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Q&A: Lesa Bennett & Jemma Fennings, Olivia Burton

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Vintage-inspired women’s watch brand Olivia Burton has already scored several gift-led  and fashion retailers in the UK market and online. But now the British brand, created by former fashion buyers Lesa Bennett and Jemma Fennings, hopes to build relations with UK jewellery and watch retailers. They tell WatchPro about their route to market and success to date.

WatchPro: How and when was the brand founded?
Jemma Fennings: We’ve always been very passionate about accessories and starting our own business. When we found a gap in the market for affordable vintage-inspired watches we decided to set about creating our own. We both have a lot of experience within the fashion industry having both worked in buying and are well versed in managing production from conceptualisation through to delivery. Having both studied design before starting our buying careers, we were able to draw on our creative skills and industry knowledge to create a commercial collection that offered something very different to the rest of the market. The brand was founded in 2012 and AW12 was our debut season that saw us launch the brand with Harvey Nichols and carefully selected boutiques across the UK and Europe.

WP: How would you describe Olivia Burton watches?
JF: Olivia Burton watches are inspired by vintage, catwalk and our British heritage. The watches are affordable but beautifully made. Affordability doesn’t mean you have to compromise on quality. We use high quality movements and the finest materials to ensure that each watch is expertly crafted. By making each watch affordable (retail prices start from £52) it encourages people to change their watch with their outfit and mood.

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WP: The watches’ vintage aesthetic is clear but who are you targeting with the watches?
JF: We target fashion conscious women who appreciate good design and want something different.

WP: How did you go about creating your first collection – tell us about the design-to-manufacture process
JF: We have a lot of experience in terms of putting together a range so we drew on our experience to put together a collection that was both commercial and contemporary. We researched heavily into trends and spent a great deal of time speaking to people to find out what they liked and disliked about our designs on paper. When we felt confident with the range we sourced a factory and went about putting the samples into work. It’s by no means an easy process, and we are both perfectionists by nature so it was a painstaking process turning paper designs into reality.

WP: How are you looking to grow the brand in the UK – and beyond?
JF: Wholesale will continue to be our main route to market. We are stocked in major department stores such as Harvey Nichols as well as many prestigious boutiques around the country, including award winning store The Dressing Room and Fenwicks. As part of our strategy we are looking at moving Olivia Burton into jewellers whilst continuing to open new accounts through carefully selected fashion retailers who have a credible jewellery offering.

WP: Have you taken part in trade shows or buyer-focused events to win accounts?
JF: We’ve had tremendous success through exhibiting at trade shows in terms of opening new accounts. We showed AW13 at Premiere Classe in January and Scoop International in London.

WP: What’s next for Olivia Burton – how are you developing your designs?
JF: We have lots of exciting things in the pipeline for Olivia Burton. We listen very carefully to what our customers are telling us and will be tightening the focus on what they are asking us for. We are not afraid to innovate and adapt, if the demand is there to move into developing timepieces for men, we will respond to it.

WP: Which is the bestselling timepiece among your collections, and why do you think this is?
JF: We have seen great sales across all lines in the collections because each and every piece is scrutinised before it reaches market. If we aren’t confident it will sell through and perform, it doesn’t go into production.
 

Tags : fashion watchesJemma FenningsLesa Bennettolivia burtonvintagewomen's watches
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