How I went from running a fashion label to running a pre-loved fashion business

Running a fashion business from 1997 till 2009 I fully experienced the effects of a decade of overconsumption and the rise of throw away fashion.

Kal Di PaolaI launched my label in 1997 at a time when there was no Zara and Mango on our high street, Topshop was yet to become cool, H&M hadn’t started doing collaborations, niche labels were in demand, Spitalfields Market didn’t exist and it was still possible to find factories to manufacture clothing ranges in the UK.

I started my business with no formal training in fashion, just a burning desire to work for myself and nothing to lose. It was an exciting time full of opportunities and my business evolved from me making clothes for my friends to opening a central London wholesale showroom in 2000. A year later I was offered a concession in the Oxford Street Topshop, celebrity culture was starting to take hold and I was lucky enough to have had my clothes worn by the likes of Victoria Beckham and Cat Deeley.

It catapulted my business and soon I was selling to over 140 stockists worldwide.

The arrival of European brands such as Zara and Mango, designer collaborations on the high street, the rise of Topshop and new online shops such as ASOS lead to an increasingly sophisticated fashion landscape.

Being fashionable had never been easier and the choice was huge.

With retailers producing clothes in enormous volumes in order to drive prices down and profits up, clothing became a disposable good. The face of the high street changed forever.

My business like many others I knew was hugely affected. My profit margins were squeezed, I had to move my production from the UK to the far east and the quality of my range was compromised. By 2008 the country was in recession and business was tough. The independents I supplied were closing by the dozen and customers increasingly wanted fashion at a cheaper price. At the same time, the over consumption of the past decade was being highlighted in the media and a new wave of eco-awareness was taking hold. For me it was the start of a journey to a more eco-aware lifestyle and the first step was to clear my wardrobe of years of excessive hoarding. Little did I know then that an event I organized to sell off the contents of my wardrobe would go on to become my new business venture. BuyMyWardrobe was launched as an event back in 2008, since then I’ve held 16 events and am about to launch an online marketplace for pre-loved fashion where stylish ladies will be able to sell the unwanted contents of their designer wardrobes.

Written by Kal Di Paola.

About the author

Leonnie has worked with the WATC team for over 5 years. Leonnie also runs her own Design company

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