The queen of cashmere Madeleine Thompson on growing her fashion business organically..
Interview Helen Baron
Q. What’s your secret? How did you grow your business?
A. No secret! We grew very organically and I have always led by my product, hoping that the rest would follow. I take great pride in our quality and also our design. Around two years ago I decided to get ‘out there’ with social media, something I was extremely late in the game to, and I haven’t looked back since. I think that has been key to establishing brand presence and getting more of a following. I also surround myself with the most wonderful people who work with MT, who are a constant support and inspiration.
Q. How have you sustained your success as the industry has changed – and become more and more competitive?
A. I think sticking to what you believe in and not faltering on that. In our case it’s the quality and design. I also think it’s been very important to grow and adapt as the industry is just this behemoth that has a mind of its own, so you need to move with it! I find that the competition actually drives me to do better, which is lucky as there is a lot of great stuff out there!
Q. You studied law at university – how did you end up in fashion?
A. I went straight from law into fashion PR and then became a buyer which was an amazing lesson in the realities of the retail industry.
Q. How key is flexibility to your life as a working mum?
A. For me it’s the most important thing and I feel profoundly lucky that I can work on a flexibly basis because I work for myself. I am constantly rushing around but at least I am the ‘master of my own destiny’ and that takes so much pressure off. Many mothers cannot do this and are working to someone else’s schedule. Now that I’m a mother I really respect these women so much. I often work before the kids are awake very early in the morning and long after they go to bed in order to max out on time with them when they are up.
Q. What advice would you give to others wanting to start an independent fashion label?
A. It’s absolutely key to be very sure of your product first and identify what is fundamental to your brand and who your customer is. I’ve also kept true to only using the highest quality cashmere yarn for my cashmere brand. From here, you can build your message and your story. Having a strong image is essential, and I’ve always worked with the same stylist and photographer for my campaign imagery. I’ve an amazing team, across production, sales, communications and social media and it’s important to work hand in hand – listening to feedback as well as driving the ship! It’s also key to evolve with the trends and move with the times. I realised a couple of years ago how important Instagram is becoming, and have invested a great deal of energy and expertise into building a really strong account for the brand.