Gemma Ward gets the low-down on two of Central London’s best fashion indies

Other

21 Kingly Street, London, W1B 5QA

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Providing a platform for fringe fashion talent, Other in London’s vibrant Soho is a destination boutique for urban creatives. The store is an evolution of London independent B Store, which launched with the same unique concept on Saville Row 11 years ago. Fast-forward to September 2012 and founders Matthew Murphy and Kurt Beattie had bought out their third business partner, moved to new premises on Kingly Street and re-branded the company as Other.

The concept is now a successful bricks-and-mortar store selling its own-name label alongside a range of “hard to find” and “key anchor” menswear and womenswear brands. Other also operates an e-commerce site, which is a rapidly growing part of the business.

Best selling labels include mid to high brands such as Sophie Hulme, Christophe Lemaire and Christian Wijnants. And while the owners don’t insist on exclusivity, the store is the only place in London that shoppers can find the collections. Other also injects around six new brands each season – including graduate collections and newly set up international labels – with an aim to offer products that aren’t readily available elsewhere.

While it is a business, Murphy maintains that the shop is far from being focused merely on financial gain. Having long been a champion of emerging talent (among many other projects he worked with the British Fashion Council to launch MAN), the co-owner is keen to fly the flag for new designers and help make their commercial dreams a reality. “There’s so much talent out there that it can be very hard for new designers to become successful,” says Murphy. “So we work with them as closely as we can to try and help them with their collections and overall business. Working with us means that new designers have more time to grow – we don’t expect them to be an instant success after one season.”

Indeed rather than buying in brands and hoping that they sell, Other holds special events, organises collaborations and provides in-house PR support to boost awareness of its designers. “It’s not just about lifting brands,” says Murphy. “We want to make the experience exclusive for our customers by offering limited products.”

Specialising in unknown designers is a risky business. But for Other, which has carved out its own niche as the authority for the next big thing in emerging talent, offering truly unique brands is an imperative to its success.

 

Oxygen Boutique

51 Eastcastle St., London, W1W 8EB

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Situated in Central London’s fashion wholesale quarter tucked behind Oxford Street, Oxygen Boutique has become renowned for its “fun and fashion-forward” collection edits that are often unavailable elsewhere in the capital. The store is the brainchild of mother and daughter duo Helen and Joanna Nicola who both come from a family-run manufacturing business supplying fashion to high street chains. Based on their mutual admiration for the multi-label boutiques that are popular in the US, they wanted to use their strong knowledge of international brands to bring something completely different to London. “We were finding lots of cool labels in America that weren’t available here,” says Joanna, who also spent a stint in New York as a buyer before she came back to the UK to open the store. “There’s a different way of shopping over that we loved and wanted to replicate. People in America are more open to new brands and we found so many amazing labels that no one here had ever heard of. We wanted to bring something new and refreshing to the UK.”

With their strong store concept in mind, the Nicolas opened Oxygen in March ’09, transforming the front of the family’s manufacturing business into retail space. Then last month, after the business had experienced rapid growth, they moved across the road to larger premises inside a former art gallery.

Oxygen’s brands are 90 per cent American, with best sellers including Sea New York, Alice and Olivia and footwear designer Jeffery Campbell. And although they often see their labels going from being virtually unknown to become stocked by the likes of Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Net-a-Porter, Joanna says buying different pieces from the same collection ensures that their stock is still largely exclusive. “My mum and I do all the buying together,” she explains. “We have a similar eye so it works extremely well. After four years we’ve really got to know what our customers want but I think we also have quite a fun style that helps set us apart from the bigger stores. We’re also not afraid to take risks.”

For SS13 Oxygen also debuted own label Related, which is created by the family’s manufacturing business. Featuring a bright colour palette, strong prints and fashion-forward silhouettes, it sits well with the store’s other labels while adding to a point of difference. “We tried to keep the prices reasonable by keeping everything under the £300 retail mark,” says Joanna. “It has sold incredibly well in the store and online and we’ve just taken on agents and other UK stockists while we’re hoping to export globally soon.”

Oxygen’s brand selections for SS13 have proved to be so popular with customers that by the beginning of May they’d already sold out of many lines. “Despite the weather a lot of our summer dresses had already sold out so we had to order in more,” says Joanna. “We’ve had customers in looking for outfits for weddings, which has helped. But we also don’t go crazy on buying one item. We want to sell out and not sit on items for ages to keep it refreshing for our customers.”

The boutique’s online store has also been a huge success. Since deciding to pool more efforts into e-commerce around 18 months ago, Joanna says it now attracts more sales than the bricks-and-mortar store. “It’s been a fantastic year for the web,” she explains. “This is definitely what we’ll be concentrating on for the near future instead of opening another physical store. We really want to grow this area so we can reach global customers.”