Last fall during our trip to Paris, we met the fabulous British Designer, Isabella Ugochukwu! Isabella recently won Great British Entrepreneur of the Year ‘Creative Industries Entrepreneur of the Year’ NatWest Boost Award. She is a female leader to follow! Read on as she shares her journey and wisdom!
LL:The Brand: What is behind the name, Isabella Queen and what was the incentive for it?
IQ:The name ISABELLA QUEEN is a mixture of three names I have had. ‘ISA’ is what my family call me, ‘BELLA’ is what my friends call me and the ‘QUEEN’ is from when I had a life as a socialite and used to go by the nickname ‘QUEEN B’. The brand name is a representation of my past, my present and my future. It’s also a great fit for the brand positioning in the luxury market
LL: Vision: Where do you see the collection in the next 5 years?
IQ: For a brand that is looking to challenge the global status quo in leather accessories design and manufacture, innovation is everything. If people cannot be wowed by distinction robed in beauty every season without the brand losing its identity, then the brand has failed in its mandate to innovate. This is a particularly interesting conundrum for a brand like ISABELLA QUEEN that prides itself on a ‘classic’ and ‘timeless’ identity because it is easy to impress people when you play with contemporary ideas and all sorts of exotic skins, textures of leather, materials and jewels put together on the one bag; but to continually excite seasoned industry professionals season after season when you manufacture classic bags is no mean feat. We are always on the lookout, and finding in the most unusual places right across the globe, inspiration that keeps us innovating within the boundaries of what we represent; and for that reason we are always several seasons ahead (having already drafted 2018 and 2019).
Right now we’ve just finished our FW17 photo-shoot so we need to finalize all the campaign material in time for distribution to our buyers in the New Year in addition to it being all hands on deck getting our SS17 orders ready to go. And then after that, the calendar continues. Prep for SS18, fulfillment of FW17orders, SS18 shows etc. Next year our key focus will be on growing the brand’s international stockist base in the Far East, Middle East and the US through our presence at key international events and fashion weeks, in addition to our continued commitment to invest in our industry relationships right here at home.
Additionally, we are always on the quest to grow the brand profile through as many avenues that award recognition as possible. Last year we were thrilled to be accepted for membership of the Accessories Council which opened up a network for us in the US. We were also very pleased, despite not winning, to make it to the final of the British Fashion Council NEWGEN program and our Founder Isabelle is won the Great British Entrepreneur of the Year NatWest Boost Award. These competitions are always great for emerging brands and so we’ll be looking to explore similar avenues to highlight the brand and grow our network. Between the events at which I am asked to speak at or get involved in, and the industry events I attend, life is productively busy and we are always making new friends.
In five years I’d like for the brand to have a significant base in the Far east, Middle East and US. And I’d like to be much more involved in philanthropic efforts than I am now.
LL:Diversity: Do you anticipate any roll-outs of other diverse accessories or additional product focus (for women)?
IQ:I have in mind to start another brand in a few years for men but for now as IQ grows, I will branch out in diverse accessories for women in addition to fragrances too. I’d like to design sunglasses too one day. In the meantime I’d like to master the art of luxury leather innovative classic bag design.
LL: Challenges: Share the best and most learned experience during your building of the business. It can be small and insignificant to others, but critical for the ‘next steps’ in the company; What, if any, were results of that challenge?
IQ:Challenges – getting a good reputation when you are just starting out with no network or contacts, getting free PR, funding.
Experiences that overcome challenges – get mentors and keep steady communication and good relationship with them – listen to what they say, do your own PR as far as you can, attend as many industry events as you can and network like crazy, apply for every competition, get out there, have a very clear idea where you will get funding from if you are starting out, be really nice to everyone and make as many new friends as you can. All these things help you get really far in a short space of time.
See Isabella Queens unique designs here!