Many of us dream of being a bit taller. But as Emma Stewart can testify being tall brings its own challenges. At 6ft tall Emma has always found it a challenge to find stylish, tall clothing. So she decided to launch her own clothing brand to cater to the needs of tall women.
Emma, please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a bit about your background.
My name is Emma Stewart, I am 6ft tall, 49 years old. I have been toying with the idea of starting a tall clothing label for women for around 30 years. But have only recently been brave enough to jump off the corporate treadmill to follow this pipe dream. Until last spring I’d worked in publishing, in radio production (at Bloomberg and for the BBC) and then in journalism and PR. It’s been a long journey. But the time finally felt right for a new challenge.
What Was Your Inspiration For Launching Allta?
I have always thought, ‘wouldn’t it be fun to do it’. It was when I was attending a birthday party of one of my husband’s friends I felt a real pang of envy. I found myself sitting at a table with several people who ran their own businesses. At that moment I realised I really did want to be my own boss. Tall clothing was the idea I’d always had at the back of my head. So I immersed myself in researching the market.
Why Did It Feel Right To Launch A Tall Clothing Brand Now?
I first started thinking about it when I was in my late teens. The only options for a 6ft woman were to buy from Long Tall Sally or to buy men’s clothing. I remember wishing there was more choice available.
I was always convinced that market forces would lead to another strong brand appearing serving the tall clothing market. More choice did start to appear as high street names such as Gap, Next and Top Shop introduced tall clothing sections, but I still thought there was room for more. I still didn’t feel that what I wanted to buy was easy to find.
The timing was due to a number of factors. I had sold a property I co-owned with a friend so had a bit of cash behind me. My job was making me unhappy in my job. Then spurred on by my husband and his entrepreneur friends I wanted ‘some of that’.
What Are Allta’s Brand Values?
Allta is about good quality fabrics and garments made to stand the test of time. We are, if you like, about slow – rather than fast – fashion. I have always preferred natural fibres that let your skin breathe. Natural fibres tend to wear better than synthetic fabrics, being less prone to pilling or losing their shape.
As more has become known about the impact these synthetic fibres have on the environment, this crystallised my position on the matter. We are keen to avoid synthetics where possible and use good quality fabrics made from natural fibres. We are all about quality, both in terms of the fabrics used and the design and manufacture of the garments.
What Made You Decide To Manufacture In The UK?
I wanted to manufacture in the UK firstly from a practical point of view. It is easier to keep in touch with the manufacturer and consult them/be consulted at every step of the way if you can easily visit them.
We met Fashion Enter, the manufacturer we are using, at the Make It British Live event a couple of years ago in London. After consulting with a few British manufacturers, they appeared to offer the best combination of services we were looking for. From pattern cutting to manufacture, and a good range of pricing options.
It wasn’t originally our goal to work with a social enterprise. But I am pleased that we are as this fits nicely with our overarching ethos of sustainability.
What Is Your Approach To Sustainability?
As mentioned above, this is something that I think is only now being seriously addressed in the fashion industry.
It is something I am keen to include in our brand values and working practices.
We are reflecting this in our choice of fabrics and suppliers and I am actively researching suppliers who can help us make the best choices via trade shows like the Future Fabrics Expo and bodies such as the Sustainable Angle.
I am keen to learn more about the best working practices so that we may adopt them as we grow.
What Has Been The Biggest Challenge You Have Faced So Far?
Each step along the way appears to be the biggest challenge at the time! That is until you get past it and look at the next one!
Finding suppliers was challenging and finding how to put together a tech pack and detailed instructions to my manufacturer.
Tackling quality control issues along the way; managing the launch; all of these things have been challenging.
Now it is marketing and promotion. This is something I have been working along since we started the business in May 2017, but now that we have launched it needs constant work and investment.
How Are You Building Awareness Of The Brand?
I am exploring both online and offline options.
We launched the brand with a pop-up shop at the Henley Regatta, which seemed to work well in terms of meeting potential customers. We made our first sales and received some excellent feedback on the products. We are now looking at other pop-up shopping events and are planning the next one for the Rare Brands Christmas Market at Goodwood Racecourse in November.
We are also working at building our online presence for tall clothing via Instagram and Facebook. I am working with a friend who is experienced in PR and she has been pursuing options with national and local press as well as the women’s magazine market.
We have found a couple of ambassadors to work with us by blogging and promoting us on Instagram and I am now looking into Facebook advertising. So we have our fingers in lots of pies to build brand awareness. I am very conscious that it will not happen overnight.
What Are Your 3 Top Tips For Anyone Considering Launching Their Own Brand?
– Make use of the London College of Fashion’s short courses. They run a number of courses on starting a business, full of good advice.
– Join fashion/entrepreneurs’ networking groups. It’s really useful to share stories and experiences with others in the same situation.
– Make sure you allow sufficient budget for marketing and promotion. As getting the clothes made is the easy bit!
Where Can Women Find Your Products?
allta.co.uk or at the Rare Brand Market Christmas Market, 22-24 November at Goodwood.
Who Has Been Your Biggest Inspiration?
My husband has been running his own business for 14 years and has seen some tough times as well as successes. He now has 2 full time jobs! Running his company and working as my finance/planning/spreadsheet guru at Allta. He is always pragmatic, cool-headed and stays positive and upbeat when I am in the doldrums. He is a superstar and has encouraged me every step of the way.
Where Do You See Allta In 5 Years’ Time?
So far we have just launched with a very small collection of jackets. I would like us to have a much wider range of tall clothing in 5 years time. I want the range to include dresses, tops, trousers, skirts…the works. Ideally I’d have a small team working with me then, too. I would like the brand to be a recognized player in the tall clothing sector. I am aiming to have a loyal customer base, who share our values and love our clothes.
I’d like to thank Emma for a fabulous interview and some great insights into launching a new clothing brand.
For many of us we may wish we were a bit taller, shorter, etc – how that grass is always greener on the other side! But it can simply be that we just need to be a bit more confident about our own bodies. If you’d like to get a copy of my top tips for body confidence, then sign up know for your free download.