How often do you ponder about leaving your day job to pursue a passion project?
This is exactly what business partners Ali Hall and Julie Lavington did. After 10 years working together at Look magazine as editor and publishing director respectively, the two one day left their high-profile media jobs to establish Sosandar, a new online fashion retailer of womenswear.
The duo didn’t waste time, either – they started working on the website the day after they left the magazine world in October last year. Almost one year later, their passion project is now up and running and there are plans grow the business already.
Speaking on behalf of the duo, Hall sat down with the Retail Gazette to explain the inspiration behind Sosandar, and how their combined media and fashion journalism experience would help set them apart from other online retailers.
What got you into the retail sector in the first place?
I always knew I wanted to run my own business. My former role as editor of Look gave me a great insight into how women feel about fashion and shopping, and I had experience designing clothing ranges after working on sell-out collections with various fashion retailers.
I heard the same complaints from women again and again – there are no great dresses with sleeves, hemlines are way too short, etc. It was clear to me that there was a real gap in the market, which is how Sosandar was born. I left Look and started working on Sosandar a day later.
Describe your responsibilities.
It’s a brand new business so it involves spinning a lot of plates – luckily I’m used to that as my previous job was so multi-faceted.
I may be the co-chief executive and founder, but you’ll also find me doing everything – from acting as a fit model to customer services at times. My responsibilities cover every element. Luckily, I’ve hired a great team so I have all the support I need.
How has your previous experience aided your current job?
My business partner Julie Lavington and I worked together for 10 years, so setting up a business with someone who you know so well definitely made things easier.
We each instinctively know what the other is going to do, or what they’re thinking. My former job title may have been editor, but the role involved everything from PR and marketing to photoshoots, content, design and manufacturing. Basically, skills that are now invaluable to my new venture.
However, I’d say the most important thing I’ve brought with me is the knowledge that you need a great team around you. Also, an understanding that our employees – especially women with children – need a job that works around their lives. Providing flexible working hours was extremely important to me – I have a five-year-old daughter so I know how vital it is.
Can you explain the concept behind Sosandar?
It’s fashion created for women, by women. Our clothes make women feel chic but sexy, they are trend-led, but not intimidatingly so.
A focus on great fabrics – butter-soft leather is a signature – and unique design details at competitive prices has resulted in hard-working pieces that will make a statement but stand the test of time.
Another thing that sets Sosandar apart is our editorial content. Content sells clothes, so we knew we wanted to fuse ecommerce with a dedicated editorial offering. Women don’t just want the clothes, they want advice on how, where and why to wear them. Daily style inspiratio