A collective of emerging London designers, London Designers Collective was only established back in 2016 by the founders of London-based brand REIN, Gemma and Rebecca, who have become pioneers in guerrilla retail by merging culture and experience. With over 50 members as part of LDC, a handful of successful pop up events under their belt with the third held just last week during London Fashion Week, Atlas spoke to the pair on LDC’s success, growth and how these independent fashion brands are taking the reins of their businesses, connecting with other like-minded brands, and collectively, harnessing their power to create necessary change in the fashion industry.
Words by Jessica-Christin Hametner. Photographed by Sam Deaman.
A: What was the inspiration behind launching LDC?
LDC: It was during one of the fashion weeks and while sitting on our stand we noticed that there was almost a competition between all of the small brands, which was confirmed after we spoke to people, realising that we’re all in a similar situation. It’s a tough industry to get your name out there and it’s also quite a tough climate with everyone thinking differently now and taking different approaches, questioning ‘what is the future of retail?’ It’s interesting because shows meant so much in the past because online didn’t exist – you had to go to the show as a buyer or press to know what to write about and what’s coming up. Now, everyone can get access to the information, so it’s no longer industry-only. It’s not coveted and doesn’t need to be.
And so basically we found that a lot of brands similar to us found pop-ups a good way to get directly to their customers, not having to go through stores. We did a few test ones and it’s worked really well. So that was the beginning of it really, and now we’re just growing and growing part of the collective.
A:What impact has LDC had on the fashion scene since you first launched in 2016?
LDC: I think it’s still growing, but so far has had a great reception. I think the biggest thing that’s shocked us most is how many other brands have been really interested. We have been inundated with brands asking to get involved – it’s crazy because I think there’s such a huge hunger for what is the future of retail especially for smaller brands. Where is that moving? Interestingly for this one, doing the presentations for London Fashion Week has had really good press reception. Because everything is shifting and changing, people are interested to see where it’s all going to go. Rent is rising constantly in London – it’s just inaccessible for small brands to show somewhere. Budgets are tightening, the high street is strong, stores are closing all the time, there’s so much noise from social media, which is great, but then how do you shout above and across and how do you get around it? I think the industry is really interested, as we’ve had people being interested in what we’re doing, wanting to hear more, which is fantastic.
And we’re hoping that this will be something that organically grows and grows, and becomes bigger.
A: What kind of monthly pop events do you host?
LDC: Our next one is in April with all the details to be finalised yet. The whole idea is to take over spaces that are not necessarily clean and white and ready to go. That we’re doing something that’s a bit more interesting because also something for us that we found is that the customer especially when it’s a higher price point, they’re not just coming to you because they want a garment, they’re coming to you because they want an experience of buying something that’s beautiful, but also speaking to the designers is a big draw for people, having a coffee with us, for instance. So for us it’s always about having something that’s a little bit different and not just a store with something else as well.
A: How do you choose what kind of brands to collaborate with for LDC? Are there certain qualities or brand values you look for?
LDC: The important thing is that this network and these brands joining the collective are constantly growing, growing and growing. And the one issue we do face is that some amazing brands will approach us so keen to do it and be a part of it, but if their customer is so far different to the other brands that we’ve already signed up – it’s not that they’re not a good brand (they are amazing) – it’s just that there is no point. And this is the gap at the moment, which we’re trying to look at how we can solve. In an ideal world and the way we see it going is that the network itself will be able to act as a platform where brands can connect with each other. It’s quite far off, but that it so becomes a platform where people can use each other.
A: REIN has seen huge success since you first launched – what advice would you give any young designers just starting out?
LDC: Have a really, really strong, unique selling point. And research your market. Know exactly whom your customer is that you’re selling to before you even begin. And make sure that they buy it, want it and need it before you do anything else.
No matter your background you’re going to be everything – the account, the PR, the designer – so you need to be open-minded and roll with it.
TRAMP IN DISGUISE PRESENTATION
A: How has LDC evolved since you first began?
LDC: I feel that it’s changing all the time. Every season we want to get better and we’re learning more and more about the woman who is buying from us. What does she want and how is she using the products? That really changes the thought-process for us too.
A: Do you have a motto or ethos for the brand you’d like to share with us?
LDC: The main thing for us is statement clothing because that’s where we began, but also that make the wearer feel amazing. Because it’s so important that you feel amazing in what you’re wearing.
By that we mean that the textures feel comfortable, they’re easy to wash and care for, they are a complete statement in themself, having that full package – whereas a lot of designer clothing can look incredible and amazing, but doesn’t cater across the border in terms of like busy, modern lifestyles, dashing around London all the time, having to look great and be at that level. But we also need to feel comfortable and for us it’s really about matching that – keeping that statement (graphic and bold) that we have, but matching that to every day practicalities.