Manufacturer of the Month: Squid London
Need a bit of colour on this rainy September Tuesday? Look no further than our Manufacturer of the Month, Squid London. Set up by London College of Fashion graduates Emma-Jayne Parkes and Viviane Jaeger in 2008, Squid London creates rain wear that changes colour when wet.
Here, Emma-Jayne tells us about the business’ inspiration and aspirations.
What was your ‘lightbulb’ moment?
Working on a project in 2005 that was centered around the 1950s, we were inspired by Jackson Pollock and how he created art with paint splashes on the floor. Viviane and I thought it would be so cool if you were walking down the street in the rain and your clothes changed colour, turning your coat into a Jackson Pollock. We thought, “this has to be possible,” and it was! We managed to find an ink company that would develop colour changing ink for fabric. Then we started developing our products.
We soon realised that we couldn’t afford to jump straight into making clothes, because we’d have to produce different sizes and that calls for a much larger stock investment, so we started with umbrellas; a perfect blank canvas to create a walking piece of art. After entering the Deutsche Bank Creative Enterprise Awards and finishing as a runner-up, we decided to go ahead with the idea anyway. Sourcing our product factory and our ink factory ourselves, we produced just 100 umbrellas to test the market. Fortunately, they did really well and it all grew from there.
How did the brand develop from there?
Tate galleries were the first stockist to take us on board, with a bespoke Tate umbrella. Since then we’ve been commissioned by a lot of museums and galleries to develop bespoke designs. A pilot test of our childrenswear line was launched in 2011, before launching in 2014 from Hamleys.
What has been your biggest achievement (so far)?
Well, we started in the middle of a recession and have managed to keep our business going, so that’s an achievement in itself! We’re also now stocked in 26 different countries; we’re very proud of that.
What are your most successful lines?
Children’s jackets have been really popular, but our skyline designs are probably Squid’s ‘legacy’ – both London and New York are our most popular prints. However, we still do a lot of bespoke lines on request, which are bought in bulk. The British Museum commissioned a design from us about three years ago and they now order around 600 units every couple of months. Similarly we produce products for Cirque du Soleil, Tate Galleries and we just launched a San Francisco design on the wholesale side of the business.
What has been the most successful marketing avenue for Squid?
Word of mouth. Working with bloggers, particularly running competitions with popular blogs, has worked really well for our brand. The mummy bloggers are incredible, it’s a fantastic online network and we love getting involved with them.
How else do you stay engaged with your customers?
We’re on practically all social media networks. A lot of people send pictures of themselves and their kids using our products, we love it!
What do your customers like about the brand?
In terms of initial engagement, I think they get the vibe that Squid is fun, it’s colourful, it’s about brightening up your day as well as other people’s. As they delve deeper into the brand, I think customers appreciate that we met at university, that Viviane and I started the brand from scratch, by ourselves…but mostly I do think it’s the fun, lighthearted spirit we’ve tried to bring to our brand.
You’re involved with Shooting Star Chase – tell us a bit about your work with them.
We donate a percentage of all children’s sales to Shooting Star Chase. It’s a great charity and they are a great group of people. We try to do as much practical fundraising as we can with them, too, but it’s not always possible.
Where do you want to take the business from here?
We really want to focus on growing the business internationally. We already have an international presence, but we want to expand that further, focusing on America and Asia. We’re already sold in a few shops in the US, but not as many as we’d like; it’s a process that takes a bit of patience as it’s more complicated that operating in Europe.
It is important, as a small business, not to spread yourself too thinly, so we try to be aware of that and stay focused on producing a strong core range. That said, when we were investing in the business, we did work on a range of swimwear, so that’s in the pipeline but won’t be making an appearance this year.