In Conversation with: Bethany Rowntree
STUDIO B FASHION
Beth approached us about the concept of Studio B in June; a curated selection of brands which present high quality, ethically produced items collated on one platform. With first hand experience working with Mulberry, Matches Fashion and Anya Hindmarsh, Bethany has turned her focus to present a selection of brands to customer's looking for products of substance and longevity. Since launch in September, Studio B has been building a reputation for its playful yet curated selection of niche brands. We sat down with Bethany to find out more about her idea of the perfect marketplace.
What is Studio B?
Studio B is an edited online retail platform for independent, new and niche brands offering womenswear and accessories. All are premium but attainable and offer something a bit unique, whilst simultaneously can style well together. The focus of the site is on style, stories and celebrating an ethos of buy less, love more. I really want to champion craftsmanship and independent brands, bringing them together in one place to tell their stories. We have a whole Stories content section on the site where each brand has its own page and interview on there, I’ve found this really interesting and just tells people more about what they’re buying, where it comes from and who’s behind the brand! We also have stories from professionals, creatives and entrepreneurs from various industries to add over the coming weeks.
How and why did the idea of Studio B come about?
I’d been thinking (and thinking) about Studio B for years! I actually bought the domain name over 2 years ago… but still remained in my job at the time. I’d studied a fashion related degree at Uni in Manchester, I’d worked in fancy stores and I then worked for almost 7 years in luxury fashion in a mix of buying and merchandising head office roles. I’d worked for Mulberry where I started and loved at the time, then Matchesfashion.com and then lastly Anya Hindmarch. Each company was different but also similar and the roles began to blend into one. Even as you moved higher up I still felt I wasn’t making the most of my skills; I’d always wanted to work in fashion but just felt I still wasn’t doing what I loved. Most people who work at big brands will probably tell you it’s not always what it seems from the outside and I just began to feel a bit disillusioned and kept thinking there must be more!
I loved ‘stuff’ and finding something new or special things, but began to not really enjoy shopping (shock horror!). Especially working in luxury fashion as I couldn’t actually afford anything I was surrounded by! I kept finding smaller more independent brands or newer brands I didn’t know so well on Instagram and started thinking wouldn’t it be amazing to put them all into one edited place that looks amazing, that tells people more about them, and is easy to shop. Where everything is at the same level of premium, but attainable, so you know what you’re expecting price wise (by attainable I mean I’ll eat tinned tuna for a week, not half the year, to buy an amazing dress!). I just kept asking myself if you didn’t want fast fashion, premium high street or super luxury, and wanted something a bit more unique, where did you go?
You mention that finding and stocking independent labels is a key focus for you, with a special importance put on the product and how it is made - why is that?
I just wanted something different, I was so bored of finding the same brands, or wearing the same high street options as other people. I always liked something different and had found so many independent brands through Instagram that all made beautiful products but were just not so known. Once meeting with a few it turned out a lot of them use local production, knew their suppliers well or even handcraft themselves – and actually have very high cost prices, which of course impacts their selling price. To me this then became another great feature about these brands and one I thought needed to be told! Especially having worked in luxury fashion and knowing where they produce isn’t necessarily what it seems – margin is a big factor and they definitely don’t handcraft anything!
I’m not saying all the brands on the site are 100% strictly ethical and sustainable, but all the brands produce a premium product and are very focused on quality.
What makes a brand stand out for you? How do you normally go about selecting them?
I mostly find them all through Instagram, this has been such a massive tool for this! Usually print, colour, shape, styling or a unique design feature or strong brand image makes a brand stand out to me. Just that something a bit more creative about it, a bit of difference in the product or something that has a story behind it.
You typically work with female-led brands, what attracted you to MONC?
The site is womenswear and accessories so we haven’t yet branched out into mens or other areas, and it just so happens most of the brands are also designed by women. I found Monc and just loved the sunglasses; the shapes were that little bit different and the unique details and distinctive colours and finishes really made them stand out to me. Then I read the stories behind each range and how Monc handcraft in Italy and loved them even more! When I actually met with Freddie and tried the glasses the quality really was incredible and I was so impressed, it really does fully justify the price… and now I want all of them!
What’s next for Studio B?
Big question! As we’ve only just launched the plan is to keep pushing marketing and press and gain a loyal customer base. So far, a week in, we already have some key customers who have been following our journey and love the products, which is fantastic!
Next is also to plan some pop ups or shopping events for next year, I think a lot of the products, including Monc, speak for themselves when you actually see them. We’re also already adding new brands and have a batch in the pipeline waiting to be added, plus we’ll be introducing the next collections from our more seasonal brands Baum und Pferdgarten, Gestuz and Rixo just before Christmas.
Further into the future we’d love to have a physical studio space to host our office and our brands. A lovely space where customers can come and try all the brands in a really relaxed environment and have a lovely shopping experience. Plus, hopefully they’d find some new brands to love forever.
Thanks to Bethany Rowntree, and Kate Woosey for conducting this interview. Find Beth's selection of MONC frames and collections from other brands a studiobfashion.com
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