Five questions with Lone Design Club
5 minute read
In 2018, Rebecca Morter launched Lone Design Club, an omnichannel platform designed to support and promote independent and sustainable brands within the fashion, beauty and lifestyle sectors.
In 2018, Rebecca Morter launched Lone Design Club, an omnichannel platform designed to support and promote independent and sustainable brands within the fashion, beauty and lifestyle sectors. The unique retail model focuses on utilising curated, short term, maximum impact, experiential pop-up stores partnered with an engaged digital community and online ecommerce platform. Lone Design Club challenges traditional retail, creating an affordable route to market for sustainable brands and a trusted space for conscious global shoppers.
Over the last three years, Rebecca and the Lone Design Club platform have gone from strength to strength. Named as one of Forbes 30 Under 30, Rebecca regularly speaks about the changing face of retail, ethics and sustainability within the industry. The platform has garnered attention far and wide and been featured in numerous high-profile media outlets such as The Times, WWD, Stylist, and BBC. LDC was named the winner of the Fashion Districts: Retail Futures 2020, and highlighted for innovation in retail and connecting their physical and digital platforms.
01. What was the inspiration behind your company?
Born and raised in New Zealand, I moved to London to embark on a career in fashion at University Arts London. My university collection received international attention and was worn by Lady Gaga, Jessie J and CharliXCX. This encouraged me to co-found my own womenswear brand that launched at London Fashion Week in February 2015. As an emerging brand, I quickly encountered the challenges of the outdated retail model, how it lacked the vital connection a brand needs with end-consumers. To challenge this, I launched a collaborative pop up in Soho at LFW SS17. The success of this store showed there was a gap in the market for short-term stores connecting brands directly with consumers.
This initial pop-up store launched Lone Design Club into what it is today, a growing business that now has monthly pop-up stores in London, Milan and Shanghai. We have 30 stores under our belt and are working with more than 250 brands. Our mission is to disrupt and reshape the future of retail and how we consume.
Fashion retail is at a point of crisis and I see a better way for us to buy, consume and discover the best products. What inspires me the most is connecting independent, ethical designers of beautiful products to an audience who are looking for something unique and special. Lone Design Club offers customers the chance to meet the designers behind the brands and discover transparent and unique products during two weeks of workshops, panel talks and experiences. Not only does Lone Design Club provide a new route to market for designers, it also activates under-utilised retail space on the high street. My purpose is to see the brands in Lone Design Club flourish and grow.
02. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned since first developing and launching your startup?
Focus on one thing and do it really well. Find your niche and make it what you’re known for.
It’s easy to want to rush, to try to run before you can walk, but it dilutes your business and your messaging, and customers can see through it. This has been one of the biggest lessons for me. When you over stretch yourself and your team, mistakes are made, you lose your focus, and it's easy to confuse your audience. In the early days of business, in my experience, there's nothing more important than focusing on your point of difference and owning it before branching out into new avenues.
03. How has the pandemic impacted your company?
Pre-pandemic, approximately 90% of our business revenue was from our physical activities. Not only did the pandemic have a huge impact on our revenue, but our digital plans had to be rapidly accelerated.
In February, we had two pop-up stores open, one in Milan and one in London. During this time, we noticed the impact the pandemic was beginning to have on retail, with travel already beginning to be limited and tourist attendance considerably decreased, especially from Asia. Identifying this early, we immediately made the decision to pivot, to begin a deeper focus on digital, and to refocus efforts on reaching global customers through our ecommerce and social channels. Reacting fast meant we were able to shift a lot of our activities online and deepen our community engagement, supporting our brands through what would become a very tough period.
We also used this time to focus on other opportunities. Desire for sustainable brands has only accelerated, along with growing focus on supporting local economies and the small independent businesses we all want to see survive and thrive. Because of this, our brand community has only grown. We are helping more brands than ever before access conscious shoppers around the globe. We are also helping more customers discover, appreciate, and choose sustainable first brands.
With digital acceleration, we’ve had the opportunity to heavily reconsider and restructure our online offering. In a space of months, we've been able to act faster than ever. With physical pop-up stores on hold, two new business revenue streams have emerged. We are working with landlord partners to keep physical spaces exciting through technology enabled window displays, and are utilising the stores for one to one shopping experiences with brands.
04. Some female founders report experiencing problems accessing capital, mentors, and networking opportunities. Tell us about some of the barriers you’ve faced.
For me, the biggest learning curve was the transition from a creative mindset to a deep knowledge of business and how to run a rapidly growing company. Creative universities tend to focus on bringing out talent and nurturing these abilities as opposed to teaching students how to turn that creativity into a business. Creativity is essential, but I’ve been caught out in the past with gaps in my business knowledge.
My first business was a womenswear brand that I launched at London Fashion Week back in 2015. At the time I was young, passionate, and driven, but I had no business sense. We had been gaining exciting industry traction with celebrities and when the British Fashion Council offered us a showcase at London Fashion Week, we thought, great, let's do it. So, we quit our jobs and the rest was history. There was no business plan and no funding scheme. We were motivated purely by the excitement of the opportunity. As we began to work on our sales strategy, we realised how much harder and important the business side was to master. And so, my journey of learning, mistakes, failures and successes began, all on the job, taking each day one at a time.
I wouldn't change the journey I had, if given the chance. However, I do feel that I could have done certain things differently and got where I wanted to go faster and more efficiently had I had proper business training. I was lucky to pick up the business side fast and to find I actually enjoyed it. However, I couldn't have done it without the support of an incredible network of advisors, mentors, and friends throughout the entire journey.
05. What is the one piece of advice you'd give to other women thinking about starting a company?
We are not alone and you are not alone. Entrepreneurship can be lonely at times, but it is important to remember that you are not alone. The highs are high, and the lows can be very low, which can make being an entrepreneur an emotional and stressful experience. It is important to remember that it's a collaborative world, and building a good, strong network of supporters, advisors, and mentors around you will give you the ability to not only keep going, shoulder some of the weight, but to thrive.
I think one of our biggest challenges is overcoming the fear of failure. It is a tough lesson and not easy to become familiar with failure, but once you do and you can learn from it, it can be the most important part of the journey.
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