When I talk up new labels, the sad truth of it is that a lot of it is not affordable or accessible for many readers. I accept that and move on and try and concentrate on the artistry of it all because that’s what interests me, and then hope that somewhere down the line, something that is affordable but also interesting design-wise will come along and grab at everyone’s heart and purse strings. You’re going to be hearing the name Finery a lot over the next coming months for several reasons.
Business of Fashion ran a piece last week about its business backing credentials. It’s a new London based brand, financed by Global Fashion Group, that seeks to plug the gap in the middle between the high street and the mid-market. Founder/CEO Nickyl Raithatha says it’s for “women who had grown out of the high street and were looking for a considered outfit with a focus on quality, but without that significant jump in price we’ve been seeing in mid-market brands.” The real story is Finery’s super fine creative team though. I call them the goddesses or doyennes of the British high street. You have Caren Downie, previously fashion director at ASOS and buying director at Topshop, who is Finery’s brand director. You’ve got Emma Farrow, who left her job as design director at Topshop, to be Finery’s head of design. You also have Rachel Morgan, who left her job at ASOS as womenswear buyer to be Finery’s head of buying. That’s quite a power trio.
Emma and Rachel all spoke frequently about “love” and “feeling the product again” when they spoke of their decision to come onboard, with Caren helming this Finery ship. They talked about ASOS and Topshop being such giant machines that as designers and buyers, they had become far removed from actually touching and designing the clothes and seeing suppliers. For Rachel, the switch of scale is a completely new experience: “The Finery is very edited and every piece has a reason to be there. We’re all so used to doing “More More More” so it’s quite refreshing.” And so with carte blanche from Finery’s backers, the trio began the design process by looking at their own wardrobes, thinking about pieces that women really need and want. No, it’s not a capsule wardrobe or everyday basics. We’ve heard those phrases bandied about too often. Instead, a beautifully embroidered emerald dress is in the collection because it was inspired by Emma’s own vintage Victorian version. Same goes for a thin bonded leather coat, inspired by Caren’s green suede one that is on its last legs. They say that Finery has a distinctly “London” or “British” feel to it, which translates into exuberant prints, embroidered pieces and a warmer aesthetic in comparison to say their direct competitors COS or & Other Stories’ Scandi vibes. “It’s slightly more quirky, feminine and conscious of flattering more figures,” says Caren.
In their brand book, the pepper their brand values with words like “pride”, “authenticity” and “integrity” – not things you’d necessarily associate with a middling high street brand, even at that £40-£250 price bracket. However Finery, although backed with impressive financial credentials, is still essentially a start-up. They can aim to maintain those values because as an initial team of 25 people, they can control things like supply chains, selecting carefully their suppliers and ensuring that quality is not sacrificed in the manufacturing process. Twenty percent of the collection is made in the UK and all of the embroidery pieces are done in India. When somebody asked on my Instagram, what exactly were their social responsibility ethics were, Finery were quick to reply with “We assure you that we’ve hand-picked suppliers that have good ethical standards and our customers should feel confident our products have been sourced responsibly.” These are concerns that need to be addressed when you create a brand for women that are supposedly growing out of the high street.
The quality is fully tangible. At a preview event this week at the Royal Academy of Arts, the pieces and in particular the leathers and the embroidered pieces had heft to them. The prints looked rich. The brogues looked sturdy. The bags are well-made. There was polish in abundance without it being too cold or stark. The same goes for their website which will be Finery’s flagship. Nope, no bricks and mortar stores planned although it will be sold through international wholesale partners in Russia and Australia, which is one reason why they can achieve such great quality at relatively affordable prices because of the volume in orders. The website will be shipping to the UK, USA and Canada when it officially launches in February.
Currently, a group of friends, family and curious journos like myself can preview the website and buy from it so that Finery can work out any glitches before its proper launch in February. The current collection is sort of like resort and then in Feb, there’ll be a brand new spring summer 2015 collection. A five minute browse on the site and you can immediately see it’s a different beast from other e-commerce sites. The images are HUUGE and atmospheric, giving the customer both an inspirational and a realistic view of what the product looks like. Without a physical store, Finery will really need to sway their customer online. “Being born online influences how we do things. Constant evolution. Continual refinement. Forward thinking.” Or so the brand book tells me.
For me, Caren, Rachel and Emma have hit the sartorial nail on the head. They’ve tapped into a gap that isn’t going to be filled with needless clothes but ones that people will wear and love. To be dressed in finery need not come at a prohibitive price and Finery addresses that. The proof is in the wearing of course. Like I said, you’ll be hearing more soon enough. This is just the very beginning.