Oyuna founded her eponymous brand in 2002 with a vision to give cashmere a new modern shape and presentation that “was non existent at the time.” Like a precious fibre, Oyuna herself has roots in Mongolia and the business was an opportunity for her to pay homage to both.
Eighteen years after her business began production, Oyuna’s collections are now stocked in leading stores around the world, as well as sold on its direct-to-consumer ecommerce site. But as an independent retailer, the coronavirus pandemic had a severe knock-on effect.
“Our retailers had their shops closed and very little wholesale orders were coming in,” Oyuna explained.
“It’s challenging to run an independent fashion brand in Central London with high rent and overall costs anyway and having this unusual situation on top of that was tough.”
While the majority of retailers seemed to have some sort of plan in place by the time lockdowns spread around the world soon after Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, Oyuna said she and her team were not prepared at all.
She explained that as a independent retailer, it’s not easy to be prepared for a large situation such as a pandemic – especially if a large savings account or investors are non-existent.
Despite the obvious challenges, Oyuna used the lockdown to push ahead with opening her eponymous brand’s very first physical store in Central London.
“The starting logic for this decision was a need to downsize our offices,” she said.
“But then we said, let’s turn this disadvantage into advantage and move to a space where we can have a shop in the front and office in the back.
“It was a nice project to do during the lockdown.”
The retailer had no budget and instead chose to be resourceful. This included re-purposing office furniture into shop display units, being careful with spending and having the existing team design the shop rather than reaching out to a design agency.
And as the retail industry slowly begins to recover, Oyuna offered a word of advice to small business owners who may still be struggling.
“Challenging times make us strong, not the happy times”
“I truly believe the importance of keeping a very positive attitude and persevere, never giving up that big dream of yours,” she said.
Nonetheless, like many, working from home as become the new normal for Oyuna and her team.
“We opened a treasure box there that cannot be put down,” she told Retail Gazette.
“If one has the right attitude to work, homeworking is great.
“It’s less stressful, could be potentially more productive and more humane somehow.”
Short term plans for the business include participating in Paris Fashion Week, something Oyuna always usually does.
“It is important for all of us to continue our life, we can’t retreat and wait for what happens,” she said.
“We have to make life happen ourselves, each one of us.”
The long term plan is “to become a truly sustainable brand that inspires and connects on a deeper level” with its customers.
Are you an independent or small retailer? Do you have an interesting story to tell? We’d love to hear from you! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with details about your business, with “Indie Corner” in the subject headline.