“Are you looking for Nats?” Lavinia asked me as soon as I came into their very own Beulah London store in Belgravia.
Yes, they are extremely friendly and informal at Beulah London unlike what you may think of girls born into high society. They are ambitious and hardworking ladies, and Lady Natasha Rufus Isaacs is simply known as ‘Nats’ regardless of her title. Beulah London fashion brand has become internationally recognisable within a few years with a number of pieces being worn by members of the British Royal family. Natasha and Lavinia want to see their brand grow into a luxury lifestyle brand that is renowned for making a positive social impact on many women’s lives.
- Where did you get an idea to launch your own fashion brand from?
- Lavinia and I set up the brand after we heard about human trafficking. We didn’t know modern day slavery still existed and we decided to go to India to see it first hand. In the afternoons we spent time teaching the women basic skills like sewing and we saw such power in creating working opportunities for them. And we thought they can be involved in fashion business. We can sell beautiful products and it will work great. So we decided to set up a fashion brand.
We came back to London and started designing and selling items from Lavinia’s mum’s house where we were working in the basement. We quite quickly got clients as our style and aesthetic are very feminine and romantic. Our clients are elegant and sophisticated and have their own look. But we still make them look classy and chic.
So we developed business quickly. We had a pop up shop on Elizabeth Street and it did very well. We opened our own store in April 2015 and now we sell in our store and online.
- Yes, Lavinia and I oversee the designing process. We do work closely with a designer, because we know what we want and we like the same things. We are creating the overall theme of the collection for every season.
- At the time when you launched Beulah London, the fashion market was quite full already. How did you think you would find your space in there?
- We decided to have a luxury brand and we positioned ourselves next to the brands such as Red Valentino, Temperley London, ISSA and Diane von Furstenberg. We saw a gap in a market for beautiful products with a strong social impact. Consumers are becoming more aware of what their clothes are made of and who’s making them. They want a story behind a product.
We have such loyal customers, who love a story and the ethics behind our brand. We wanted to create a luxury brand which has beautiful products and has a social impact in different areas. I also think our prints make us very unique as well, they refer to the charity. For last season the theme of our collection was prints of butterflies coming out to freedom. So we were referring to our charitable cause again. And people loved it!
- Who are your customers?
- They are between 25 and 55 years old. Our customers vary: slightly older customers in store who lives in the area and they are younger online, where we sell a lot of scarves and ready to wear pieces. They are active and have a lot of events to go to. They can be either hard working women or housewives with active social lives. And have a real conscious and ethics. They have busy lives but also want to look elegant and beautiful. And this is a thing about our designs. They are simple, you just put them on and they look beautiful on you. You just instantly feel very elegant.
- How did you meet Lavinia?
- I met her about 10 years ago through our church. Our grandmothers were friends, now our mums are friends as well. I’ve tried to set up Lavinia with my brother at one point! She is five years younger than me but we’ve got quite nice dynamics. We are like sisters.
- Have you become first friends and then business partners?
- We actually became business partners first, I knew her as an acquaintance and then we’ve got to know each other better in India.
- We want to appeal as a wearable brand, not just a high society brand. We want to appeal to lots of women of different ages. I like that our brand is worn by mothers as well as their daughters. But our styles lend themselves well to the formal occasions, so people who are going to high profile events like to wear our designs. Some our customers are influential and our designs works well for their appearance at the events.
- You also have some casualwear in your range…
- Yes, we are introducing it because there are so many casual occasions that women have in their diary. So we are going to do more pieces which they can wear every day.
- Are you going to introduce a workwear one day?
- We have quite romantic fashion style so we are definitely doing some romantic workwear which can take you from the office to the evening. Traditional workwear isn’t in our range at the moment. We are more of an occasional wear brand. We want woman to feel and look demure but also elegant, this is in our brand’s DNA. We also want to appeal to younger people through the separates exactly like you said.
- You’ve recently launched collaboration with the French Sole. Where did it start from?
- We spoke with Jane Winkworth (the founder of the French Sole company). She loves our charity cause and everything our brand stands for. We also have a similar clientele so we thought it would be lovely to raise awareness of human trafficking and produce shoes with our signature heart print. Design in the blue one was relaunched before Christmas. And recently we introduced the red heart shoes. I like the lining inside with the Beulah silk print: partly Beulah, partly French Sole. I think it works well!
We also have done a collaboration with Aspinal London. Again we are supporting British brands which we love to do and our heart print is becoming an iconic print. It’s our identity. We want it to become recognisable.
- How do you see your brand in five years?
- We want to become a luxury life style brand, having products which appeal to different people for different occasions. And I would like to have eventually a big store in London as well as stock in international department stores. USA is a big market for us. Almost forty percent of our online sales are from the USA, and that’s with no marketing there! They like British fashion and the cause we support.
- When do you think realistically you will launch your own bridal wear range?
- At the moment we have kind of non-officially launched it. People can have our bespoke dresses made in cream. We haven’t officially launched it yet but we hope to do so in a couple of years. Our brand styles are romantic so it’s definitely makes sense to add bridal wear in our collection. Once we have time.
- Don’t you have time?
- No, I have a small baby as well, so it’s all a bit crazy!
- Is it hard to raise a baby and business?
- Do you know what? I genuinely think it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do! It’s weird, when you own your own business, it’s like your baby. And when you have a baby, it’s like you have two babies! But I have a great support of my family. My mum is being amazing and Lavinia has been such a support when I’ve been away on maternity leave. Without them I couldn’t have done it. But I love Georgia, she so sweet! She turns one next week and she started walking, it’s very sweet.
- Do you ever disagree with Lavinia in your business strategy or designs?
- Yes, we do sometimes. Generally speaking we both love the same things so we don’t usually disagree on designs. Sometimes we disagree on strategy but we just talk about it. It’s all about coming to a compromise. It’s a bit like being married, you know! It’s intense and stressful to run your own business. So it’s quite important to support each other and understand each other. We are almost like sisters. But I’m sure she wants to kill me sometimes! She just needs to marry my brother and it will be fine! (laughing)
- So you did set her up with your brother?
- No! He has a nice girlfriend and she has a nice boyfriend.
Photographs: courtesy of Beulah London
Text: Irina Smith