Absolutely meets Charlotte Beecham of Charlotte Simone to chat about her grown-up new coat collection and celebrity fans
Words Charlotte Adsett
Charlotte Beecham, 26, is the founder and creative director of Charlotte Simone, the British accessories label with over 200 stockists worldwide. The label is best known for the cult ‘Popsicle’ fluffy scarf, which has been worn by fashion’s favourite it-girls including Alexa Chung, Rita Ora and Olivia Palermo.
Why did you decide to start a brand at such a young age?
My ‘light bulb moment’ happened in Paris while I was living there in my first year of university and I saw a glamorous woman standing on a street corner wearing a huge statement scarf. I did a double take and was transfixed by her chic look. It occurred to me that the scarf was the one untapped accessory and there was an opportunity to make them less practical and more ‘fashion’ and fun. An idea to create a scarf as an investment piece formed and whilst I was in my last year at New York University I had some samples made up. By the time I had graduated, I already had a couple of US stockists under my belt, which gave me the confidence to start building a brand.
Did you study fashion design?
I have no design background, so my friend who was studying at Parsons for Fashion Design helped me. I knew that bold fluffy materials were key to the look and I wanted to work with both faux and real fur to give customers a choice. I was lucky to find an incredible seamstress in the Garment District in New York who helped mock up my first designs.
What were your first steps in starting your business?
My dad gave me a loan of £6,000 when I was 21 to start the business. I used the money to have my initial samples made and to shoot my first look book. Everyone around me was so encouraging and helpful. My sister was my first model and my friend took the photographs. I didn’t have a budget for a PR or a sales agent for the first year which pushed me to do everything myself. I didn’t have any contacts in the industry, but I think people like an ambitious young designer who isn’t afraid to call up buyers and journalists and ask for meetings. My dad is a fellow entrepreneur, so I’m very lucky to have him as my mentor. My strengths aren’t in the business or financial side, so I turn to him for help and advice.
What were your first milestones?
The first major milestone was working with Rita Ora’s stylist Kyle De’Volle two years ago on our Bon Bon bag collaboration, which in turn led to Rita loaning her face to the collection just because she wanted to support us. Those images catapulted the brand into the mainstream because so many magazines wanted to feature us, and it created a buzz on social media. Being nominated for the Emerging Accessory Designer Award at last year’s BFAs was very surreal. The letter of congratulations from Natalie Massenet is now framed on my desk.
What are the biggest challenges you face?
I definitely struggle with delegation. I’m a control freak, and ran the business on my own for so long, so now I find it difficult to pass tasks onto team members. I also find it very hard to switch off, as my business is my baby. I’m trying to figure out more of a balance between my work and personal life.
You are known for a having a legion of celebrity fans and a big social media following. How important was this to building the brand?
The power of the right celebrity wearing your brand is huge and it’s been vital to our success. The first celebrity to wear a scarf was Olivia Palermo. She asked for a custom Popsicle (black with burgundy tail) and I made it for her myself. Olivia is so influential in the fashion world, so when she wears a piece, demand goes through the roof. Instagram has been the most important marketing and brand awareness tool, and much of our direct sales are driven from posts. I’m currently obsessed with Snapchat. As a young designer it’s fun to communicate to my followers via social media and document what’s happening with the brand on a daily basis.
Why did you decide to venture into outerwear?
Charlotte Simone will always remain a scarf brand at its core, but there was a demand for more. It was a very organic process – I made my first jacket out of fluffy scraps lying around the office. I started to wear it and got such a great reaction from friends and buyers that I decided it was the right time to expand on the offering. We have six different styles in total, including the shaggy shearling ‘Chubby’ bombers, PVC ‘Mac Daddy’ trench coats and a leather ‘Biker’ jacket. This collection is definitely more grown-up, so whilst there are still splashes of the trademark bubblegum pink, the darker colour palette is more sophisticated. The brand is growing up with me and the customer.