Monday, 30 January 2012

**EXCLUSIVE** interview with Jenny, the founder of Ruby Rocks.

So, to kick things off, can you tell our readers a little bit about you and your brand Ruby Rocks? How did the name come about? Who is Ruby?

I was pregnant at the time and we weren't sure it was a boy or girl on the way and we had a list of possible names. Ruby was one of them, probably the favourite, had it been a girl but we had a boy (our 2nd, called Lewis), so Ruby was still out there waiting for us. When we decided to start the brand it seemed the obvious choice, and "Rocks" just seemed to go well with it…Ruby certainly does Rock ;-)

I have worked in fashion for years, starting out in Harrods in the buying offices, then merchandising for department stores and window displays, then buying for independents sourcing in London, Paris, the shows and distribution for various brands until I met Izzy. Izzy is a designer who I'd seen at the trade shows over the seasons, hers and the brand we were working for had run their courses so we decided to start as a team and create our brand Ruby Rocks. We sent Izzy to Bali in Nov 2006 to create the first collection, we showed at Margin Feb 2007 and off we went and haven't looked back since.

What did you do before Ruby Rocks? Did you go to Uni?

No, I didn't go to Uni, apart from the “university of life” through all the different work experiences along the way which have all led to where we are now, and having gone through them all kind of kept us on the right path.

Your SS12 collection is now out, and I must say some of the pieces are amazing. Obviously, coming from an accessories background I went straight to your accessories collection. A favorite of mine is the crystal skull ring. It’s beautiful. And totally Emi…

Glad you like!! That crystal skull story was based on a print of ours that we did in the clothing and we translated it into wearable pieces of jewellery; along with the charm bracelet, choker necklace, and the peace ring. We sometimes team up with other product manufacturers and produce lines that sit along our main clothing line.

One thing that strikes me, is that compared to your clothing line your accessories range was quite limited. Do you have plans to expand this in the future? Your leather tassel bags were so on trend this season! I am vegetarian, so wouldn’t use leather, have you ever thought about more natural fibers? If so which?

We do use recycled materials for our tote bags, we will look at sourcing alternatives to leather, good idea! I was vegetarian for 5 years, and totally respect your comments.

My brand was launched in 2009, and I know the difficulties faced when launching a totally new brand – especially online. What advice would you give aspiring fashion designers looking to launch their own labels?

Believe it will work, don't give up! Get some advice on SEO optimization, and stick at it. It's very tough in the first 3 years, long hours and commitment are needed to get to the next level, almost where you don't have to keep rolling the snowball, it's gathered enough and can roll on it's own, just needs direction.

Always look back every half-year and see how far you've come – to build your history. It’s always good not only for you but for the buyers to look at too, and great to see your growth and development telling a story about you, the brand and what you've done along the way.

If you're lucky enough to have a good bank manager that also helps immensely. The key things we did when starting:

1. Design a collection
2. Book a tradeshow
3. Invite the trade press and hope for a feature or picture in the trade press!

Doing all of the above spring boarded the brand and the phone started ringing…

I think the most exciting part about owning your own business is that you can run things how you want to. I love it when a collection finally comes together and you shoot your look book for the season. What is it that you love the most about being your own boss?

Being able to decide where the brand is going and how you want it to be perceived - from the styling to the product, to the customers to the associated products, and licensing and future opportunities of franchising etc.

Saying that, being in the driving seat of a brand can be difficult. What do you use as inspiration for your next collection? What style would you say is carried through from season to season?

Izzy does our designing mostly, I do know she doesn’t like to look at what any other brands in our genre are doing, she almost closes off when she is in Bali to outside influences, we decide to run with themes for the prints and the shapes/silhouettes are down to Izzy and our team in Bali. We know what kind of works now, we are in our 6th year and there are old fav’s that our customers ask for so we offer them in new prints, and we have new shapes and prints every season.

We always think about the ethical side of manufacturing and try to reduce our carbon footprint as mush as possible. What do you do with excess material left over from a certain line? Have you thought about recycling this fabric and turning the unused garments into something else?

We do, our tote bags are made from recycled materials. We hate any waste and never throw anything away. We always try to re-use everything somehow. Any end of line fabrics we offer to customers in styles that no body else has. Due to us using our own print designs, and printing our own fabrics, there's not so much left over as we plan to order and make according to these. We just think of it like bespoke tailoring.

What is it that keeps you going? How do you stay motivated?

I just love it. I love seeing the growth of the brand, meeting new customers, seeing the press coverage, there's always something different to be doing, and running your own business means you have to do everything! I get great satisfaction in getting done what has to be done.

Being nominated and reaching the finalists for Best short order brand of the Year two tears running is amazing, to be recognized by the industry experts makes you realize that you must doing something right, and you are not going unnoticed, and it really does spur you on to achieve more. It’s such an amazing feeling to be there on the night with all the other brands and buyers, it brings us all together for an evening to celebrate fashion and all the hard that we all put in over the years.

I know you currently sell via concessions; do you have a vision for your own store? If so, where would it be located and why?

Well, we've just opened in Great Portland Street, so that's our showroom and we retail from there also.

That’s great, I will have to pop in and see it one day! Finally, looking forward in the future, can you tell us a little bit about what is in-store for Ruby Rocks? And how do you plan to grow the brand even further?

We have just given the license for footwear to a company specialized in high street footwear manufacturing. We are launching that range at Pure this Feb. There is no point trying to produce a product that you are not expert in, it eats up all your time and resources and is great risk, so teaming up with a company who believe in your brand and will work along side with you on the designing seems to be the perfect option. We hope the showroom will help Ruby Rocks to grow further as the location is window to the world. We will also be looking at other licensing opportunities later in the year.

Check out the rest of Ruby Rocks on their website and shop their latest collection which has just landed now!

Happy reading,

Love Xander. x x

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