Determining your core values at an early stage can have a big impact on the type of brand that your business will become. We spoke to Charlie Grabham of Hues&Co – designers of oversized scarves with exceptional colour saturation and drape – and found out how being a Geordie helped her to develop her luxury scarf brand.
Hues&Co produce British-designed, Italian-made scarves for people who live in colour. Using our brand values of colour, spirit, personality and positivity, our focus is on creating statement pieces that are distinctly Hues&Co. Our target market consists of people who love colour; from the way they dress, to the way they live their lives. We work with independently spirited retailers, stylists and consumers who love to make a statement and are full of personality.
I set up Hues&Co in early 2018, although it had been in the pipeline for a while. In March 2017, I set up a website to sell scarves from the Netherlands, but I always wanted to do a ‘British edit’ of my own-brand scarves to sell on the site. What started as a side project quickly became my main focus, as well as my reason for applying for a Start Up Loan from Virgin StartUp.
Originally from an international marketing background, I decided to do something I was passionate about and that would still allow me use my marketing skills. This is how I developed my brand.
Step 1 – Developing brand values
It all started with my target customers! I had my sights set on internationalisation from day one and knew that my brand had to resonate with both domestic and international consumers who had an appreciation of quality statement pieces.
Originally from the North East, I wanted to develop a brand that really reflected the best of what it is to be from this region, but without limiting the brand’s appeal if an international consumer didn’t have an understanding of it. So, the first stage of my brand planning was to write down all the things that I saw as the best bits about being from my part of the world. Authenticity is the cornerstone of any great brand, so where better to start in developing brand values than home!
If you sit on a train or bus, or even just sit down on your own somewhere in Newcastle, the likelihood is that someone will talk to you. It’s an inbuilt trait to automatically give you our life story (even if you only asked a simple question!).
Famously, Geordies are some of the friendliest people in the world, and Newcastle has been voted as one of the happiest cities in the UK.
Our region has undergone major changes in the past, but our people remain full of spirit. They are resilient to change and continue to passionately love the area that they call home.
From the party scene to the clothes and the language, we are colourful people!
So how did this tie into developing a luxury brand?
For me these values were also concepts that resonated across boundaries, irrespective of language, age, ethnicity or sexual orientation; hence they became the brief for my scarves when I started working with designers. The launch collection consisted of the designs which were best translated into meaningful products for my target customers.
Step 2 – Realising the brand
After giving the brief to a few designers and asking them to develop some designs on my behalf, nothing seemed to be hitting the mark. Then I mentioned the project to my graphic designer, who also had a background in other types of design. I remember opening the PDF he sent me and just loving everything! His designs took everyday British icons and deconstructed them into graphic prints. From flags to umbrellas and the London Underground, his colourful and graphic prints were just what I was looking for.
Step 3 – Weaving the values into the fabric of the brand (literally)!
The next step was choosing the right fabric. Since colour was a major part of both the branding and the designs, it was imperative that I chose a fabric that had exceptional colour saturation.
When I started looking at fabrics, suppliers and competitors, I realised that there were a massive amount of brands working with silk, but few that did oversized scarves in other fabrics that actually felt really good to wear.
The marketplace for silk was also exceptionally busy, so I chose a mixed fabric with amazing colour saturation and drape that could be produced in large format. I knew I wanted to work with a range of quality fabrics and have proximity to my supply chain, so the natural choice for me was Italy. After a bit of research, I was put in touch with a manufacturer who sent me some swatches and the samples exceeded my expectations.
Step 4 – Finally, the name
This is the bit that a lot of people start with, but really it should come last. From my experience as a marketer, if you start with a name then you tend to build your brand around that, rather than your customers. As so much of my focus was on colour, my name had to be defined by that. I wanted to keep the colour theme running throughout, but I was also conscious that international markets valued the ‘Britishness’ of products, so it also had to sound quintessentially British.
Hues&Co might sound obvious, but it’s a very British construct that allowed me to create a brand built around colour, rather than products. This gave me the focus and space to develop the range in the future.
My brand is still new, but I have had lots of interest from stockists and stylists and I am now selling direct to consumers, which is really exciting! I have loads of work to do to ensure that each touchpoint reflects my brand personality. This means that the next few months will include a website overhaul, a lifestyle photoshoot and loads of social media.
It’s an exciting time for me and the brand. I hope it will stand the test of time and these beautiful pieces will be worn by some of the most colourful people on the planet! Watch this space!
Follow Charlie’s brand @huesandcompany.
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