The Mode Meets...
The challenge of dress shopping for designs that suit you, feel comfortable to wear at work and are made to last beyond a single season is a real balancing act. All too often you can achieve one while forfeiting the others, but we may have discovered the solution for you and their name is Cecily. Created by Louise and Sarah, Cecily has launched with a beautiful, wearable capsule collection which incorporates classic detailing, adaptable simplicity and clever tailoring. We caught up with the brand to discover what's made Cecily the success it is today.
WAS THERE A DEFINITIVE DRIVING FORCE BEHIND STARTING YOUR BUSINESS?
We were childhood friends with similar interests and 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.
DID YOUR BUSINESS STRENGTHS COME NATURALLY OR DID YOU HAVE TO DEVELOP THOSE SKILLS AS YOU WORKED?
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, having just missed ‘The Apple Generation’, we have found ourselves at something of a loss when it comes to understanding some modern technology and social media/marketing techniques. Although it’s good to be open to learning new things, we have learned there is no shame in enlisting the help of others, in short or long-term capacities - especially if it gives you more time to do what you do best! We have been fortunate enough to develop partnerships with experienced people and reputable brands, and their help and advice has proved invaluable.
HAVE YOU STAYED TRUE TO YOUR ORIGINAL ETHOS OR HAS YOUR BRAND EVOLVED CONSIDERABLY?
Eventually your approach will be defined by your customer, and we have learned not to be scared of this. When we started out, we took quite a clinical design route, drawing inspiration from current trends and adapted them to our own taste. Within 2 years this had changed to a more customer responsive approach, looking more at their specific requirements and being creative with those ideas, rather than those the fashion industry dictates. It stands to reason that the best people to listen to when developing and adapting our designs are those on the front line, who happen to be intelligent, successful women who understand completely how to present themselves in order to be respected in their job roles. This has given us the confidence to offer our customer base some occasion wear designs as well as the standard business dress.
DO YOU FIND THAT YOU HAVE A CLASSIC CECILY CUSTOMER?
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 is on point - modest enough to be accessible whilst grown up enough to reflect the quality of the dresses and the importance of their role.
IS THERE A CELEBRITY THAT YOU’D LOVE TO DESIGN FOR?
We are proud to say that Holly Willoughby, Louise Minchin and Karren Brady are all fans of Cecily, all of which are great ambassadors for the brand. If we were to have a dream subject, we would have to say Amal Clooney. We would love to have the opportunity to design the perfect dress to wear under her Ede & Ravenscroft robes!
YOU’RE A UK BRAND. IS THIS WHERE YOUR BIGGEST FAN BASE IS?
Interestingly we've found women from the US and Australia being drawn to the brand as they struggle to find brands that offer dresses with sleeves.We know it’s a cliché but it’s so easy to be swayed when the naysayers are given too much airtime. We had plenty of people telling us that it wasn’t possible for women to “look feminine and yet still command attention” and that most women still felt they “needed to wear an (often ill-fitting!) suit jacket to be taken seriously” at the office. Also, never a truer word was said than you will always learn more from failure than you will from success, so remember it's a journey that is to be enjoyed and don’t let yourself be held back by feelings of disappointment. We made lots of mistakes when we started out, some of them big, but it was those mistakes that helped to really define our objectives and got us to this place. Remembering that has made it easier for us to swallow the next time – and believe us - there is always a next time!
YOUR JOURNEY WILL UNDOUBTEDLY INSPIRE NEW DESIGNERS. DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR CREATIVES STARTING OUT?
All business depends on providing happiness to others whether it is in the form of happy customers, happy team members or happy suppliers. Thus, you are most likely to succeed if you have the personality that instinctively wants to please people, and most of us do. The trick is to find your way in. For us, we get great pleasure out of clothes and wants passionately for others to share that enjoyment. Passion is infectious, and when coupled with a bit of flair, it is bound to result in something that others will find appealing. We know it’s a cliché but it’s so easy to be swayed when the naysayers are given too much airtime.
SUM UP YOUR CREATIVE STYLE IN A SENTENCE
Vintage-inspired, classically feminine, effortlessly adaptable.
Feeling inspired by Cecily’s ethos? Shop the collection HERE.