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EFF SOURCE Fashion business success without compromise

30 March 2015

Buyer Interview: Holly Allenby from THE-ACEY

Contributor Ayla Angelos


New online boutique THE-ACEY was launched just 6 months ago, SOURCE Intelligence catches up with its founder Holly Allenby to find out how business is going.

THE-ACEY is a young online boutique in the UK specialising in contemporary womenswear made in a sustainable manner. Founded by Holly Allenby in September 2014, the shop is already attracting worldwide attention and is set on a course for rapid commercial success. Stocking brands like Matt & Nat, SVILU, Terials, Véja + more, the online platform has slick user experience and clean, minimal, fashion-forward interface.

SOURCE Intelligence contributor Ayla Angelos talks to Holly to find out how the last 6 months have been going, some of her key successes and challenges as well as some insight on how she finds brands and the advantages of selling online.

What do you aim to achieve with THE–ACEY? Where do you want to take the business?

Our aim is to be the global destination for style with purpose.

You’re a relatively new business, how are things going thus far?

We launched in September 2014 so we have been trading for 6 months. We’ve been blown away by our international customer base, as we’ve got ACEY women in over 12 countries which is unexpected but brilliant (and why we love the web).

What have been some of your biggest milestones and also your biggest challenges to date?

One of our first really exciting moments was when we got a sale from someone totally unknown a few days after launch. They were in Stockholm and I remember feeling so overwhelmed that they had found us and made a purchase. We have also secured some incredible press coverage (to be released soon) which was a big win for us, especially as they found us organically.

How did you decide upon your market focus / target audience? Why did you think the time was right to open a web shop that offers what you do?

THE-ACEY was founded on a need for a destination that combines ethics and aesthetics and gave women the option to buy better without compromise. I was working for the lifestyle company, TOMS, which champions a One for One business model so I saw first-hand how business could be done better; this was a huge influence on my decision to create THE-ACEY.

What are some of the advantages / challenges of being a web shop rather than a bricks-and-mortar shop? In what ways do you make the most of the advantages and overcome the challenges?

Obviously a bricks and mortar store has the advantage of passing trade, however for us we wanted to be able to reach a global audience from day one and make THE-ACEY a truly worldwide destination. Online is a very crowded space and consumer’s attention spans are short. So this can be tricky, but we are finding success in social media and working with likeminded companies. Like everything we do, we prefer quality over quantity so we are aiming to grow THE-ACEY very organically.

How do you find brands to stock? What makes a brand stand out?

We go to trade shows in Berlin, Paris and London as well as doing research online. We have also been so fortunate that brands approach us and customers introduce us to new brands. We look for brands that embody innovation and integrity throughout their company.

How do trends factor into your buying decisions?

We try to focus more on transeasonal pieces as opposed to trend lead. However, we absolutely do keep up to date with trends; the pieces we buy reflect current trends but we always try to ensure they have a longer shelf life than ‘flash’ trends.

What are your best-selling brands and/or products? Why do you think they sell so well?

We have seen great success with the footwear brand Véja that we recently launched. They are very minimal and modern aesthetically, as well as having a really innovative, ecological story behind them. Our consumers are conscious of aesthetics and ethics, and that’s exactly the balance we want to achieve; beautiful and functional clothing ethically made.

Tell us about THE-ACEY customers. What kind of people are they? What are the important factors in their purchasing decisions?

ACEY women appreciate a life of quality, transparency and simplicity and this is what we try to offer them: the option to buy better without compromise.

THE-ACEY focuses on two qualities: integrity and innovation. What makes these qualities important for your shop?

These are our founding pillars. It took us a while to figure out how to communicate what an ACEY brand is and what it isn’t, and we wanted to make it as simple as possible for our consumer. We felt innovation and integrity sum up brands doing business better perfectly.

Why do you think the time is right for “ethical fashion?” What do you see happening in the market now and in the future? Why do you think ethical fashion is so important?

Honestly, for us, ethical practises are a no brainer. They make life simpler for both the brand and consumer. If the brand knows their supplier and what they are capable of, then they can create better quality products and this way the consumer gets a better end product.

We’d love to see the whole industry slowdown; we don’t need 52 new collections a year to hit the shop floors, we need to take it back to basics and have 2 seasons. As Dame Vivienne Westwood says ‘Buy less, choose well’.

Check out THE-ACEY website. Follow them on Instagram: @the_acey

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