– Posted by Sara
As founders, this fifth and final update in celebration of our five year anniversary is, by far, the most personal for us. Reaching this milestone is a time for reflection on how far we've come but it's also a time for thinking big, thinking strategically and building a robust growth plan that will define our next five years.
When we launched this business in September 2012 with a small collection of premium maternity dresses, it was the first step towards realising our ultimate vision of creating a pre-eminent British womenswear brand in the accessible luxury space. Our story is only just a few chapters in so as we look to what happens next, we'll re-cap our journey so far and share where we want to go next.
Our Story So Far
We've known each other since we were 10. We met at school on my first day on British soil (Sara grew up in Dublin, Helen in Cheshire). We took exactly the same A Levels, both did Masters in History (we’re Tudor girls, in case you’re interested), lived together in London for years and are both godmothers to each other’s first-borns. We built our working relationship on the trust and understanding that comes from a life-long friendship. It also helps we share the same values, have differing but complementary skill sets and we’re very well-matched in terms of our work-ethic (way too keen). We incorporated Madderson in August 2011, began trading in September 2012, and expanded into womenswear in the spring of 2014. Helen has been based in Hong Kong for the last few years so we have a Face Time-heavy relationship. Nevertheless, there’s no bigger privilege than building something amazing with your soul-mate!
The Madderson Difference
Our approach is quite different from the rest of the contemporary womenswear market. Ours is a romantic, luxury product that is rooted in our love of history and literature. We aim to pour the same creativity, craftsmanship and incredible fabrics into our collections and our imagery as you see in the luxury-world but translate these into a modern, wearable wardrobe for women with busy lifestyles - just like ourselves. Our key differentiator is that we do all this at a completely different price point - a £200 dress rather than a £2000 dress!
We also want to inspire women to be the best version of themselves by offering them beautiful, timeless pieces that play a transformative role in their wardrobe. Clothing that our customers fall in love with, that lifts their spirits and become their go-to when they need to look and feel their best. Our goal is to make that Madderson piece in your wardrobe a transformer, a powerful way to differentiate yourself from other women and instilling a self-confidence which is almost tangible.
Speaking with our customers, we are always struck by how people respond to Madderson – whether it’s the unprecedented number of compliments received or the quality of the fabrics we use or the beauty of our packaging – women love the air of luxury combined with the fact that the product represents good value. And this is where we see the opportunity. We believe there is room for a quintessentially British brand, home-grown and built on integrity & longevity, through which customers can fall in love with this beautiful country.
A New Direction: Direct!
We’ve spent the past 5 years fine-tuning our business, understanding what our customers want from us and ensuring a profitable model. Over the years we’ve built up a successful wholesale business, which last year accounted for half our revenues. This spring we have taken the momentous and exciting decision to exit wholesale completely. The main reason for this was to better service our direct customers. The structure of the wholesale market means high mark-ups are needed, leading to inflated end-prices. We were becoming increasingly frustrated that we could not offer our customers the value that we knew was possible.
A key part of our proposition is to offer sublime, luxury level fabrics and details at a great price-point. By opting to sell direct to our customers, we can pass on a much bigger proportion of the value. Indeed, some of our most special ‘hero’ styles would be loss-making for us under a wholesale model! So for AW17, we are thrilled to offer transformational pieces, crafted with fabrics from the world’s best mills, at a price-point on a par with the top end of the British high street.
Pursuing the dream
This business started as a dream, acting on a gut instinct that there might be an opportunity for a British accessible luxury brand with a different point of view. We’re both convinced that, with fashion homogenising, that opportunity is increasing not decreasing. We’ve got this far with 5 children between us, 6,000 miles apart, stints with children in hospital and husbands travelling, because we are 100% committed to building this brand.
Until now, Madderson has been entirely self-funded. This has afforded us total autonomy to perfect our model, as well as keeping us very disciplined! We are proud to have built a brand with a true global presence, principally on word-of-mouth. Now is the time to raise external capital and provide our business with the oxygen it needs to grow and thrive. One of our first undertakings in our 6th year will be speaking to potential seed investors in the angel and crowd-funding arenas. We are incredibly excited about opening up our brand and inviting more stakeholders into our business. We promise to keep you, our customers, fully up to speed on our progress!
Sara and Helen xx
Sara Madderson is founder and creative director of Madderson London. She loves history, literature, art and a good bottle of claret.