Ufurria is a new accessories brand, which has a special focus on bridal wear. We caught up with founder, Carol Hanson, to find out how and why she started the brand, what motivates her and what accessories will work especially well for tall women this winter.
Please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a bit about your background.
My name is Carol Hanson. I inspire women who have a wardrobe full of clothes but nothing to wear. I help them to look and feel fabulous every time they get dressed. I’m a personal stylist who is passionate about the power of accessories, so passionate that I launched my own brand in 2017!
I’ve only worked in the fashion industry since 2014 after buying my first fashion venture – an existing online boutique. At the time I had no experience in fashion, marketing or e-commerce – it was a real senior moment!
Before that I spent 20 years in accountancy and ended up in the video games industry where I stayed for 14 years, initially in finance and then in general management.
I’d always wanted to work in fashion but had been unable to get the job I wanted as a trainee buyer when I left college. So I fell into accountancy as a result of one of my college lecturers recommending me for a role. It was intended to be a stopgap, but turned into a 20-year stopgap! A big contributing factor to this was that I had zero self-confidence and very low self-esteem as I was battling an eating disorder.
My first venture in fashion, running the online boutique was a real eye-opener and extremely tough. It wasn’t a great success as I didn’t have the right experience but it did help me in so many ways. It was the reason I trained as a Personal Stylist and now run my own styling consultancy Want Her Outfit. Running offline events and networking, I found that I was attracting women who wanted to talk about the struggles they had finding clothes and not knowing what suited them. The women I spoke to all had one thing in common: a lack of confidence or had lost their identity. This was a revelation to someone who had suffered from body dysmorphia for so long (and was then thankfully out the other side) as I thought I was in a tiny minority but found that I was in a massive majority.
So I trained as a stylist but felt that something was still missing – I wanted to leave my mark on the British fashion industry. I’m a very tactile and visual person, so I wanted my legacy to reflect that. Hence the idea of bringing Ufurria to life
1. What was your inspiration for launching Ufurria?
My thrifty grandmother was my inspiration for the brand!
When I was just 17 she bought me a little furry jacket from what were then called jumble sales, but we’d now call charity sales! It cost 50p. I wore the jacket for a little while but then cut the sleeves out so that I could wear it as a gilet. I mused about what to do with the sleeves and one day I pulled them on over my jeans and created my first pair of furry leggings!
2. How long from inception did it take to bring the brand to market?
About 38 years – seriously! I wore those leggings every winter and got so many comments about them. My husband kept saying that I should bring them to market but I had no idea how to do so. I was an accountant – not a fashion designer or brand – and my self-confidence and self-esteem were at ground zero.
To cut a very long story short, my last corporate role was with a company who designed and developed accessories for playing video games. It was through this company that I got to understand the supply chain (ie how to get a product from an idea in someone’s head through to a product on a retail shelf).
The only missing part of the jigsaw was who to approach to help me turn my idea into a reality. I left the corporate world in 2014. I’d bought an online boutique and it was through running this venture that I was introduced to an amazing fashion designer who helped me to take my one product idea and to turn it into a range of 12 items. We launched in 2017
3. What are Ufurria’s brand values?
· Quality – I am passionate about supplying quality products that women will want to wear for years to come.
· Quirky – that’s my personality coming into the brand. I love to stand out and make a statement in terms of my style and the brand needs to reflect this
· Compassionate – I believe very firmly in giving back and that’s why I work with social enterprises for the manufacture of the products. I want others to have an opportunity to enjoy a fulfilled life.
4. What made you decide to manufacture in the UK?
A few factors influenced my decision to manufacture in the UK. Firstly I wanted to produce small quantities especially in the early stages, as I didn’t want to commit to tying cash up in stock.
Secondly the UK is our target market in the short-medium term so I wanted to minimize our carbon footprint.
Thirdly British manufacturing is still associated with a premium product. Ufurria products are premium products and so the decision made itself.
5. What is your approach to sustainability and how are you reflecting this in the brand?
That’s a great question. In the short term the fact that we’re manufacturing premium products means that the products are quality and will not deteriorate quickly.
Accessories are a great way of making more outfits from fewer clothes. So we are encouraging women to spend less on clothes. For example dressing up a jacket or a coat with our wrist cuffs creates a totally different look.
We are also reducing our carbon footprint by manufacturing in the UK when our target market is the UK.
Manufacturing in small quantities also ensures we’re not left with an overstock problem at the end of the season.
I am keeping a very keen eye on the development of new types of fabric, as I’d like to see how we improve the environmental impact further.
6. What has been the biggest challenge you have faced so far in setting up the brand?
Getting retail to accept a new brand is a challenge especially in the current climate. There are so many retailers and brands who are failing at the moment because the retail landscape is changing and in my experience consumers are being cautious.
We are selling to independent retailers who are under a huge amount of pressure in the current climate. Retailers are more likely to opt for products they feel are low risk in terms of sell-through.
7. Are you planning to stick with accessories or to include a wider variety of garments in your collections?
I want to focus on accessories. Primarily because I love accessories and the power they have to transform an outfit.
But also because, as you know, when you manufacture garments you need to produce a range of sizes. This adds a level of complexity and pressure on producing stock. Most of our products are one-size.
8. Winter is now with us and we’re all getting wrapped up in big coats, hats and gloves. What are your top tips for winter styling?
Make sure that anything you wear close to your face is in your colour palette. So hats, scarves in particular. If you wear colours in your palette you will exude a healthy glow. Wear the wrong colours and you’ll look tired and unwell. The colours may also overwhelm you.
If you’ve never had a colour analysis done, I thoroughly recommend this as it’s life changing. I know that sounds dramatic but it helps save money on clothes and it is so much easier to co-ordinate outfits. But most importantly you’ll find that you will receive lots of compliments, which in turn will boost your self-confidence. This is not because others necessarily recognize you’re wearing the right colours but you will have a healthy glow.
Another massive benefit is that others will engage with you making eye contact – this is called the halo of colour. When you wear the right colours for you people will be drawn to looking into your eyes.
9. What is your most popular product and why do you think this is?
The wrist cuffs are undoubtedly our best-selling product. I believe that this is because they are a bit different but also because they can so easily transform a jacket. They can be worn over a denim jacket; leather jacket or winter coat and they look amazing. Take them off and you have a totally different look.
They can also be great for taller women too. They can be used to extend the length of the sleeves. Alternatively, adding a layer of warmth to your wrists and hands meaning you don’t always need gloves.
Personally I like to wear them with just a top as well when I’m out and about as they just add such a quirky look to an outfit!
10. What one winter accessory do you see as essential both in terms of practicality and style?
I could be very boring and say the wrist cuffs but I also think the infinity scarf is a fabulous product (see below). I can go out to meetings in a lightweight jacket wearing the infinity scarf and not need to have a bulky coat on.
If you’re a taller woman the leg warmers can be a fantastic way to just add a bit of extra length to your trousers too. The leg warmers look absolutely amazing on women with long legs.
11. What is your ambition for Ufurria?
I want to leave my mark on the British Fashion industry so the goal is to become a recognized brand in the UK.
12. Where can women find your products?
13. What would be your top 3 tips for anyone considering launching their own fashion label?
To think very hard about it! 90% of new businesses and brands fail in the fashion industry.
Preparation is key. If you fail to prepare you prepare to fail (Benjamin Franklin). It’s so true – you’ll still make mistakes and change direction a few times, but if you don’t spend the time thinking and planning out your ideas it’s simply not going to work.
That’s not just the cautious numbers woman in me talking but someone who has run a business (my online boutique) that was not successful. Why? Because I didn’t do enough research and preparation before getting swept up in the idea of buying and running my own business.
Make sure you do as much research as possible: find out who your competitors are; undertake as much market research as possible – understand who your customer is and what they really want; spend time looking for the right manufacturer and suppliers.
To look at the numbers. If numbers are not your strong point, then seek help. You need a reality check and to really understand your costs and how much you can charge for your products. Also consider how much you will need for marketing. Then work out what funding you will need (and double it!)
Seek out as much help as possible. Fashion Angel and Fashion Bytes are two organisations that offer a lot of help to new and emerging brands. Both run various events and workshops that are really useful.