On the up Fred Heritage · 5 October 2017
Rose & Willard: The women’s workwear brand promoting ethical British fashion
After a successful 14-year long career in finance, Heidy Rehman quit her high-powered job at a City of London investment bank to set up Rose & Willard an authentically ethical British women’s clothing brand. Since it launched in 2014, Rose & Willard has made ethically-sourced, high-quality clothing for a wide array of celebrity clients, including the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Pippa Middleton, Gemma Arterton, Michelle Dockery, Naomie Harris and Elisabeth Moss. Business Advice chatted to Rehman to find out more about her sustainable fashion business model. (1) Who are you and what’s your business? My name is Heidy Rehman, I am the founder and CEO of Rose & Willard, an ethical workwear brand for professional women. Rose & Willard literally means feminine and bold. I set up my brand after a 14-year long stockbroking career in the City of London. I struggled to find office-appropriate career wear that could stand up to the demands of my role and position. So, I decided to create it myself and offer a solution for working women! (2) How long have you been around for? We launched in September 2014, so just over three years. (3) How do you make money? We sell British-made womenswear online. (4) What makes you different and why should people take notice? Rose & Willard is the only ethical and sustainable workwear brand with a commitment to empowering women and promoting model diversity and positive body image. As part of our ethical stance, I can categorically state that there is no worker exploitation anywhere along our supply chain, and we are one of a very small number of fashion houses that pays its interns. We offer flexible working for all our staff, and particularly those with family commitments, because we believe in promoting general meritocracy within the fashion industry. From an environmental perspective, we believe we have the lowest carbon footprint in the industry. In the clothing industry, 15 to 20 per cent of fabric is discarded during production on average. We keep any leftover fabric and re-design it, and we also donate leftover fabric to fashion students. Our pieces are made to last years not months and this means that, in order to provide quality, we must seek the commensurate materials. Our fabric is sourced from the same Italian mills as high-end, luxury designers. Our team compromises highly-skilled seamstresses and creatives. Another differentiating factor about our business is that I am one of only a small number of South Asian fashion business leaders and one with a working-class background.As in any industry, it is diversity at the decision-making level that facilitates progress. (5) What are the main aims of your online marketing strategy? What Rose & Willard always looks to communicate is the quality and beauty of our product. That is the key challenge with online marketing where the customer doesnt have the opportunity to either see or feel the product. To this end, we have to find a way to communicate that through visual marketing and skilful photography and videos. We also like to share the story of our brand. Many people now don’t just buy products, they also want to relate to the companies that make them. This is important to us because we know that our brand identity and ethos resonates with people who are looking to participate in positive social and environmental change. Overall, we find that we are part of a community of like-minded people. (6) To what extent do you rely on social media to attract customers Social media has become critical to any business. These platforms have allowed people to connect in a way that was never possible before. Not only is it a great way to develop brand awareness but it’s ideal for feedback, which helps us improve and create new products that people want. As an example, we noticed on Twitter that women were calling for dresses with pockets and had trouble finding them. We took that on board and created them. Weve had the opportunity to directly engage with customers (and potential customers) in ways that simply arent possible with the more traditional advertising methods. (7) What setbacks have you had along the way
ABOUT THE EXPERTFred Heritage
Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.