5 Minutes With Steff McGrath, Managing Partner, Something Wicked

Something Wicked has a strong ethos of female empowerment and sex positivity. The online lingerie retailer has enjoyed quadrupling sales in recent years, and now sells across the globe. Managing Partner Steff McGrath sits down with Retail Gazette for this week's 5 Minutes With.

Something Wicked

Tell me about the Something Wicked story.

Something Wicked’s story is one of female empowerment. Equality and feminism is something I’ve always felt strongly about. I believe that beautiful lingerie should be about taking control of your sexuality and wearing garments that make you feel good about yourself, not something to be worn purely for pleasing a partner.

Do you think lingerie retailers like yours have a role to play in promoting sex positivity?

Definitely. There are still double standards when it comes to sex positivity, and for Something Wicked, it’s important for women to feel confident in embracing and exploring their sexuality. Empowering women goes further than just our products, though.

I strongly feel that the empowerment message must be transparent right from the start and all the way through to the end of production. You can buy a t-shirt that says “girl power”, but if the women who made it aren’t treated fairly, then is it really empowering? At Something Wicked all our garments are made in-house in Yorkshire, by our talented team of seamstresses. We’re proud to be a brand that’s made by women for women.

What gap in the UK retail market does Something Wicked strive to address?

“It’s important for women to feel confident in embracing and exploring their sexuality.”

Quality is our trademark. We create edgy designs using high-end materials. We use a lot of leather in our collections which can be difficult to work with. However, because we make our garments by hand and in-house, we are able to create high-quality lingerie using luxurious Japanese plonge leather, which feels buttery soft against the skin.

How is Something Wicked’s business model different to its main competitors?

I would say the main difference is that we don’t outsource manufacturing. All our lingerie is handmade here in the UK. Because of this, we can be flexible in creating to order with no minimum quantity restrictions. We’re able to supply stockists with what they want, when they want it, so there’s minimal risk in taking us on as a brand for the first time.

What’s in store for Something Wicked for 2019?

Last year the focus was on growing our stockists, but this year we want to focus on building our direct online sales to individuals. Following Brexit, we also want to build on our network of stockists from outside of the EU, with New York recently becoming our latest international territory.

How is Something Wicked addressing some of the challenges facing the retail industry as a whole?

One of the big challenges in the fashion industry is wastage. Brands are finding themselves with huge piles of stock that they can’t get rid of. The way we address this issue is by making the conscious decision not to outsource manufacturing. Creating our beautiful lingerie in-house means we don’t have any stock issues as we only make what we need.

What would you say is the biggest risk for the retail sector, given the current climate?

“We don’t outsource manufacturing. All our lingerie is handmade here in the UK.”

With Brexit looming as the big unknown, it’s a hard time at the moment, especially if you’re importing and exporting goods. For Something Wicked, we’re retailers, but also manufacturers, and we’re finding that European stockists are hesitant to take onboard a new British brand as the uncertainty surrounding Brexit means they don’t know how it will affect their supply chain.

Describe your role and responsibilities at Something Wicked.

We’re a small independent company, so we’re not run by directors. I’d say there were two halves to my role, both the manufacturing and the retail. I look at production and make sure everything that side is covered as well as growing the brand, approaching new stockists and exhibiting at trade shows. I think that what’s so great about working for an independent brand is that you’re exposed to lots of different roles and responsibilities.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background before Something Wicked.

I originally started out my career in marketing. However, once my children were born, I decided to put my family first and put my marketing career on hold while I went into teaching. However, I never felt that teaching was truly for me, and when the kids were a bit older, I decided it was time restart my marketing career and became involved in Something Wicked.

When the opportunity came up to be involved with Something Wicked, I knew it would be an exciting journey. After being introduced to the brand, I couldn’t wait to get involved and I became the managing partner in 2016.

What got you into retail in the first place?

Our studios are based in an old, converted mill in Yorkshire, and reviving Yorkshire’s rich textile heritage is something I feel passionate about. I really enjoy the manufacturing side of the business as we’re growing skills and creating jobs in the local area.

I initially loved the idea of the Something Wicked brand and what it could potentially be. As a believer in the Fashion Revolution Movement, I enjoy how it champions transparency and accountability throughout the entire production chain, ensuring our garments are as ethical as possible. I think that’s the part that interests me most.

“Reviving Yorkshire’s rich textile heritage is something I feel passionate about.”

How has your previous experience aided your current job?

I’ve found that my marketing skills have been incredibly transferable in creating the Something Wicked brand and driving the brand forward.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

I’d say the most challenging aspect is always trying to think ahead, especially because fashion is constantly changing. You have to be able to take a step back and see potential problems that might arise before they become an issue. It’s important to always be looking forward and planning.

And the most rewarding?

The most rewarding thing about Something Wicked is that it’s a business to be proud of. When creating the brand, we’ve not cut any corners and have been completely transparent and ethical throughout the entire process. Everything is made within the UK, from our beautiful garments which are created in Yorkshire to our accessories which are made by a female saddler in St Albans. Even our leather polish is handmade by an award-winning London beekeeper.

It might be cheaper and easier to outsource manufacturing, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. Because of the way we run our business, we can be assured that our products are genuinely good quality and we’re proud to put our name on them.

What advice would you give someone who is considering embarking on a career in retail?

My advice would be to do your research. Setting up your own brand is rewarding, but it isn’t easy. It’s not something you can just do on a whim, you have to have a good product, your manufacturing needs to be sorted and you need to know your supply chain. I’d absolutely encourage anyone to start their own brand, but only if you’re prepared to put the work in.

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