Why I Started Rey House

After more than 35 years working in the retail industry, the early years in fashion; I stepped back a little to follow other projects in my life that I wanted to explore. It was during this period that my wardrobe requirements changed as I was no longer in an office or having to present myself in meetings and generally everything had become more casual. I was now in my 50s and was shopping online and on the high street. This is where I became aware of a really big problem. Many clothes do not actually fit properly, particularly if you are female and over the age of 40. The quality is also lacking, fabrics are not in my opinion as they should be, many of the brands claiming to be for me did not reflect my style at best and wearability at worst. At 50 plus I cannot wear a plunging front dress with no back to it, I have to wear underwear, my boobs are naturally a 34E. On one occasion I had a wedding to go to and in one high street store I took 10 dresses into the changing room. Broke out in a sweat changing, wrestling in a small space with horrible lighting and an unflattering mirror. Not one dress fitted properly or was in any way flattering. I left hot and bothered, flat and despondent and actually pretty depressed by the whole experience. The thought of going to the wedding had now turned from being delighted to be invited to dread and not wanting to go. I contemplated hopping on a plane to Italy, where I always found things that fitted and I wanted to buy. How did our shops not reflect what Italian, French and Spanish stylish women were wearing, even the USA had better brands of good fitting clothes than we did. With this shopping experience and many other online shopping occasions where everything went back, I decided I needed to do something about it and get to the bottom of what exactly was going on.

As I had been in the industry, I knew the value chain very well and the process of designing, fitting and making clothes. I started to talk to family, friends and friends of friends and what I discovered reaffirmed my personal views and experiences and shockingly I discovered that the problem was actually universal. I gathered quantitative and qualitative data, I went through women’s wardrobes and did focus groups. What I discovered was, that clothes not fitting, the quality of clothes and finding clothes that suited and were wearable were the top priorities. The worrying thing was that all of this has a major impact on women’s self-esteem. I had happy, confident, successful, affluent women; breaking down in tears in front of me because they could find nothing to wear. This was not about having no money, no need to buy new clothes, a dislike of shopping, although this had become a problem. This was about not being able to find clothes that made them feel good about themselves. It was about the clothes fitting you, not you trying to fit the clothes. It was about going about your day not feeling uncomfortable, tugging at your clothes to rearrange them, about having to have clothes altered by a local seamstress and about feeling fatter than you are, frumpy and dowdy and generally down with the world.

Rey House was born, aimed at real women and using data and feedback to actually listen and grasp what real women wanted and needed. My job was to come up with the shapes, designs, fabrics, sizing. To test them and then test them again. We have gone on this journey, we have not got everything right and made our fair number of mistakes along the way, but we are getting great feedback and lots of return customers and accolades.

We have now been awarded an Innovate UK Govt Grant to help with our research around the problem, which means that we are now officially recognised for the work we are doing and the problems that have been identified. We are also collaborating with scientists, engineers, pattern cutters and a whole host of other experts from all over the globe to work with us on fixing this problem. We are working with fabric mills to create our own exclusive fabrics that are sustainable, great quality, suit the product and feel good against the skin.

Sadly only 8% of people in the UK can easily find clothes to fit. 70% of shoppers say body positivity is important. 46% of the population say quality is really important when shopping. 100 billion items of clothing are made on the planet every year. 30% of all clothing made is never sold, never worn or worn once. 25% of clothing that ends up in landfill still has the swing tickets on it. @53% of all items bought online are returned to the brand. The biggest returns reason is fit at @70% followed by did not suit me.

There is nothing in our collection that I would not wear and would not be proud to sell. Zoe our Creative Director is all over our data and is always talking to our customers. Charlotte our stylist is constantly meeting women and helping them with their clothing choices, way beyond our own brand because this is bigger than we are. We know our bodies change with age and this is normal and acceptable and we need to use the tools available to us with progress, technology and a future in mind to make sure that we solve what I believe to be a substantial problem with serious consequences all round. Sign up and join our community and tell us which Diamond shape you identify with. You do not need to buy or try anything, it is your feedback and honest comment that is critical for us to build on.

Julia Reynolds