Thursday 5 July 2012

Bringing you Allium B - and an interview with Clare and Mary Burgess

When I was asked by Sophia at Dee Vesali PR whether I would like to do an Interview with Clare and Mary, the Designer sisters behind the range Allium B, I jumped at the chance.

Clare and Mary Burgess live in Brighton and named their brand, Allium B, after their favourite flower and the first letter of their surname. What a lovely picture of the sisters - they look so happy and relaxed - as if they have the whole work-life balance thing sussed.

With successful careers in fashion, the sisters spotted a gap in the market for beautiful dresses, made from gorgeous fabrics with respectable hem lengths at a good price.  Clare and Mary ensured that no stone was left unturned when it came to those all important details, which is what makes Allium B so special. 

When were the seeds for Allium B first sown and how long was it before you had your first finished dress?

We both love dresses and as we've grown up have found it increasingly difficult to find dresses we love at prices we can afford. Alexandra Shulman of Vogue convinced us there was a gap and we should go for it when she wrote in her Editor’s letter in July 2010 “It is a depressing truth that in terms of fashion, there remains an enormous gap on the retail scene for clothes that older women really want to wear. While the high street goes from strength to strength at providing trend led, affordable pieces, they are, in the main, aimed at a younger audience comfortable in short lengths…. Then there is a huge jump into the sensible look that seems to be considered appealing to women….”

We went to India in September 2011 to start developing the range and we launched in March this year

Are you able to tell me a little bit about Allium B, together with the market at which it is aimed?

We share a passion for dresses, but as our styles have grown up, we’ve found it increasingly difficult to find grown-up but affordable options to match – dresses that aren’t too young, too old, too short or too long.

With two children each, we don’t have time to waste – we want perfectly-cut, versatile pieces we can throw on with a piece of statement jewellery and flats or heels for a fabulous instant outfit. 

Having worked for big companies for years, we loved the idea of filling this gap by creating a niche business based in Brighton, where we live. So Allium B was born. We’ve created a collection of simple but statement ‘forever dresses’, designed for women, not teenagers – at prices that won’t have you hiding the receipt but still allow us to produce beautifully-made products. 

Do you have a list of criteria for your designs, and if so, what are they?

We try to think about every detail – from Liberty prints and hand stitched buttons to linings, which mean you’ll never get nasty bra show-through with any of our designs.

Our dresses come in natural fabrics, ranging from pure silk to georgette, and take inspiration from vintage touches we love – beaded Peter Pan collars, intricate embroidery and lace, reworked into modern silhouettes.

 When deciding if a dress makes the final cut, we always ask ourselves – ‘do we love it?’  If the answer’s yes, it’s in.

Although you both had careers in retail, with Mary being head of buying and Clare being head of merchandising at Topshop, were there any issues that you came come across in creating the range which you hadn’t anticipated?

Yes loads it's very different launching a start-up to working for a big established company with teams of people. It's very exciting and we have learnt so much in the last 6 months, you have to be prepared to get involved in everything.

You must have been so excited to see Kate Garraway wearing one of your dresses on TV – how did that feel? Was it a surreal moment?

Yes very exciting, she has worn 3 already and looked lovely in them all. The best thing about creating a range is seeing women looking and feeling fabulous in our designs.  

Can we expect to see Allium B expanding into other areas of clothing or is it your intention focus on dresses for the foreseeable future?

We intend to focus on dresses and establish Allium B as a must-have dress label. 

Do you have any plans to have Allium B stocked in stores or are you planning on keeping the business on-line only?

Our plan was to keep the business on line but we have had requests from stores to stock Allium B so it's something we are considering for S/S 2013. We have done some Pop Up stores this season, which have been very successful, and we love meeting our customers.

How soon can we take a peek at your next collection?

Autumn Winter 2012 is in production and will be on line at in August. 

What advice do you have for all those busy Mums juggling careers with a family?

Be organized have a family timetable!

Finally, two questions to you both:

A walk on the beach or a walk in the Downs?

Brighton Beach is always a family favourite

Montezumas or Hotel Chocolat?

It has to be Montezuma’s giant chocolate buttons

Montezuma's giant chocolate buttons? Now, these are my kind of ladies - especially if they buy them in jars! If you would like to see more picures of the dresses above, and more besides, nip over to Allium B to take a look.