When was the last time your scarf was the star of your outfit? Odds are, probably never. The truth is, scarves don't often carry the same buzz that shoes and handbags do; an Instagram search for, uh, #ScarfPorn confirms this, generating only 502 posts — barely a footprint in terms of the internet — at the time of publishing. British designer Charlotte Beecham of Charlotte Simone is well on her way to changing that.
The 27-year old accessories designer is known for her colorful fur accessories (including both real and faux!) that have caught the attention of Instagirls like Gigi Hadid and Hailey Baldwin. And while Beecham has made a name for herself with her signature striped scarves — which are now carried by the likes of Intermix, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus — her label's whimsical hats and outerwear offerings (plus a forthcoming collaboration with sneaker brand Superga) are cementing her status as an accessories label to watch. Just a few days following her Fall 2017 presentation at London Fashion Week, Beecham sat down with Fashionista in New York City to share how she launched her business at 21, how she's making the statement scarf A Thing and why believing in yourself, however trite, is the secret to her success. Read on for our interview.
Tell us about where you grew up. What were you into as a child?
I always thought I was going to be a writer. I just always wanted to write, but I was still creative, so I still did art and I was always painting and drawing, [too]. I did lots of internships whilst I was here, and they were always at fashion publications. I'd always had an interest in fashion, but I never saw myself as a business owner or having my own line.
When did you know you wanted to start your own label?
I grew up in London, and then for university, I really wanted to go to New York. So, I took the SATs and went to NYU. I actually studied English and Art, so nothing fashion-related, really, at all. I spent my freshman year in Paris, and it was actually when I was out there my first year, I saw a woman on a street corner; she had a huge statement scarf on and it made my head turn. Then I started to think, in the world of accessories, I just feel like scarves were left untapped. I wanted to make the scarf more of a fashion accessory that women want to invest in, like shoes or handbags. When I was in my senior year, just about to graduate, I thought about it and I still felt like it was a good idea, so I spent a year after I graduated here in New York and made samples in the Garment District and felt it out and hunted down buyers. I just thought I could make it a tangible business. I did think there was a gap in the market, and that's what I've been doing since.
Did you work or intern anywhere prior to launching your label?
I interned at Topshop, Brides magazine, Vogue and Seventeen, [but] I wasn't writing anything. I feel like I was always ironing or holding things. I also think one of my "turning points" was my internship at Charlotte Ronson, when [the label] was a lot smaller. That was great, to feel like a part of a fashion business and to feel like I was a part of something. I was doing everything that interns do: running errands, counting sequins, standing and holding rails, steaming. Charlotte Ronson was a great internship in that I was there for nine months; we did Bryant Park together. I got to assist backstage, which was really exciting. At Topshop, I was actually in the knitwear department so it was great to have a little knowledge of knits [and] weaves; how they do it; putting trend boards together; and being a part of an amazing corporate brand. That definitely pushed me, as well.
It sounds like your early time in New York had a major hand in launching your business. Did the city inspire you to pursue fashion?
I definitely have New York to thank for launching my own business. The city has such an amazing energy and pulse, and you really vibe with it. It gives you life. I feel like it pushed me to be creative and go for it. I don't know if I would have done it if I hadn't been here. I also think if I had the idea now at 27, I don't know if I'd have the balls to go out and do it. I'd be too worried with everything else — money, life, everything. I think because I was still in that university student bubble, I was more naive, and it actually lent itself in my favor. Launching my business has been very "bootleg" and [I've been] figuring it out as I go along. I didn't have a business plan; I didn't have huge financing; I didn't really know what I was doing, but I did believe in the product that I was trying to sell, and that’s really important.
Besides your signature scarves, what else went into your most recent collection?
We had some new hats, which is a category that I'm definitely interested in pushing. This season I have my Bobbi the Beret and my fluffy bucket hat. [There's also] a small range of outerwear, but ultimately Charlotte Simone is about making the scarf the statement of your outfit. I'm a busy woman — I think a lot of people are — so I think it’s nice that the scarf instantly elevates your look and you can head out of the office and feel a little more special. It's great, as well, because they have no sizing, so it appeals to a wide audience of women. They're colorful, fun and not to be taken to seriously. And the price points are attainable; it's contemporary, so I think it's nice that a young girl like myself can save up for one and buy it.
Who would you say your "girl" is?
I think she's busy. She's a mover and shaker; she has a job; she has friends; she's out and about. I always style the girl in my lookbook in sneakers. I just think she's on the move — she's not [just] posing. I always think that Charlotte Simone isn't like an exclusive club. I'm anti-that; like genuinely, my grandma wears it, and I appreciate that. You can really just layer it and instantly feel like it's glammed up your look.
How did you get the word out about your brand?
Just sending lookbooks and letting [buyers] pick the pieces they're interested in. The product is so bright and bold that when someone does wear it, it's really noticeable, so that's great. I would also say pick someone that you really trust and you believe has a good business brain that you can lean on for advice. In my case, it's my dad. He's a fellow entrepreneur, and I definitely value the fact that I have someone to turn to and seek advice from, because every day — I've been doing this for four years — I get so many things that happen that I'm just, "Wait, I have no idea what I'm doing right now."
Your most recent collection features both real and faux fur, which is fairly rare. Why was it important to you to have both options?
I really wanted to cater to both customers: the lady who wears fur and also the lady who might have an issue wearing it. On top of it, the faux fur does allow for a better price point, so it allows young girls who maybe can't afford a higher price to still own a piece of Charlotte Simone. Also, most of our stores that buy the brand tend to buy a mix of the real and faux, so I think when they're thrown together like I did with the showcase, we were carrying them all and no one could tell what the actual difference is. Also, when I first started with faux fur, it was really just on trims of jackets, and [it was] almost taboo in the sense that it wasn't really plush or luxe.
Where do you source your materials and produce your line?
I have a number of factories, so we produce in Shanghai, Turkey and the U.K. I see a lot of color and fabrics that really inspire me. Over the past five years, I think faux fur has made huge advances in [becoming] really plush and soft. It mirrors real fur almost exactly, so it's nice to be a part of that and watch it develop and continue to grow.
Where would you like to see your brand grow in the near future?
I don't know anything about womenswear, so I have absolutely no plans to develop that. I think it works in my favor that I'm niche and good at one thing and can be recognized for one thing. I also think there's so much that can be done in the way of scarves with different fabrics and different shapes. Genuinely, that excites me.
What is your advice to young designers looking to start their own label?
The most important thing is to really believe you have a good idea and feel like you're genuinely working towards something you believe in. I always felt that. But it's also a lot of grinding and hustling. I was working in my apartment in New York, and then I was at my parents' kitchen in London just slogging it out. It was really hard when all my friends had jobs and were going out with their work friends, and it felt like I was missing out. But one of the key things, as well, is determination, to be focused and have stamina. You need to be prepared that you're going to feel isolated, but if you work hard, you will be rewarded. That's something my dad always said to me: If you work hard, it won't go unnoticed.
I was so surprised by the number of people that were supportive and really wanted to be a part of my journey and help me for nothing [in return]. Because when you start something, it can feel very daunting and lonely, but enthusiasm is infectious, and I think people are drawn to that; you would be surprised [by] how many people come out and help you. If you have a good idea, work hard at it, because that shines through in the end.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Homepage photo: @charlottesimone_/Instagram