Alicya Sinclair. Award winning designer, founder and director of Sinclair London. A luxury fashion house designing bespoke wear for women. Their mission statement is; “We’re not here to change the world, we only dress the women who do.” Sinclair London are known for bringing Saville Row to women’s wardrobes. We at Those London Chicks are pleased as punch that Alicya has taken the time out of running her business to speak with us.
We at Those London Chicks LOVE a success story like yours. We like to inspire by telling the story of women like you. Had you always known you wanted to get into this field or had you other ambitions as a child?
I’ve been quite lucky that since the age of nine I’ve always knew I wanted to be in fashion. It all started with a friend from school, we started designing clothes and our first company was called AK Clothing. For a short while I wanted to be a gymnast, but that’s didn’t last long.
What has been your journey…university, collage?
I never wanted to go to university. At the time I was looking, most fashion universities focused more on design rather than the making and production of actual garments. I wanted to leave school at 16 and go and do an apprenticeship but my parents wanted me to stay on school. So, I did my A-Levels and then after college I did a pre-bespoke tailoring course at Newham College. From there I completed my training on Savile Row at the Savile Row Academy at Maurice Sedwells. Some of the best years in my career. After graduating – still knowing I wanted to own my own business, I thought it was wise to go and work at a fashion house to gain the experience. I needed get to know the industry, build contacts etc. So, I became a studio assistant and a cutter for a couture company, which at the time was based on Beauchamp place in Knightsbridge.
Saville Row, not synonymous with women’s wear generally. How did that become a way forward for you?
Your absolutely right! Savile Row has always been synonymous with men’s tailoring. In women’s wear there is more creativity with designing garments and I have always loved the aspect of bespoke and couture. At that time in 2013 there were very few female tailors on the row learning the craft, so it was daring for a female to launch a tailoring company, let alone become a tailor for a Savile Row house. So, me being the type of person I am, I said to my professor, “I could launch a women’s only tailoring house”. Which had never been done before. He thought I was bonkers but said it would be successful as it was something new and fresh!
“When I face fearful moments I do take some time to sit and think about it…”
Did you ever feel like giving up on your dream?
Oh many times! I would say especially when I came to a crossroads in my business and I was unsure of the next business move. It was quite challenging. I think when you try to do everything yourself and don’t share the journey with others it can be lonely when it comes to making sound business decisions. At that time, I knew it was time to start building a strong team. With individuals who had an extensive range of experience and who believed in my brand. My business mentor is a great calming influence. He has a wealth of knowledge and experience as he is a fashion investor himself. So he knows how the industry works. The ups and downs that the industry faces. So support systems like that really do keep you going when things become challenging.
In terms of your business you come across as fearless. Were you at all nervous starting Sinclair London, if so, how did you overcome the fear and do it anyway?
Haha! I would love to say I am fearless. I was 24 when I started the company and at that time I was very fearless. I wanted a business, I started it and didn’t look back. I think if I had started the company now 4/5 years on, I probably would be a little more couscous in the decisions I made. I think the trick is when you want to do something that can be life changing, is not to think about it too much and hold on to faith and leap! We are all humans and sometimes we can talk ourselves out of situations or career choices because we think about it too much. Then the fear factor kicks in.When I face fearful moments I do take some time to sit and think about it. I always only share with those who believe in what I do and ones that will give you sound advice as they can also be the ones who propel you forward into doing what you want!
In terms of the “Who” my mother is a huge inspiration. She is a very strong woman and I have seen her mentor other business women who now have very successful careers. Fashion houses – got to love Ralph and Russo. I met Tamara when they were based in Mortlake before moving to Mayfair and she is so humble and open. I absolutely love the brand they both have now built into a 9 figure amount.
Do you consider yourself primarily as a creative or a business woman?
Ohhh interesting question. When I started I would definitely say creative as I was always designing and making. I think now, as I expand the business and my team grows I have heavier responsibilities than I would before which require a more forceful approach in business. I now can’t sit at my desk and design as much or sit at my machine and sew. It’s my job now to make sure I am always driving in new business, new customers, sales are increasing, the brand is heading in the right direction. Our marketing message is on point, make sure salaries are paid – there is a lot to juggle. So I would say now…. a business women. The transition has been a real journey and I feel like I have grown and developed as an individual and I am sure I will continue to do so.
Tell us about how you work. Do you have a S/S and A/W or is it a purely bespoke service?
When I started I focused on bespoke only. Making one off pieces for clients. Two years later I launched into ready to wear with financial help from a good friend of mine which was very kind of him. This allowed me to create a full collection which I got into 4 stores. But like all businesses you have to be thinking ahead which I never did at the beginning. So I went from S/S and A/W to simply “named” collections which I could launch as and when I felt like it. Not necessarily because the industry dictated it. The fashion calendar is changing so many designers are launching when it suits them and when they feel is the right time. So many brands now launch new pieces every two weeks to keep up with the demand of the consumer.
What is the best piece of career advice you’ve been given that has struck a chord with you?
“Hire people that are more experienced than yourself! “ And I couldn’t agree more. I think my generation are so stuck on wanting success fast and having a youthful company which I totally understand. Training the next generation is the future; we bring fresh ideas, a new take on things. We are more fearless than the generation before. But nothing is as good as experience. I have been in the industry for 12 years and hiring a skilled team that have double the amount of years on you is great because there is always something that I can learn from them.
What are your short, mid and long-term goals for Sinclair London?
Short term goals are to make sure all the foundations are set. There are 2 roles in which I need to add and making sure we have the right systems in place. Expand our market share by expanding our product range.
Mid term goals 6 months plus – drive business forward by gaining more business through collaborations and partnerships. Which will allow us to invest more into our marketing.
Long term – Open our first flagship store in the UK and begin to expand overseas in the US and Europe first.
As a ‘boss’ what would you say is your management style and has it evolved?
One of my favorite books is “The Rockefeller Habits” by Verne Harnish. It’s a brilliant book and talks about the priorities and systems all businesses need to have to create a highly successful company. I have used this book as an inspiration to create a management style that works for me. So every Monday at 8:30am I have a management leadership conference call with my operations team which consists of 5 of us where we look at what the main goals are the that quarter and then we break it down month by month then week by week. Following I have a production meeting with my girls to talk about what clients we are making for and then financial calls with my account. I have designed an internal system where I post updates of what’s happening internally and externally in the business where the whole team can read in their leisure. I personally think it’s really important to keep your team engaged and inspired about what’s to come. So a few good systems we have in place and I am sure more will develop as time goes on.
Finally, what advice would you give to a young designer hoping to break into the industry?
I would say firstly build your support network and develop relationships. From mentors, entrepreneurs, investors and network as much as you can. Everywhere you go try and build those strong relationships as you never know when you will need to call upon them.
Find someone who you like the route they have taken in the industry and reach out to them for guidance – people are always willing to help you if you are genuine.
Develop a plan on the type of designer you want to be and why. Where you want to take the business. One thing I learnt from my mentor is developing a time plan which funny enough started out on a napkin which I still have today.
And most importantly – Listen. Be humble, don’t think you know it all. Take constructive criticism gracefully and learn about the industry. Self education is the best power tool. I think if you want to be successful in business you have to have a genuine interest in it. Learn what makes other brands successful, how they do it and why.
Thank you Alicya
Thank you Karen
Interviewed by Karen Bryson