Meet the indies... Mia Kowsor, Barney & Beau
The Pure London buzz attracts buyers from companies big and small to the halls of Olympia London each and every season. It’s always exciting to hear from the big names, like Selfridges, John Lewis and ASOS, who, among many others attend the show. But this season, I wanted to take some time to sit down with some of the UK’s smaller businesses, to get the indie take on what makes the fashion world go round. In the next few weeks, I’ll be bringing you insights from independent buyers up and down the country on all things retail.
Today, we hear from Mia Kowsor from Cardiff’s Barney & Beau. Continuing on the discussion from Mia’s appearance on Trouva’s “Bricks and Clicks” panel on the Future Stage at Pure’s AW19/20 edition, here’s what Mia had to say…
Tell me a bit about your store and the story of how you started
My name is Mia, I’m a mummy to four children ranging from 18 down to 3; my brand was launched after the birth of my youngest two Barnaby & Beaumont. We are a curated lifestyle store for kids with design led, modern , functional products for both kids & the home. We have a ‘promise’ to our customers, the planet and ourselves and that is the following:
- To favour independent female/mum run brands
- To promote female empowerment, kindness & diversity through books
- To carry sustainable toys & products from eco-friendly and ethical brands
What do you tend to look for in your collections?
When looking for new brands I always stick to our ‘promise’. Is it sustainable? Ethical? Crucially, is it born from an idea of a fellow female/ mum, as that’s super important to me personally. I would love to stock 100% female brands but obviously with some of the larger brands this isn’t always possible.
We are super excited about our most recent addition which are African Moses baskets weaved in elephant grass. I have held out for the perfect partnership as I really would only be happy with women weavers and a lot of the baskets I came across had been woven by men. That was until I found The Basket Room, a business run by two women in this country that source and provide ethically produced baskets from regions of Africa that are woven by women.
Your sector, kidswear, is rapidly growing. Are there any trends you’re particularly excited to see more of?
We only have a very small selection of kidswear, but I guess more new, exciting brands from young designers. A brand is always so fresh and exciting in its infancy. We’re a huge fan of Danish designs so more of that is always a good thing too!
How do you get into the mind of your customers to understand what it is they want to buy?
I kind of feel I am my target customer so always think, “would I buy that?” and “would I pay that price for it?”. I also try to test everything out on friends and family and particularly my own two boys. Also, Instagram is an amazing source of really getting a feel for what people want. I spend hours and hours researching and trying to get inside the minds of our target mummy!
What advice would you give to emerging brands and designers looking to get in front of buyers and store owners like you?
I haven’t been to as many shows as I would normally go to as I tend to use social media as a way of
tracking down smaller niche brands that maybe can’t afford a stand at a show or much press. So, I guess my advice would be to use Instagram to show your brand, and to create a real brand identity. Social media is so powerful and really enables us to talk directly to our target customer. I get contacted lots on Instagram and I’m much more inclined to reply to brands on Instagram than a boring email; it just feels more personal.
I would also say if you would like a space to show your brand at an event like Pure, maybe join forces with some like-minded brands to share a stand. Relationships with fellow brands are also made so easily on social media and are great for building a story and a community feel as well.
In your experience, what are the biggest challenges facing independent store owners at the moment?
The obvious challenge has to be the internet. I’ve always said how much of a double-edged sword it is. During my years at my previous store, before online selling and buying was as huge as it is now, we would have customers travel for miles to us to see a particular brand but now everybody enjoys the convenience of browsing online, checking reviews and then purchasing with the added confidence of easy returns etc. As a result, footfall can be a real issue, which isn’t helped by the British weather either!
And what are the benefits of owning a boutique-style store?
For me the most important thing is getting up in the morning, getting ready and having a place to go that is representative of my working day. The other obvious benefits are presenting our store beautifully, having actual conversations with our customers which enable us to determine what they need and want and providing those things (with maybe a few add ons they didn’t think they needed!).
For me, I can’t imagine not having an actual store. I love merchandising new stock, meeting new people as well as chats with our regulars, plus without a store we could never have a Trouva boutique which is super important to us.
Also, can you imagine an area with no independent, cool boutiques?! The area in which we are located is buzzing with independent bars, restaurants, boutiques, pop up markets and that makes the area exciting, diverse and gives it its own unique identity which is vital.
Were there any brands or content sessions you saw at Pure this season that you were particularly excited by?
On the whole, I do tend to look for ore lifestyle-led collections as opposed to solely clothing, but, as a general lover of fashion I was oohing and aaahing all the way round the show at some absolutely stunning collections and felt the urge to open a ladies’ boutique!
Meet the buyers for yourself and enjoy London’s Festival of Fashion this summer. Pure London will return to Olympia London for the SS20 edition on 21st – 23rd July 2019.
Find out more about Barney & Beau here.