After a career of 25 years working at some of the world’s leading branding and advertising agencies, Mark Reardon is now on a quest to democratise luxury goods with the recent launch of his new online fashion retailer Made In Global.
Four years in the making, Reardon hopes to shake up the luxury goods market with items that are handcrafted in the same Florence workshops used by the biggest names in leather goods - but at "feel good" prices.
The Retail Gazette chats with the founder to find out what got him in the mood to challenge the status quo in luxury retail.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background before Made In Global.
I enjoyed a career in branding and advertising for leading global networks such as Publicis Groupe and Ogilvy and Mather.
Since growing up in Liverpool and starting out in London, over the last 25 years I’ve been lucky to work in Rio de Janeiro, New York, Miami and Buenos Aires.
Rio was definitely a career highlight – it’s where I met my Argentinian wife Fàtima, who is also involved in Made In Global.
What got you into the retail sector in the first place?
I’ve taken an interest in luxury goods most of my adult life – both as a consumer and as a marketer – but the seed of an idea for Made In Global was planted four years ago.
I had just invested in a Savile Row suit but couldn't find a stylish bag that could carry all my gear and seamlessly complement the suit and, indeed, whatever else I might be wearing and doing (work and social lives hugely overlap, after all).
There was clearly an opportunity for well-crafted accessories that transcend the seasons and trends and – importantly – can be bought at feel-good prices.
I’d also reached a point in my past career that I’d become bored with selling other people’s product and brands. So the switch to luxury goods etailer was borne out of frustration, initially.
Describe your role and responsibilities at Made in Global.
It’s been very hands-on until now. My wife and I were heavily involved in the design and production of our initial capsule collection of five bags for men and women. We simply didn't want to cut corners on artisanal and material excellence so all roads lead us to Florence.
We now have a great creative team in place and as founder I’m busy building a core team of experts around me to drive awareness and sales.
How has your previous experience aided your current job?
I’ve built a career formulating ideas and igniting brand concepts that clients then take on and continue. I wanted to make a physical product something that would last. Then combine that with my brand, digital, content and social experience – all vital elements that will inform the success of Made In Global.
What made you want to start up Made In Global and why?
I wanted to sate my appetite for entrepreneurialism and creativity and the time is right for "alternative luxury" – challenging the status quo on what luxury is and its price point.
In established markets, consumers are building repertoires of experiences and goods that traverse price point and need according to mood. There is also "fatigue" around traditional luxury.
Consumers want to discover new, smaller, niche brands like ours – and alternatives to those patronized by older generations.
What do you think of the current state of online retail?
We are e-commerce driven and there are several compelling reasons for this. For example, FashTech is incredibly dynamic – with opportunities to marry deep insight and cognitive analytics to refine and elevate the customer experience.
As well as the obvious benefits of making the sales and delivery service seamless online our intention is to also make the MADE IN GLOBAL site a community platform: for customers and international creative talent.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
There are not enough hours in the day.
The most rewarding?
The opportunity to work with craftspeople in Italy has been a highlight and seeing the end results momentous.
I’ve also found a satisfying outlet for my creativity – present in every decision we make every day – from working with our designers to producing brand imagery.
Can you talk about any upcoming projects?
The creative team and I are currently working on the next phase of bags for release in May – this will include more designs for women.
We also have plans for ranges of Made In Global foot and outerwear.
We are also keen to experiment with bricks-and-mortar too and we’ve currently got pop-ups in place with the concept store Clerkenwell London and with the media channel Wonderland.
What advice would you give someone who is considering embarking on a career in retail?
Be laser focused. For example, with Made In Global we’re offering what you’d expect of luxury goods so we work with the same factories – and as few as possible to tap into their decades of experience.
What would you say is the biggest risk for the retail sector, given the current climate?
As a start-up, I wouldn't be so presumptuous as to advise the retail industry on how to navigate such uncertain times.
However, for us – like any new brand – it’s fundamentally about creating awareness and stand out; remaining true to our principles of marrying excellence in execution with sensible pricing and sustainable growth. It’s a balancing act.