Why Did I Start This Business Julia Founder
I had retired from a life time working in retail, all of that career in various head offices of some of the largest retailers in the UK. My most notable achievement had to be creating the Florence and Fred Brand for Tesco back in 1999. I then went on to run one of the UK's first ever Pure Play online businesses, where I learnt about online selling. I retired from retail 5 years ago, a bit burnt out and disillusioned with an industry that at best was fast, fun, ever changing and at worst was falling behind technology, price was king, throwaway had become the rigour and some of these businesses were owned or run by some spurious characters who reined by pure aggression and mysoginy. I wanted out. I went on to sit on a few boards and offer up my advise, this was not however my calling and I can honestly say that I did not really enjoy any of it.
I decided I needed to shake up my life and address a problem that had plagued me for the last decade at least. That problem was, Why do I find it so difficult to buy clothes that fit beautifully, were made well from good materials and did not have a designer label attached to it or were made for skinny 20 years olds? Yes there were a few brands out there where I could find the odd item that met my exacting standards. Reiss was great, but lots of items were too short, had cut out bits that meant you could not wear underwear. Sweaty Betty a firm favourite, but OK if you were exercising or lounging. COS is great and I still buy here, but the bottoms never seemed to be the right block for my frame and some of the fabrics are not very nice. HUSH had lost me as a customer a while back and I never felt the love for Mint Velvet, just not my style. I love Cefinn and ME&EM and a real favourite is Theory, but these brands are not attainable to the average women as too price restrictive or not suitable if you have a few lumps and bumps. My Idol was Donna Karan and I missed her diffusion range DKNY harking back to the noughties, although it was a bit pricy.
I went through my own wardrobe and looked at the pieces I had, kept for years and still wore. Why did I still wear them? Because, they were stylish, well made, had attention to detail in both design and fabric. Above all they looked good on me despite my changing shape coming with age. I felt great in all these items and never felt like I was following the herd and nothing was quirky or loud in print or design.
I am blessed with having sisters and many female friends so I set about talking to them and getting qualitative feedback. I had mid-aged women strip off in my sitting room. During covid lockdowns I did zoom calls and with a friend, we went into peoples wardrobes. We talked at Length about clothes, the shopping experience, what pieces in their wardrobes they cherished and had kept for a long time and what items they consistently went back to day in and dat out. Even if these women has a cherished printed dress or brightly coloured blouse, they were never the items they wore time and time again. Everyone had a good pair of black trousers, a nice shirt, a leather jacket, a favourite pair of boots, a favourite brand for t.shirts and some cherished knitwear pieces. All of them talked about fit, quality and feeling good in their clothes.
The emotional behaviour I saw emulating from these dear friends of mine, was a shock, made me feel very sad and then even more determined to solve what I believed was a much bigger problem than even I had anticipated. I had grown women in my sitting room, literally breakdown in tears. They hated shopping, when they were young it was a hobby and in some cases defined them. Now that they were in their prime, they were living through their daughters fashion, if they had them and their clothes in many cases were an after thought. What became very clear was that ALL of these women blamed themselves and not the clothes. I am too fat, too thin, my body is an odd shape, my boobs are too big, have disappeared, I have a fat tummy, big bum, fat arms, skinny legs, skin blemishes and some many more negative comments. Clothes make me look square, fat, I am too short, too tall, I am constantly tugging at my clothes, they too tight on the waist, baggy on the leg, gaping at the bust. I want to look and feel stylish, I don't want to wear heels and Spanx!
I asked myself, how did we get here when 50% of 50% of the population blamed themselves for not fitting the clothes, as opposed to the clothes not being made to fit them. As time went on and the more women I spoke to the bigger the problem I saw. Petite women had a problem, tall women had a problem and the biggest shock of all was younger women had the problem too. Rey House was born.
So I set about trying to solve the problems. I started measuring women's bodies and started looking at how I do this more scientifically, more to follow on this as we have made progress on this and could be a game changer. I teamed up with a very talented pattern cutter called Gill and started looking at core key shapes and fabrics that would translate as I believe this is key to great fitting clothes. We have rejected far more than we have embraced and through my frustration of not finding fabrics that are good enough, we have now gone on a journey of developing our own fabrics with two really great fabric mills who have loads of ideas and technology that the high street has just not embraced. Using a traditional pattern cutter we have developed key blocks that we have used in all of our styles. We are still working through the grading of these blocks and there is still a lot of work to do on this, which is taking time. We have made mistakes and had many epiphanies, trial and error and a whole host of challenges have presented themselves, but we carry on in the belief that there IS a BIG problem that needs to resolved.
As a result of measuring lots of women and hearing their stories we have developed our Diamond Cut Theory. This is based around the fact that all women are different shapes and sizes. We endeavoured to take the data and put it into groups and came up with 7 key body shapes that we believe most women can identify with. We called them Diamonds to get away from the good old fashioned apples and pears theory. I did not want to be identified as a piece of fruit and felt that all women are actually individual and are precious and to be revered. We have many women signed up to our Diamond Community and we have a Chat group too, all talking to us about what they need.
We now have young women buying our clothes, women from different ethic backgrounds and women like me. We have endless ideas, designs and fabrics that we would like to trial, but we have to do this systematically and use our resources effectively.
I continue to spend all of my time working on solving this problem and trying to look at it from different perspectives. Everyone I talk to agrees their is a problem and our customer feedback is both constructive and invaluable. I want to create what I call the Oooh! factor. Translated this means "Oooh I feel great in this" I am making this my mission for the next 10 years of my life and will do my best to challenge and change in the industry.