Since launching in 2008, I Love Ugly founders Valentin Ozich and Barnaby Marshall have grown the company into one of New Zealand’s most successful up and coming men’s fashion labels. Now with ten full time staff and six retail stores around the world, we spoke to Barnaby Marshall about how they grew the business and the decision to take on the US market.
TRADE EXPRESS: How has your business evolved since launching in 2008?
I Love Ugly started out like most fashion brands do, selling our products wholesale to stockists around New Zealand. After a while, we decided we wanted to be able to interact directly with our customers in a way that would allow us to curate their experience with us better. Essentially, we wanted to be in control of our own destiny. So we launched our online store to sell our products directly into the market. This completely changed our business and really took us to the next level. From there we started holding retail evening events for our loyal online customers, where we would show our collection in our office space, and invite our customers down for the experience We quickly realised how valuable it was for our customers to be able to interact with our products personally, so we opened a retail store. We now have four stores in New Zealand, and last year we opened one in Melbourne and one in Los Angeles.
TRADE EXPRESS: What led to the decision to open a store in LA?
The decision to open a store in LA was three fold. Firstly, we were getting a lot of website traffic and orders from the US, and so we wanted to have a bricks and mortar presence where these customers were. For customers, brands that have that tangible presence are easier to trust, and we wanted to provide that validation. Secondly, LA is the cultural epicentre in terms of how our society defines popularity. So many cultural trends are dictated by Hollywood, so we wanted to be a part of that sphere of influence. Lastly, having a store in LA gives us a lot of credibility in the fashion industry. It really shows that we are committed to this business, and that we are a street wear force to be reckoned with.
TRADE EXPRESS: How is the LA store going?
The LA store has been going really well ever since the opening. We went off with a huge bang and have been working hard to maintain that momentum. What we are most proud of is that we are gaining more and more traction with locals – every week we get another artist or musician come through the doors and that just keeps building our brand more and more.
TRADE EXPRESS: How did the transition from online to retail change your business?
Since we launched our retail stores, there has been an explosion in our business, which has definitely been due to to the exposure that a bricks and mortar store generates. Since we opened our first retail store, we have really been able to find and define our niche market.
TRADE EXPRESS: How do you market your product to your audience?
Throughout all of our marketing and communications, we focus purely on the product and its benefits. We live by the following questions – How does this product tell a story? What problem will this product solve for our customer? We try and keep our messages as simple as possible, from the design phase right up until the product is on the shelves.
TRADE EXPRESS: What is next for I Love Ugly in 2015?
We are continuing to grow our retail footprint, with plans for stores in Sydney, London, New York, Montreal and Toronto. We are also continuing to increase our stockists around the world, having just signed on with ASOS, which has opened us up to the European market.
TRADE EXPRESS: How does your business rely on logistical support?
Logistics and shipping are a huge part of our business. We produce more ranges than the average fashion label, which means our logistical requirements are even more important. In our industry, the timing of shipments is paramount to business success. We have to be confident in the deliveries of our imports and exports, and our ability to meet deadlines. Being able to deliver shipments to customers on time is also essential to our business.
TRADE EXPRESS: How does DHL help you achieve this?
We rely on DHL for all our international shipments to customers around the world. DHL has been incredible in that they are able to deliver our international orders within 1-2 days. Our top three export markets are Australia, the US and the UK, so being able to say to those customers that they can order our products and have it in their hands within 1-2 business days is invaluable. DHL has also assisted us with being able to deliver our products via Delivery Duty Paid, meaning our shipments are sent straight to the customer and don’t get stuck in customs, which has been amazing.