Lousie and Sarah are the co-founders of CECILY and we are delighted to bring you their story:
LS: Tell us about Cecily?
WC: Cecily is a unique fashion label concerned with designing beautiful dresses for business that are sophisticated and office appropriate, yet incredibly feminine and elegant.
LS:How long have you been in business?
WC: We launched the label in the Autumn of 2012
LS: What was the inspiration behind Cecily?
WC: Childhood friends with similar interests, once our children got to school age we decided we wanted to do something we were both passionate about – ideally related to fashion. Having been part of the London rat race in our younger years, we had watched how society’s attitude towards women’s role in the workplace had changed. It struck us that although female contribution has become more valued, many women still feel the need to ‘power dress’ at work, that is wear often ill-fitting, complicated multi-piece outfits that try to emulate men’s suits. We decided that it was time for women to not shy away from their femininity, but instead consider it an inherent part of their success. A dress is adaptable and easy to wear whilst being a powerful expression of this femininity – perfect attire for the modern professional woman. The Business Dress was born.
LS: Are there specific styles and ideas which you include in the designs?
WC: It goes without saying that the purpose of our dresses will mean that certain things need to be considered during the design process. Appropriate length and depth of neckline are important factors to get right but we also believe that ‘arms’ is an issue for many women. All our styles come with sleeves of varying lengths meaning our customers don’t have to find a jacket or cardigan to go over the top if just inside the office – essentially all you should need to add are the perfect shoes, bag and coat. Our ethos really is that the dresses fit to get the right interest, flattering the figure without showing too much skin; they are the right length so they can be worn with shoes or boots and are made with fabric with minimal creasing.
These days, work outfits need to accommodate an easy transformation from the boardroom to the bar or client dinner. Each style is versatile and can be quickly restyled just by changing your shoes or adding a pair of earrings.
LS: Have you encountered any difficulties throughout the planning and running of the business?
WC: Despite our shared love for all things fashion, neither of us have had any formal training in design or in the industry itself, so we really had to learn on the job! Negotiating all the aspects of the creation process from inception all the way up to manufacture was something we found challenging, not least finding the right suppliers who shared our very specific vision. Also, learning how to utilize all the modern marketing tools, like social media, is something we are still getting our head around! Ultimately, two key ingredients that help to make any new business a success? Passion and patience!
LS: What added extras contribute to the smooth running of Cecily?
WC: Interaction is something we really encourage and we have a great rapport with our customer base. It's great when a customer contacts us to let us know they think our dress helped get them that all-important job! Our ladies are successful and in demand and so understand completely how to present themselves to be respected in their jobs. It stands to reason they would be the best people to listen to when developing and adapting our designs, so we love it when they approach us to discuss features of a dress, like fit and fabric. To ensure customer satisfaction we recommend where possible ordering 2 different sizes to try and we always include a freepost returns bag.
LS: Is there a specific target market you have gone for?
WC: As a brand, Cecily has been created with highly professional, go-getting women in mind and there is no doubt that we design our dresses to make these ladies look great and feel at their most confident when conquering the corporate world. Having said that, we have also had many women come to us for occasion wear which for us is positive since it demonstrates adaptability of the designs and the quality of the tailoring. We have attracted a wide age range from late 20s up to over 60 and we believe this is because the price point is right - modest enough to be accessible whilst grown up enough to reflect quality of the dresses and the importance of their role.
LS: How do you run Cecily effectively?
WC: As your readers will know, there are lots of considerations when running a business and the more successful it becomes, the more elements need to be juggled. A smooth system of operations is fundamental to any business and of course, growing the right relationships. We have been fortunate enough to develop partnerships with reputable brands and this is invaluable.
LS: And finally, is the business exactly as you hoped it would be?
WC: Absolutely, but we still feel we are very much in the early stages. We are very excited about where this journey might take us and really hope we can continue to grow for many years to come. The most important thing is that we love every minute!
So many thanks to Louise and Sarah for taking the time to speak to us and give us a little insight into the fashion world. Incredible to hear how the business has unfolded to be the success it is today.
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* We promise not to virtually stalk you, it will be (at max) weekly round ups and elements that it would be rude not to tell you about...