Recently Alice & Astrid took part in Swishforit's July Showcase, a fabulous place to discover quality brands and create your own bespoke wish lists.
I was asked by founder Trina Scott- Priestly to tell my story, to help understand my passion and purpose.
Trina asked what is your Why behind the brand and the business and why should someone buy from you?
Can you tell us about Alice & Astrid and what you do?
Alice & Astrid is a lifestyle brand, made in England, with an emphasis on nightwear and loungewear in fine fabrics, silks and cottons, created in timeless styles. I am the founder, designer, stylist and everything else!
How long has Alice & Astrid been going?
Originally founded in 1998, with a home wear collection shown at Top Draw the first shop to purchase the luxury cushions, throws and bedding was Harrods. The collections expanded into nightwear, loungewear, beach and ready to wear.
Why did you start Alice & Astrid?
After studying textiles, travelling to India and working in London as a stylist I was inspired to create a collection around the idea of fusing home and fashion, an early version of loungewear. I loved the mix of both comfort and style and there was not much available in this market. My cousin Alice who was working in India at the time had met a manufacture who could bring these ideas to life, we decided to launch the lifestyle brand Alice & Astrid. Working in trend forecasting over the years I saw this market expanding, and many brands started popping up around the theme of loungewear, the market in this area has rocketed.
What is your passion behind Alice & Astrid?
I have always loved beautiful fabrics, colour and style that is timeless, that encompassed both home and what you wear, that becomes part of you, that captures a feeling and comes from the heart.
What did you do before Alice & Astrid? Any previous relevant experience or was this a complete change?
I studied Business Studies, History of Art and Textiles for A level which have all been useful to the business. After my degree in Textile Design, I turned down offers to design for local weaving mills as I needed to experience living in a city after 4 years in the Boarders of Scotland. I worked for an interior design company in Newcastle and then headed to London to take an Interior Design course. Working for Designers Guild, I made connections and was drawn into styling. This experience was valuable for when I decided to set up Alice & Astrid. Directing and putting together the photo shoots and look for the brand was instrumental in gaining the attention and then orders from the big stores, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and Liberty’s. Working in retail was value experience too, in understanding how collections sit and work on a shop floor and importantly in understanding customer’s needs. Setting up a business and creating a brand was a massive learning curve and has many challenges that I think I took on without realising! I believe you never stop learning and need to be updating and being open to new things.
Who works in the business and what is the relationship?
Currently I am the only person behind the brand, Alice left the business many years ago to follow a career in recruitment. When I had the boutique and larger wholesale business in London my husband Simon worked with me, he is an amazing talent, both in sales and creativity, he single handily fitted the Alice & Astrid boutique, organised and set up many trade shows and co-ordinated photo shots. Celebrities including Kristen Scott Thomas, Emilia Fox and even British royals came in, Simon always seemed to be the one who met them! Customers loved the relaxed, calm, intimate feel of the space, the quality of service and product. I had the pleasure of having some lovely people working part time in the shop who have become good friends. Working alone is not easy as there is a constant juggle between the creative side, sales, marketing and paperwork!
What values are important to you?
Attention to detail, keeping true to the heart, quality, seeking out beauty and helping others find it.
What has been your business highlight so far?
There are quite a few, seeing my collections in some of the world’s top stores along side mega brands run by huge teams, being asked to design for Liberty’s own label, having one of my designs on the front cover of You Magazine and Kristen Scott Thomas wearing Alice & Astrid on screen, she is such a timeless icon and talented actor.
Do you have a vision for Alice & Astrid? The big dream?
My vision is big and quite scarily limitless! I have always had a passion for well-being, I would like to build on that angle more in the future. My dream would be to be able to have the freedom to be the creative director and find a fit with someone who would like to take on the marketing and sales.
Why should shoppers stop buy from Alice & Astrid?
They will find quality in what they buy, items they can wear for years to come, that have been made with love, which is passed on to the customer. They say ‘you are what you eat’ I feel the same about clothing and what you chose to buy for your home. Slow Fashion is a way to describe this currently.
What is your top tip for anyone running their own business?
Take care of yourself! You are your business; you are the value. I have always driven myself very hard, it is easy to do when you are passionate about something. There are times when you can and need to put in all the hours, but do not forget to look up and allow time to recharge mentally and physically, I have learnt that it is one of the most important investments you can make. Don’t feel guilty about this either, health is wealth! Connect with others if you are working on your own.
If you need a guide in bringing your vision of your dream business or creative project to life and adding that elevated touch, I also offer a consulting service, drawing on my two decades of creative experience find out more at www.astridblake.com , I’d love to hear from you.