I just did it.
So, although it was terrifying, I just had to look ahead and think what do I actually want? Do I want to work for someone for the rest of my life, or do I want to be running my own company and building something? No matter where you are in life, I would never say don’t do something because you’re fearful. Balanced risk, I’d call it.
I followed my passion and I think that’s why I’m successful. I’m not doing this just for money, I’m not doing this just because it’s a cool business, I’m doing it because it’s what I love. Every single day I skip into work because I’m dealing with clothes, I’m putting looks together, I’m shooting, I’m writing, I’m doing everything I love!
And ultimately, I think that’s why this will be a success, because the passion is there. Often when you start a business but you’re not passionate about it, and you’re doing it just for the rewards, I don’t always think it will come off because the underlying drive isn’t there. That’s what I think we’ve got here at Own The Look.
What does being described as a girl boss mean to you?
It means a lot because I do feel quite proud when I’m aligned with that term. It makes me feel empowered as well as a bit shy and coy. I think “oh, am I a girl boss?” I don’t feel like one, I’m just doing what I love.
I always try to encourage my team, going through this industry there were times where I was totally put down and not encouraged and that feeling was so horrific. As a boss now, I would never let anyone feel like that. Working under people and spending seven years assisting other people has made me learn the kind of boss I want to be.
Which women personally inspire you?
That’s easy, my mum. Loads of women inspire me, but she is my number one. She was a fashion buyer at Rigby and Pella but she stopped that to have children and basically raised four daughters on her own. I feel like she’s sort of reliving her career through me a little bit now, she comes on all the buying trips! She is just incredible. She’s my inspiration for sure, no doubt.
Someone recently said to me there is no positivity in fashion, would you agree?
No! I disagree, I think there’s definitely positivity. Look at all the female designers that are coming up, look at all the women that are fashion editors and running major companies. Women are on the up. This industry, although it’s difficult, it is in growth. Women are growing and women are becoming more powerful, I’m a prime example of how women are starting companies and trying to make them a success.
Diversity is something that is really important to me, too. I don’t think it’s right to discriminate against any form of religion, culture, or background, so I work to have a real mix of models on site. Everyone is beautiful in their own right – so why not have a mix of red hair, black skin, white skin, Chinese girls? It’s all beauty. We are a community and communities don’t choose, they happen.