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How I Got My Small Niche Brand into ASOS, Urban Outfitters, and Topshop

How I Got My Small Niche Brand into ASOS, Urban Outfitters, and Topshop
Before the pandemic, I managed to get my small hand-painted clothing brand into some pretty big High Street stores. Some of it was luck, most of it was putting myself out there constantly, and the whole lot was out of my comfort zone completely.

The first High Street store I got into was Topshop. I was given a concession stand in the Oxford Circus store in London, their flagship store, and then after doing well I also managed to push that into a concession stand in the Bristol store which was located in Cabot Circus. At the time, my main shopping platform was ASOS marketplace, and I did really well on there in the early days, until I got fed up with constantly having to list my items as new… But it seemed Topshop had also noticed that ASOS marketplace was doing well, as I was selected alongside three other brands that were also doing well on there, to be awarded a place at their pop-up shop in London. Because I’d never been approached by anyone, this was a massive achievement for me at the time, and I of course grabbed the opportunity with everything I had. I really appreciated it as a learning opportunity, as the margins and work level involved in running a concession stand in a high street shop were even more unmanageable for me, as someone who had to paint every single item. The opportunity allowed me to scratch off the possibility of pursuing any other offline selling platform in the future. But it gave me a great confidence boost.

Next, I managed to get into Urban Outfitters’ online store in America. I did this by finding the right person to contact at the brand somehow. We made three cute oversized T-shirts, that looked really cool, but the Urban Outfitter customer didn’t bite their hand off for them- we weren’t totally sure why, but it was likely because my prices as a hand painter were just a bit too much for fast fashion.

I then managed to get onto the ASOS main store. This was definitely the most successful of the three so far! I had started painting so fast that some of my prices could come down, and my ASOS marketplace manager was able to connect me with the right people there. I managed to get in after badgering them for about three years, sorry about that ASOS! We made five collections of 6-8 designs each, over two or three years, but after a while they really tried pushing my margins too far, and it wasn’t worth the grind anymore. A common thing that has happened when I work with brands, is that the buyer you are working with, who cares about you, leaves, and you end up with a new buyer, who doesn’t like you like the other one did. The new buyers dropped me when the pandemic was hitting. The most memorable collection over my ASOS era was the one that was delayed for so long that I ended up accepting an order to paint 1000 pieces, just 1 week before my second child was born. I was so very pregnant, but so very needing this order before the baby was born. I had to enlist a little bit of help of course! And that’s been my main problem with client work- I love working with brands, it’s a new opportunity to do something exciting and fun, with a bigger impact… And I am all about impact… but things take so long to get pushed through bigger brands, so you end up waiting for projects for so long sometimes! I am not good at waiting!

By this time all my clothes were organic and fair trade, and I was really pushing upcycling as an option, where customers could send me their own clothes – I really wanted to continue developing the most environmentally friendly options that I had, So I used the bit of money I’d made from the ASOS projects, to open a community art studio for mental wellness at the beginning of 2019.

While working with ASOS, I was also working with Lucy and Yak, which was a lot more refreshing compared to the high street options that I had managed to get so far. I realised my preference for more unique and creative brands that stood for the same things I did, rather than trying anything that I had the option to.

I’m grateful for where these opportunities have taken me, the hard lessons I’ve learnt and the more aligned brands I’ve been able to work with since then!

I’ll write more about those next time, bye for now! Sarah!